Meaker on song for Surrey
Stuart Meaker shone with bat and ball on day three of Surrey's LV= Country Championship Division Two match against Kent at Guildford.
After scoring 53 from 73 balls as Surrey made 398 in their first innings, he then took four for 67 as Surrey reduced Kent to 229 for six at the close - only a moderate lead of 239 on a pitch that is still a good one for strokeplay.
Kent may yet live to rue their inability to prevent Meaker and Matt Dunn (31no) from adding 82 for Surrey's last wicket and then a collapse in the middle of the final session from a serene 164 for two to a panicky 178 for six.
Sam Billings, adding an unbeaten 20 to his first innings 82no, did steady the Kent ship in the closing stages, with Calum Haggett keeping him company on 27 not out in a stand so far worth 51, but in a fiercely-fought contest which has swayed one way and then the other, it is Surrey who will be the happier of the two teams with a day to go.
Victory here, for both teams, would be much coveted in terms of pushing on into the second division promotion race, and Kent will not fancy defending a target of under 300 on a traditionally fast-scoring ground.
The day began with Surrey still 105 runs adrift at 303 for six in reply to Kent's first innings 408, and Kent would have sensed victory themselves when Darren Stevens struck with the first balls of the second and fourth overs of the morning to remove the overnight pair of Gareth Batty and Gary Wilson.
Kent had taken the second new ball immediately, as it was due at the start, and both Batty and Wilson, who added just four runs to his overnight 80 not out, edged behind as Stevens found some swing.
Mitch Claydon then pinned Tim Linley leg-before, for four, and at 316 for nine there was only one team in it. Meaker and Dunn, however, dug in against Kent's four-pronged seam attack and soon began to flourish.
Kent captain Rob Key might have turned to off spinner Adam Riley earlier in the partnership, especially as an option against the left-handed Dunn, whose previous highest first-class score was just 13, but despite continuing pace and carry from the well-grassed surface there was little else for seam and especially spin to work with.
Eventually, when Key did call up Riley, it was he who denied Surrey a fifth and final batting bonus point. With three balls left in which to get two more runs to take Surrey to 400, Meaker aimed a reverse sweep and was leg-before.
Meaker then decided to make an impression with the ball. In his first spell he had Daniel Bell-Drummond caught behind for 25 from a sharp lifter, and then removed Ben Harmison for 11 to a catch at first slip.
Key and Brendan Nash were largely untroubled, however, as they added 95 in 22 overs for the third wicket, but when Meaker raised himself for another impressive burst after tea the game was suddenly turned on its head.
Nash, after 51 from 80 balls, tried to slash Meaker away and edged behind where Rory Burns, who is deputising for Surrey skipper Wilson as wicketkeeper.
Wilson, who is nursing a bruised hand but still able to field, then threw in from mid on to run out Sam Northeast for five when Stevens sent him back.
Either side of that dismissal, Meaker ended Key's assured 59 with another fine ball which ended up at first slip off the edge of his bat, and Stevens was brilliantly held at second slip for two when he tried to turn Dunn to leg and got a leading edge.
Meaker, unsurprisingly, was pleased with his efforts with bat and ball, especially after more than two months on the sidelines due to injur y recently.
He said: "It's good to have showed the management what I can do, and what they have been missing out on. But if the team is doing well, which they have been, then I am happy - even if it means being out of the side.
"When we batted at the end of our innings I felt the Kent bowlers were searching a bit too hard for that last wicket. When we bowled, I tried to stay patient and just concentrated on hitting the pitch hard and keeping a good line on and around off stump."
Kent captain Key admitted his side need to add more runs to their total tomorrow to ensure a positive result.
He said: "It's been an interesting game so far and it could be a very interesting last day.
"On this sort of pitch, with the fast outfield, it is very difficult if you have to declare and set someone a target, so perhaps it would be best if we are bowled out!
"With a lead of 239, we definitely need a few more tomorrow morning, though."