Gloucestershire feel the squeeze as Hashim Amla sets the scene for Surrey’s spinners


Eight-and-a-half-hour 173 leaves group leaders with daunting task on wearing deck

Gloucestershire 45 for 1 (Brathwaite 27*, Hammond 4*) trail Surrey 473 (Amla 173, Clarke 65, Patel 62, Overton 50*) by 428 runs

On their two visits to the capital in this year’s LV= Insurance County Championship, Gloucestershire have had to face up to vastly differing challenges. At the start of May, victory in a seam-friendly dogfight at Lord’s confirmed their status as unlikely pace-setters in Group Two; here, after being pummelled for the best part of two days by Hashim Amla‘s velvet-gloved iron fist, they will face a trial by spin to see if they can depart from The Kia Oval with their credentials intact.

Having spent five sessions in the field, the majority of which involved the exquisite torture of watching Amla go about his business at close range on the way to 173 from 347 balls, Gloucestershire’s batters had to gird themselves for an uncomfortable examination under suddenly grouchy south London skies. Surrey had the platform they wanted, and the chance to see if this used pitch would start to break up and aid their attempts to break down the visitors.

Amar Virdi‘s offspin was introduced into the attack as early as the seventh over, and immediately had Kraigg Brathwaite chopping down on a sharply turning delivery that seemed to keep low. It was no surprise that the breakthrough for Surrey came via Virdi, though Chris Dent‘s disgust at pulling a short ball to midwicket was evident; not the example Gloucestershire’s captain was hoping to set.
Brathwaite might have been dismissed by that point, too, had Dan Moriarty held a straightforward return chance. This has been for the most part a benign surface, but the footmarks into which Virdi and Moriarty will aim to wheel away through the weekend had a foreboding look to them – even if the arrival of light rain at around 5.30pm brought an early close and some respite for the West Country men.

Early in the day, as Amla was bedding in once again, the sound of someone whistling the famously eerie refrain from Kill Bill – soundtrack to the scene when Daryl Hannah’s character arrives at the hospital intending to assassinate (again) Uma Thurman’s Beatrix Kiddo – could be heard drifting in through the press box window. Not that Amla was about to indulge in a Tarantino-esque bloodbath, far from it… but the omens for Gloucestershire nevertheless weren’t good.

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