JAMIE Smith defied Essex for more than two and a half hours to help Surrey salvage a draw against the odds at Chelmsford.

The 22-year-old dug in after Surrey were reduced to 103 for six with 25 overs still to hold out and retain their unbeaten start to the LV= Insurance County Championship season.

Surrey had been asked to chase down a not-inconceivable 273 in 54 overs.

However, once Ollie Pope had departed for a 58-ball 47, the reigning champions’ hopes of victory evaporated, and they were happy to still be there at the close on 153 for seven, Smith unbeaten on 39 from 126 balls.

In setting the target, Essex had collapsed alarmingly from 116 for two to 198 all out in 16 overs with Jordan Clark (four for 58) and Sean Abbott (three for 50) sharing the wickets.

On a day of sunshine after the rain, Surrey’s response got off to the worst possible start when Dom Sibley hung out his bat to Sam Cook’s second ball and Simon Harmer claimed at second slip.

It did not get much better for the visitors.

Harmer took an even better catch in the same position to dismiss Rory Burns on the stroke of tea off the bowling of Doug Bracewell, the Surrey captain having played the anchor role with 10 off 43 balls.

Pope struck Bracewell for a towering six from an over that went for 15, but when the England batsman had reached 47 he drove Shane Snater to Nick Browne in the covers and Surrey were left needing exactly 200 from 34 overs.

Will Jacks reduced that by six from his third ball but fell soon after when he chipped Snater to short midwicket for nine.

Harmer was not called upon until the 29th over, much later than usual, at which point Abbott’s eyes lit up and he promptly lofted the first ball to wide mid-on.

However, two balls later, Ben Foakes was caught in two minds, withdrew his bat and was lbw to Harmer for a duck.

Smith and Cameron Steel produced a sterling rearguard action for an hour, scoring just 25 runs between them, before Steel was trapped on his crease by Bracewell.

Smith then kept Jordan Clark out of the firing line as the game ebbed towards its inevitable conclusion.

The day started with Surrey on the front foot as Kemar Roach completed his rain-interrupted over from 23 and a half hours earlier and knocked over Sir Alastair Cook’s off-stump with the second ball.

The introduction of Clark seemed to unsettle Tom Westley, and after narrowly avoiding getting a touch to several outside off-stump, he did finally got a nick to one and was caught behind.

While Westley and Browne had taken a safety-first approach while adding 38 in 14 overs, the incoming Dan Lawrence showed a contrasting approach, advancing down the wicket and depositing his fifth ball out of the ground over long leg.

The third-wicket partnership accelerated the run-rate with 54 runs in 10 overs before Lawrence stepped outside off-stump in an attempt to swat Gus Atkinson over square leg and left all three stumps exposed.

At that point Essex were 116 for three and holding a lead of 190 with 72 overs remaining.

Browne followed almost immediately for 47 when he pulled Atkinson to Jacks and, with Surrey scattering their field to all points on the boundary in an attempt to stem the runs, Essex’s lower order fell on their own swords.

Michael Pepper’s cameo lasted six balls when he took a massive swipe at Abbott and holed out to deep third man, Matt Critchley perished when he pulled Clark to Smith.

Bracewell attempted a big heave and skied Abbott into the covers where the bowler took the catch and Harmer handed the Australian all-rounder a third wicket by picking out long leg. Clark wrapped up the innings with the last two wickets.