Chesney Hughes hit an unbeaten 85 to lift Derbyshire to 209/5 and restrict Surrey to just one of the 15 points they need to be sure of promotion on a rain-shortened day at the Kia Oval.
Four of the wickets fell to the left arm spin of Zafar Ansari who now has 45 in the championship to go with his 566 runs and must have a chance of selection for England’s forthcoming Test series against Pakistan in the UAE.
Billy Godleman and Ben Slater gave Derbyshire a solid start but Derbyshire were not making the most of winning the toss on a slow pitch which is already turning until Hughes went in.
Play did not get under way until after lunch with Godleman bidding to become the first Derbyshire batsman to score four centuries in successive championship innings after making 101 against Leicestershire and 108 and 105 not out against Kent.
Godleman, making his 100th first-class appearance, was dropped at third slip off Tom Curran on 20 but was going well with 45 off 57 balls including eight fours when he was bowled trying to work Ansari to leg.
Slater, who had helped Godleman put on 79 in 20 overs for the first wicket, was also dropped at first slip off Sam Curran on 10 but went on to add another 49 with Hughes before he was leg before to Ansari for 42 in the last over before tea.
Hughes, the 24-year-old left-hander from Anguilla, was well into his stride by then with some cracking drives off the Curran brothers and went past fifty off 74 balls with seven fours.
He lost Wayne Madsen at 152 when he popped up a return catch to Ansari and, 10 runs later, Wes Durston,,who was leg before trying to sweep, but Harvery Hosein, the 19-year-old wicketkeeper, helped him raise another 44
Hosein was leg before to Tom Curran just before bad light and more rain ended play with Hughes still there after facing 150 balls and hitting eight fours. ,
The flags on top of the pavilion were at half mast in memory of Harry Brind, the former groundsman credited with producing some of the best pitches in the world during his 20 years at the Oval, who has died at the age of 85.
Speaking at the close of play Chesney Hughes said: “I’ve had innings where I’ve ground it out and tried to hang in for a long time but it came out of the middle early on, I hit a drive down the ground, and I thought I’ll take it to them a little bit and try and take control.
“Then we lost a few wickets and I went back to batting time so I think I structured my innings well.”