Ollie Pope and Jamie Smith struck batting gold in the desert as Surrey made an encouraging start to their new campaign, writes Richard Spiller.

A mixture of sandstorms and rain ended the county champions’ chances of beating MCC in the season-opener played in Dubai, which ended in a damp draw on Wednesday.

Pope’s 251 – his first double-century – saw him add 266 with debutant Jamie Smith, whose 127 made him the ninth player in Surrey’s history to record a ton on his first-class debut.

Skippered by England seamer Stuart Broad, MCC were bowled out for 265 on the opening day, Essex’s Dan Lawrence making the best of 58 before his colleagues slumped from 193-3, speedster Conor McKerr’s 3-40 backed up by spinners Freddie van den Bergh (3-54) and Scott Borthwick (2-55).

Confirmation that it was a below-average score was provided by Pope’s sixth first-class century and 18-year-old wicketkeeper Smith, who has been regarded as one of his county’s most exciting young talents for some time and underlined it as the pair inspired the champions to reach 520 all out, their alliance the best ever against MCC.

Bidding to add to his two Tests last year, 21-year-old Pope became the second youngest double-centurion for Surrey and only KS Ranjitsinhji’s 260 for Sussex in 1897 stands ahead in matches against MCC.

Smith’s score was his county’s best by a debutant - the last player to make three-figures on his first appearance was Rikki Clarke, against Cambridge University in 2002, and the veteran all-rounder is now the oldest member of the team at 37.

A formidable lead of 255 had been whittled down to 34 by the end of day three, chiefly by an opening stand of 190 by Warwickshire pair Dominic Sibley and Will Rhodes (88). Sibley spent his formative years at the Kia Oval before departing for Edgbaston and his 128 was his fourth century in successive matches, having ended last summer with a blaze of runs.

MCC had eked out a lead of 10 at 265-4 when the last of a succession of rain breaks terminated the match, only 19 overs possible on day four.

Surrey return to The Oval for a first-class friendly against Durham UCCE which starts on Thursday (April 4) over three days before opening the defence of their Specsavers County Championship title against Essex – the only side to beat them last year – from April 11.