HASHIM Amla was left fighting a lone hand as Surrey struggled to 107 for seven on day two at the Kia Oval after Essex totalled 439 in their LV= Insurance County Championship Division Two match.

Surrey captain Amla, who came in at number three, remained a defiant 58 not out as 14 wickets fell overall on a day in which batting seemed far more difficult than it did 24 hours earlier when Sir Alastair Cook’s unbeaten 140 had guided Essex to their overnight total of 299 for three.

Indeed, Essex themselves lost their last seven wickets for the addition of only 140 runs in three hours of hard graft, with Cook fifth out for a magnificent 165 – his highest first-class score at The Oval.

But Surrey’s reply then began badly with both openers, Cameron Steel and Ryan Patel, out for ducks and Ollie Pope quickly following for five as they slid to 19 for three. And it did not get much better as four more wickets were lost before the close.

Will Jacks battled almost an hour for his 11, until he was leg-before to a Shane Snater off-cutter, and Rikki Clarke made it to 12 – including a big six over the short boundary on one side of the ground off Simon Harmer – before the off-spinner soon had his revenge by having Clarke stumped.

Attempting to force off the back foot, Jordan Clark then edged the bustling Sam Cook behind, to go for five, and Jonny Tattersall (four) was the victim of a remarkable left-handed diving catch by Nick Browne at short leg off Harmer.

Jamie Porter had started Surrey’s slide, having Steel well held at first slip from the sixth ball of the innings, and Sam Cook then struck with his second ball – bowling from around the wicket – as left-hander Patel was pinned LBW by one angled into his pads.

Porter, in his fifth over with the new ball, then produced a beauty which Pope touched to Adam Wheater behind the stumps, but former South Africa great Amla was studious in defence as he sought to hold back the Essex tide.

Amla also twice in an over swept Harmer for four, but when the bowler switched to the Vauxhall End he was almost immediately successful as Clarke skipped down the pitch and was beaten by a ball which spun through the gate as the all-rounder aimed a violent swipe.

The day had begun with Essex nightwatchman Porter reaching a jaunty 30 in a 54-run stand with Sir Alastair Cook before he edged Clarke behind.

Cook, having batted for seven and a half hours, was finally undone by a fine piece of bowling from slow left-armer Dan Moriarty, who went around the wicket to have England’s record Test run-getter caught by keeper Tattersall as he tried to cut. He had faced 330 balls, hitting 20 fours.

Wheater played some good strokes in his 39, before being eighth out offering no stroke to Reece Topley and seeing his off bail trimmed, but Paul Walter’s 33 was a more tortured affair that was ended by a brilliant reflex catch by Pope at gully, just off the turf, after the left-hander had edged Jacks’ off-spin onto Tattersall’s arm.

The rest of Essex’s lower order succumbed meekly, Harmer leg-before to Topley for three, Aron Nijjar caught behind off James Taylor for two and Sam Cook leg-before to Taylor for nought.