|LV= County Championship Division One, Seat Unique Stadium, Bristol (day three)|
|Surrey 603: Smith 234*, Clark 137, Pope 84; M Taylor 3-85, Payne 3-99|
|Gloucestershire 443-2: Dent 207*, Harris 124, Hammond 75*|
|Gloucestershire (7 pts) trail Surrey (3 pts) by 160 runs with eight wickets remaining|
Chris Dent scored a superb double century and batted all day to frustrate First Division leaders Surrey and usher Gloucestershire towards safety on day three of this County Championship match.
Responding to Surrey’s imposing first-innings 603, Gloucestershire reached the close on 443-2, thanks in large part to Dent’s defiant knock of 207 not out – an innings spanning eight hours so far.
The Bristolian, rediscovering his best form when it was most needed, shared a record-breaking opening stand of 296 with Marcus Harris, who raised an impressive 124, and then staged an unbroken third-wicket alliance of 147 with Miles Hammond, his fellow left-hander finishing undefeated on 75.
In the process, Dent passed the notable personal milestone of 10,000 first-class runs, and Gloucestershire attained maximum batting bonus points for the first time this season.
They still trail by 160 and will need to summon further resistance on the final day, but any outcome other than a draw is now inconceivable.
It was a chastening day in the field for Surrey, who failed to bank even a single bonus point. Jordan Clark and Colin de Grandhomme shared the slim pickings on offer, yet in reality, only Reece Topley mustered the line and length required to threaten the hosts.
Newcomers to the First Division, Gloucestershire are fast gaining a reputation for dogged resistance in the face of adversity, having conceded significant first-innings deficits in previous matches against Northamptonshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire before staging spirited fightbacks on days three and four.
Staring down the barrel of a third consecutive defeat when Surrey posted a mammoth 603, the underdogs once again dug deep to defy more illustrious opponents, Dent and Harris batting for five hours to at least avert the threat of following on.
Theirs was a record-breaking stand, the highest for any Gloucestershire wicket in matches against Surrey, surpassing the 285 made by Bev Lyon and Wally Hammond at The Oval in May 1928.
They had already eclipsed the previous highest score for the first wicket in matches against Surrey, going past the 219 staged by Sadiq Mohammad and Andy Stovold at Bristol in 1975.
Following hard on the heels of their opening stand of 119, made in a losing cause against Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford last week, these two served up additional defiance in spade-loads to frustrate Surrey after Gloucestershire resumed on 86-0.
It said a good deal about the benign state of the pitch that Surrey deployed just two slips for Dan Worrall and Reece Topley at the start of the day, and Gloucestershire’s opening pair made serene progress, taking their alliance into three figures and both registering fifties during a morning session which yielded 129 runs.
Dent was first to a hundred, reaching that landmark via 162 balls, cutting Will Jacks to third man for his 18th boundary. His 19th first-class hundred in all, it was his first since he posted 169 against Derbyshire at Derby in August 2019.
Harris went to his second century in successive home matches for Gloucestershire in some style, pulling Topley to the mid-wicket boundary shortly after lunch.
Dropped by Ollie Pope at slip off the bowling of Topley when on 111, the Australian eventually succumbed to temptation when flashing hard at a ball outside off stump from De Grandhomme and being held by stand-in wicketkeeper Josh Blake, who had been called up overnight to replace the injured Jamie Smith.
Harris had batted for five hours, faced 209 balls, scored 18 boundaries and played his part in an adhesive opening stand that did much to subdue south London ambition.
When Clark encouraged a slanting delivery to straighten up and knock back James Bracey’s off stump shortly afterwards, Surrey’s players had a notable spring in their step, sensing an opportunity to make further in-roads now that one end had been opened up.
After all, Gloucestershire still trailed by 306 runs and the second new ball was just a few overs away.
Having negotiated a challenging initiation on a pitch that still offered something for those who bowled a full length, Hammond quickly set about dispelling any lingering Gloucestershire insecurities, joining forces with the indomitable Dent to see off the new ball.
Once able to play more freely again in the final hour, Dent cut Clark to the square leg boundary to reach 164 not out and bring up 10,000 first-class runs, the landmark being greeted by a smattering of applause from county aficionados within a sparse Saturday crowd.
Prevented from deploying Sam Curran as a bowler by a direct edict from the England management, Surrey were deprived of a potentially key option and, not surprisingly, their overworked seamers began to visibly tire in the final session.
Dent and Hammond made the most of the situation, keeping the scoreboard ticking over to tap Surrey resolve and edge their side ever nearer to safety.
Dent went to 200 from 375 balls, cutting Jacks for his 27th four to become the first Gloucestershire player to score a double against Surrey since Zaheer Abbas achieved the feat way back in 1976.
Hammond reached 50 off 86 balls with 10 fours, but enjoyed a let-off on 65 when he gave Jacks the charge and Blake made a hash of an attempted stumping. But then it had been that kind of a day for Surrey.
Report supplied by the ECB Reporters’ Network