Emilio Gay celebrated a deluxe century, his first at Wantage Road, as Northamptonshire dominated LV= Insurance County Championship title-chasing Surrey on day one.

Opening batter Gay was fantastic in his 145, his third first-class century and second of the season, as he helped his side score 249 for four having been stuck in to bat.

He was joined in a 77-run first-wicket partnership by Will Young and a record 155-run fourth-wicket stand by Rob Keogh with a Kemar Roach and Dan Worrall-induced wobble in between.

Keogh ended the day on an effortless 75 not out but was outshone by Gay’s personal best.

The death of The Queen last week was marked with a minute’s silence and National Anthem before play, while there was a period of applause during a rain break in remembrance of Northamptonshire coach Luke Swann, who died aged 39 last week on a sombre day.

On the field, Gay burst the subdued mood with a jamboree of an innings.

Gay erupted out the gates with a pair of glorious cover drives off Kemar Roach, but it was his play square of the wicket that dominated his innings – most aesthetically pleasing were his wristy flicks off his legs.

The elegant left-hander passed 50 for the sixth time this season in 69 balls, and he answered criticisms of his conversion rate – only one century this year – in emphatic style.

The 22-year-old stayed in one easy-going gear the whole way through the day and reached three figures – his first outside of Canterbury – in 118-balls, before passing his previous best red ball score of 112.

His standing ovation, having fallen into a short ball trap to hook to deep square leg in fading light and drizzle, was well deserved for his high-quality innings – although it turned to frustration as his wicket also saw the end of the day’s play.

Rory Burns had stuck Northamptonshire in but didn’t get the immediate movement and accuracy he would have craved – with his side losing their top spot of Division One to Hampshire on their week off.

Tom Curran made his first Championship appearance since April 2019 with unspectacular figures of 11 wicketless overs for 39. The England international has returned from a stress fracture in his back this year, having been sidelined by a side strain for much of 2019.

After the rain delay, which knocked 9 overs off the day’s scheduled allotment, Surrey returned to find swing on the agenda and made the more favourable conditions work with three wickets in 31 balls.

Will Young had been the antidote to Gay’s flair – scoring 20 of the 77 runs – before extra bounce on a backfoot drive off Roach found his outside edge and flew to second slip, before the West Indian found even more steep lift and had Luke Procter caught off the shoulder at gully.

Dan Worrell dragged Josh Cobb wide to drive an away swinger behind to put Northamptonshire in danger of replicating their tale at Hampshire last week but this time Rob Keogh entered to steady things, with Gay continuing his business at the other end. Keogh embodied class and experience for his 91-ball fifty and continued an equal 75 to the 155 with Gay. The heavy majority of his runs came behind the wicket, usually when opening the face of the bat on a good-paced pitch.