THE PREVIOUS County Championship match at the Oval was infamously abandoned when someone fired a crossbow bolt on to the square.
On Tuesday the only danger to the players was from the traditional weapon of the hard leather ball, which Surrey smashed around to the tune of 398-3 in a painful start to the game for Yorkshire.
After winning the toss on a typically true pitch, Surrey powered and placed that ball just like an arrow, straight through the hearts of the Yorkshire bowlers.
Mark Stoneman broke those hearts with 131, thereby surely expelling any lingering doubts as to whether he will be chosen for the Ashes tour, while Rory Burns exacted further damage with 75, the pair adding 178 for the first wicket before Kumar Sangakkara (85) and Ben Foakes (64) built on that foundation with a punishing, unbroken partnership of 143.
For Yorkshire, who went into the match 13 points above the relegation zone with only two more games left after this, it was hardly the day they had hoped for as they seek to avoid the prospect of demotion to Division Two.
They had obviously wanted to bat themselves – otherwise, there would not have been a toss – and it was easy to see why as Surrey made hay in the south London sunshine.
Practically the only good news for the visitors came from nearby Uxbridge, where Middlesex – one position below Yorkshire but level on points – were unable to start their match against Hampshire due to a wet outfield.
Overnight rain had crept under the covers at the West London ground, giving the umpires no choice but to abandon proceedings at 11.20am in bright sunshine, thereby denying the hosts the chance to pick up valuable points.
There were no such problems at the Oval, where the venue is of somewhat higher quality, although the pitches here have a habit of throwing up docile draws.
This one certainly favours the batsmen, and Stoneman was not a man who needed any favours as he set about showing why he was handed his Test debut last month.
Yorkshire had obviously wanted to bat themselves – otherwise, there would not have been a toss – and it was easy to see why as Surrey made hay in the south London sunshine.The YP’s Chris Waters
The 30-year-old left-hander, whose 20th hundred this was on his 150th first-class appearance, had a mixed time of it against West Indies, registering scores of 8, 19, 52, 1 and 40 not out.
Yet there was nothing betwixt or between about his fourth century in 10 Championship games this year, his runs arriving from 171 deliveries with 22 fours.
Indeed, as Stoneman drove, whipped and cut the ball with aplomb, he looked every inch a top-class player, one whose game could be suited to the hard Australian wickets.
He was soon cover-driving Ryan Sidebottom for four and cutting Jack Brooks to the boundary, while he collected three fours in one Steve Patterson over, although everyone suffered at some stage or other.
Brooks and Patterson were recalled to the side with Liam Plunkett away on England duty and in the absence of leading wicket-taker Ben Coad, who was not selected.
With Adil Rashid also away with England, Azeem Rafiq provided the spin duties, while Tom Kohler-Cadmore returned in place of Adam Lyth, whose wife has just given birth to their first child.
On a used pitch towards the gasometer side of the ground, Surrey made a stupendous start.
At lunch, they were 126-0 from 30 overs, 88 of those arriving in boundaries as Yorkshire bowled poorly and on both sides of the wicket. There was an element of controversy when Yorkshire finally did break through, Brooks having Burns caught behind.
Burns thought that the ball had swung past the outside edge of his bat without making contact, only for umpire Mike Burns – apparently no relation – to rule otherwise.
Stoneman added 55 for the second wicket with Ryan Patel, a 19-year-old left-hander playing his third first-class match, before eventually perishing trying to cut a ball from Tim Bresnan.
It was a delivery that Stoneman should probably have hit to the rope, but he somewhat half-heartedly slashed it high to Shaun Marsh at solitary slip.
Sidebottom had Patel caught behind just before tea, dangling the bait just outside off stump which the youngster took as he attempted to drive.
Sangakkara is not so easily deceived, however, the veteran using all his class and experience as he ruled the roost in the final session. Languid drives mixed with lacerating ones as Sangakkara and Foakes steered Surrey to the brink of maximum batting points.
Foakes went to his half-century with four successive fours off Brooks on a day when Yorkshire conceded 65 boundaries off the bat.