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Rob Taylor took 3-52 but attacking innings of 76 and 71 from Jason Roy and Hashim Amla helped Surrey post 325 for 7 on day one of the LV=CC game at The Kia Oval.
Leicestershire fought hard in the field, led by Taylor's bustling left-arm seam, and the home side were 243-7 before an unbroken eighth wicket stand of 82 between Gary Wilson and Chris Tremlett.
Both Wilson and Tremlett ended up on 44 not out after Amla and Roy had been joined in stands of 63 and 77 by Vikram Solanki, who also batted well for his 54.
Taylor, who took the prized wicket of Hashim Amla, said: “Overall I’d say it is still pretty even, although it is a shame we couldn’t break the eighth wicket partnership in the final hour.
"There was a little bit in it before lunch but the pitch flattened out as the day went on, and in the conditions and with a short boundary on one side we are pretty happy.
"Getting Hashim Amla out has to be a highlight of the day for me – if he’d stayed in for another hour he would have had a hundred and more, so it was a very important wicket to get.”
Taylor was rested for the Worcestershire game but returned to the Leicestershire side along with Matthew Boyce and Jigar Naik. Ramnaresh Sarwan and Richard Jones dropped out because of injury while Boyce replaced Greg Smith at the top of the order.
Nathan Buck (17-3-82-1) made Leicestershire’s first strike in the tenth over, with Rory Burns caught off a glove for 13 as he tried to glance to leg.
But Amla was fast out of the blocks as he dominated a stand of 41 in eight overs with Zafar Ansari, who had made just 9 from 49 balls when he played a Ben Raine (14-2-54-1) delivery onto his wicket.
Amla and Solanki then threatened to take the innings away from Leicestershire with a third wicket partnership either side of lunch that was full of elegant strokeplay.
Twice Solanki square drove JNaik’s off-spin through the covers for four and Amla, who had reached his fifty from only 45 balls, began the afternoon session by cover-driving Charlie Shreck (25-6-66-1) for four and then pulling him imperiously for another boundary.
The newly-appointed South Africa Test captain, in his last championship game before being replaced by Surrey’s new overseas signing Tillekeratne Dilshan, had included eleven fours in a 77-ball 71 when he inside-edged a ball from Taylor into his stumps, the left-arm seamer gaining rich reward for finding a little bit of movement back into Amla as he tried to force the ball away on the off-side.
Soon Taylor had reduced Surrey to 127 for four, with Steven Davies nicking to Naik at first slip on 2, and at this stage Leicestershire would have been hopeful of making further strikes after the hosts decided to bat first in beautifully sunny conditions.
Roy, however, led the second Surrey counter-attack of what was an absorbing and keenly-fought day’s cricket, taking just 54 balls to reach his fifty and narrowly beating Solanki to the half-century mark even though his partner had already scored 30 when he arrived at the crease.
Roy seized the initiative with a succession of crisp yet controlled strokes. One on-driven four against Buck caught the eye, as did a six driven over cover off Naik and another, more classical extra cover drive for four all along the turf.
A stand of 77 in just under 20 overs was ended by Taylor, with the Scotland one-day international all-rounder returning to bowl Solanki for 54, made off 118 balls with eight fours, but at tea Roy had cruised on to 74 in partnership with Wilson, his captain.
The final session began badly for Surrey, though, with Roy losing his head to be stumped for 76 as he charged out his crease to aim a wild heave at Naik (21-5-64-1), and then Gareth Batty nibbling at a lifting ball from Shreck and edging behind for 1.
From 243 for seven it took a spirited 71-ball knock from fast bowler Tremlett – who hit Naik straight back over his head for six – and some equally determined batting from Wilson to haul Surrey to a third batting bonus point and within sight of a fourth.