Rory Burns posted 107 as Surrey, asked to bat first, reached 261 for six on the opening day of the LV= Insurance County Championship match against Northamptonshire at the Kia Oval.
Surrey captain Burns, dropped as England’s Test opener following poor returns during the heavy Ashes series defeat in Australia last winter, had also made only 119 runs from six previous championship innings this season.
But here he held Surrey’s first innings together impressively after Luke Procter had removed Hashim Amla and Will Jacks in successive balls soon after lunch.
Burns went to two significant milestones during his innings – 11,000 runs in all first-class cricket and 9,000 in first-class matches for Surrey – and was joined by Sam Curran in the day’s defining partnership of 95 for the fifth wicket.
Curran finished 71 not out, but both Burns and Colin de Grandhomme were dismissed by Ben Sanderson in the final hour to give Northamptonshire a late boost on a day when their captain, Ricardo Vasconcelos, was off the field for all but the opening hour after feeling unwell.
Procter had earlier seen Ryan Patel chip a drive to cover, where Simon Kerrigan took a smart catch above his head.
Amla was bowled for 21, an absolute beauty from the pacer clipping the top of the former South Africa Test great’s off stump, and Jacks was leg-before to the next delivery – the last ball of Procter’s eighth over – which nipped back off the seam.
His double strike gave Procter figures at that stage of three for 18, and Surrey in sudden discomfort at 87 for three, but Ben Foakes hung around for more than an hour for 16 and helped Burns to add 46 for the fourth wicket before top-edging an attempted hook at Tom Taylor straight up in the air for keeper Lewis McManus to take a simple catch.
Curran’s arrival brought an acceleration in the scoring rate, and the England all-rounder lifted Kerrigan straight for six and also hit nine fours as he continued an early-season comeback from a winter spent recovering from a stress fracture of the back.
Burns finally fell in the seventh over of the second new ball, edging the persevering Sanderson low to second slip, and De Grandhomme’s 11 ended with a curious scooped pull high to deep square leg off the same bowler.
Surrey 261/6 (Procter 3/51, Sanderson 2/56)