|LV= County Championship Division One, Seat Unique Stadium, Bristol (day one)|
|Surrey 294-4: Smith 111*, Pope 84, S Curran 57*; M Taylor 2-51|
|Gloucestershire: Yet to bat|
|Gloucestershire 1 pt, Surrey 2 pts|
Jamie Smith served up defiance aplenty to register a hard-earned hundred and give Surrey the upper hand on day one of their County Championship match against Gloucestershire at Bristol.
Without a score of note in two previous outings this season, the 21-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman found his touch to raise 111 not out from 239 balls, holding sway for five hours to help the Londoners recover from a poor start and reach the close on 294-4.
Having played second fiddle to England batsman Ollie Pope in an alliance of 151 for the fourth wicket earlier in the day, he then shared in an unbroken stand of 106 with Sam Curran as Division One leaders Surrey took control in the final session.
Eager to be a part of England’s future under new managing director Rob Key and captain Ben Stokes, Pope weighed in with a notable 84, while free-wheeling Curran served up a late-afternoon flourish to finish unbeaten on 57 and issue a timely reminder of his own to the selectors.
Still seeking their first win of the season, Gloucestershire won the toss for the first time in 2022, elected to field and promptly reduced the visitors to 37-3 on a green-tinged pitch.
However, four dropped catches on a bitterly cold day prevented them from taking advantage of the excellent start afforded them by left-arm seamers David Payne and Matt Taylor, who claimed two wickets apiece and made life difficult for the batsmen.
A return to county cricket for Mohammad Amir, recruited for the next three games, proved a chastening affair as the Pakistani Test star bowled with express pace but no luck, twice falling victim to fumbles in the slip cordon as the hosts paid the price for not taking their chances.
Gloucestershire will especially regret giving Smith a life on 48, James Bracey going full length behind the stumps without quite managing to hold on. Smith certainly made the most of his escape, staging a crucial recovery in partnership with Pope.
Pope has arguably established himself as a surefire England selection after his latest meaningful contribution. Dropped on 72 by Miles Hammond at slip attempting to work Graeme van Buuren’s slow left arm, he took full advantage of Gloucestershire’s profligacy and has now accrued 321 runs this season at an average of 64.2.
Smith rode his luck and mustered the character, resolve and judgment needed to play himself in. Aided and abetted by the introduction of Jack Taylor’s off breaks from the Bristol Pavilion end, he went to 50 via 118 balls, playing a pivotal role in a burgeoning partnership which required 33 overs to realise three figures.
The stand was worth 151 when Gloucestershire were finally afforded some relief, Pope losing concentration momentarily and clipping a length ball from Payne to Jack Taylor at mid-wicket with the score on 188. But there was no stopping the indomitable Smith, who drove Ryan Higgins straight down the ground to register his 15th boundary and, with it, his first hundred of the season.
Surrey had banked a batting bonus point by the time the second new ball was taken, and they had another in the bag after the aggressive Curran took advantage of a tiring attack to plunder nine boundaries in a 52-ball half-century.
Gloucestershire had jumped at the chance to insert their opponents when skipper Van Buuren called correctly beneath leaden skies. His decision proved the right one, Surrey’s top order struggling to contain Amir’s pace and the movement generated by Payne and Matt Taylor during a morning session in which leather dominated willow.
In stark contrast to Pope, Rory Burns has done little to enhance his England credentials in recent times, and the opener again appeared out of sorts as he succumbed to Matt Taylor’s first ball, held by Chris Dent low down at second slip for six.
Payne announced himself by taking a wicket with his first delivery of the season, persuading the ball to nip back off the seam and pin Ryan Patel in his crease for nine.
Hashim Amla never looked comfortable against the moving ball and the South African was eventually squared up by Taylor and caught by Hammond at third slip.
Report supplied by the ECB Reporters’ Network.