Surrey fought back thrillingly against Essex at the Kia Oval to overturn a huge first-innings deficit of 410 thanks to memorable hundreds from Jason Roy and Ollie Pope.
Roy and Pope were supported by Mark Stoneman’s 86 and knocks from Ben Foakes and Will Jacks, who finished on 52 not out, and Surrey were 67 runs ahead by the close of play after reaching 477 for five.
Roy’s 128 off 151 balls was a fluent and classy effort but even that was surpassed by Pope’s magnificent 120-ball 114.
When Ravi Bopara’s medium pace was introduced in mid-afternoon, Pope plundered him for four offside fours in five balls, forcing Bopara from the attack with his single over costing 17 runs.
Then, when Essex took the second new ball immediately after tea, with Matt Quinn quickly dismissing Foakes for 32 – lbw, moving too far across his stumps as he shaped to glance – Pope seized the initiative again by racing into three figures by taking 18 from another Quinn over.
First pulling and cutting him for four and six, with the second extraordinary stroke executed with both feet off the ground, Pope then guided him cleverly to third man for another boundary to go to his fifth century in just his 22nd first-class match.
After the hundred celebrations, there was still time in the over for another four, clipped to square leg, and such was Pope’s mastery that it was a surprise when he missed a full ball from Matt Coles and was adjudged lbw even though television replays suggested the ball was missing leg stump.
Pope had hit 19 fours and a six and it was an innings to savour in glorious late-summer sunshine, although Roy’s hundred took him five balls fewer.
The England one-day international reached his ninth first-class ton from only 92 balls, and he had struck two sixes and 19 fours when he mishit a hook at Quinn straight to deep square leg.
Roy had resumed on 23 in Surrey’s overnight 88 for one, with Stoneman on 41, and the second-wicket pair took their fine partnership to 181 in 44 overs and were not separated until after lunch.
Left-handed opener Stoneman, who hit a six and 12 fours in his gritty 167-ball knock, fell three overs after Roy when he was bowled by a fine ball from off spinner Simon Harmer.
That merely teamed Pope up with Foakes, however, and Essex’s toil continued as they added 115 on a pitch that had flattened out considerably since early on day one, when Surrey were skittled for 67.
The County Championship winners, though, were motivated by a determination to try to finish their triumphant four-day season unbeaten – having won 10 and drawn three of their previous 13 Division One matches – and this desire shone as Pope took over from Roy as the leader of Surrey’s fightback.
Essex’s batsmen had shown what was possible by posting 477 for eight declared in their first innings and, although there was some turn for Harmer, the seam of Jamie Porter, Quinn and Coles, who replaced concussion victim Sam Cook in Essex’s team, was largely ineffective on a dry and dusting surface.
Paceman Coles even attempted to ruffle Roy in the morning session by engaging in a verbal spat with him over what he seemed to suggest were time-wasting tactics in between deliveries.
But Roy, playing just his second red-ball match of the summer, remained unperturbed and was instrumental in taking the attack back to Essex’s bowlers as he drove and pulled with freedom to get the scoreboard rattling along.
Jacks and Ryan Patel showed further resolve in the final hour to add an unbroken 59 for the sixth wicket, with 19-year-old Jacks reaching a maiden first-class fifty with five fours and sixes launched straight off Harmer and swung over midwicket off Coles.