Surrey 420 for 9 (Jacks 120, Borthwick 95, Clarke 87*) v Kent
Everyone loves an outground. It's a truism of county cricket that there really is nowhere better to wile away eight hours on a languid summer's day than Colwyn Bay, Chesterfield, Cheltenham, Scarborough or the Isle of Wight. These outgrounds in our imagination are usually ringed with tents and ice cream stalls and wooden benches with memorial plates and fecund trees laden with lush blooms. The sun always shines and the cricket is usually incidental.
Beckenham is not quite that sort of an outground. From the compact and bijou media tent you get a great view of a former gas holder and The Shard in the distance. The indoor sports centre which looks on from square of the wicket has a certain brutalist functionality and post-war housing blocks peek out over the horse chestnuts. But it's still a marvellous spot for watching cricket, and, if you avoid batting in the first 90 minutes, it's a sumptuous place to plunder runs.
Rory Burns, perhaps mindful that the last time Kent played a four-day game here piled on 701 for 7, chose to bat. What none of us was expecting was that 17 overs into Surrey's innings the champions would have subsided to 65 for 5. The collapse began with an almighty mix up between the openers that saw Mark Stoneman run out, before Burns, Dean Elgar (recovered from his kidney stones) and Ben Foakes were all undone by beautiful bowling from Harry Podmore, Matt Milnes and Wiaan Mulder respectively.
The ball was nipping off the pitch and nicks were going to hand. Only Sam Curran can be really annoyed with himself. Playing his first match since returning from the IPL, he drove loosely at a wide ball from Mulder, making his debut for Kent in place of the departed Matt Renshaw. One can surely forgive his disorientation. The last time he picked up a bat in anger was in front of a packed house in Mohali against the Chennai Super Kings. A world away from Beckenham? A universe more like.
What followed was a stirring recovery from Scott Borthwick and Will Jacks. They compiled a Surrey record sixth-wicket stand against Kent of 175, surpassing the previous best of Miles Howell and Percy Fender set in 1922.
It began inauspiciously with the 43-year-old, folically challenged Darren Stevens beating the groping bat of the 20-year-old Will Jacks with his gentle, but consistently effective away swingers and cutters. The scene resembled that of Yoda coaching a young Luke Skywalker in the ways of "The Force"; Stevens forever poking and prodding at the blindfolded youngster until suddenly Jacks came to life and planted the old master over midwicket with two murderous blows.
After lunch, now freed up and batting like a fully fledged Jedi, Jacks drove, cut and pulled 84 runs in the session off just 112 balls. Borthwick at the other end was the perfect foil as the pitch seemed to ease and the Kent bowlers felt the pressure of bowling to two well set batsmen. England need a number three and the experienced Borthwick should be in the frame. He showed again why he is so highly thought of. His terrific judgement of what to leave early in his innings is a hallmark of a good top-order player. It was a huge surprise when he was out leg before for 95 sweeping a straight ball from Adam Riley, four overs before tea. And if it was a surprise to the crowd it was a palpable infuriation for the batsman who trudged off with thunder in his eyes.
If Borthwick couldn't secure his century, the Jedi Jacks was not going to make the same mistake. A gorgeous lofted drive over mid-off took him to 99, and a gentle push into the gap brought him his ton. It was his first hundred in first-class cricket and it most certainly won't be his last. Perhaps profiting from Ollie Pope's absence with that horrible shoulder injury, Jacks has promised frequently against the red ball without quite delivering the telling blow.
He was flawless after lunch until he edged a wide one from Mulder to Robinson behind the stumps. His 120 came off 194 balls and contained 20 fours. It was batting of the highest quality and was exactly what a depleted Surrey need as they look to ride out these early championship matches without a full squad to choose from.
There was time for Rikki Clarke to remind us that there is more than one elderly but perennially effective all rounder playing in this match. He batted masterfully with the tail and will resume tomorrow eyeing his own hundred as Surrey completed their recovery to 420 for 9.