Cricket: Stewart's masterful century

Cricket: England's new captain inspires Surrey to narrow win: Surrey 29 6-6; Somerset 287 Surrey win by nine runs
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Surrey 296-6; Somerset 287 Surrey win by nine runs

SURREY'S grip on the Benson and Hedges Cup is tightening. The last match they lost in the 50-over competition was in their opening zonal game against Kent last year. Yesterday's victory, unnecessarily nail-biting in the end, completed a 100 per cent start to their defence in their five Group C matches and brought their run of wins to 12.

There was a real contrast in Adam Hollioake's team with bat and ball. A pitch full of runs with an obligingly short leg-side boundary on the Gasometer side of the ground promised a closely fought tie but when player- coach Dermot Reeve and his fellow opener Mike Burns were compiling a solid 158-run stand it looked as if all Alec Stewart's hard work and Ben Hollioake's fine all-round performance would be wasted.

As it was, Somerset were unable to sustain the momentum.

Under Adam Hollioake's fine direction the bowlers lifted themselves, the fielding sharpened and wickets began to fall more frequently. No Somerset player was able to match Burns aggression - he hit 11 boundaries and a six off 104 balls - or Reeve's cunning (he made 60 with sly nudges and cheeky pushes). Mushtaq Ahmed flung the bat at the end with 26 off 19 deliveries, but Surrey scraped home with seven balls to spare.

Stewart scored a masterful century during a second-wicket stand of 185 with Ben Hollioake. The new England captain so dominated affairs that Hollioake, who has been short of form - and opportunity to find it - was able to settle down and enjoy Stewart's innings along with the bulk of the crowd.

There was a calculated feel to Stewart's innings. He paces himself perfectly in this kind of form. Unhurried, yet not hanging around. He is renowned for his fitness and at 35 was giving Hollioake some 15 years, but it did not show. By the time he was out caught in the deep off Marcus Trescothick he had faced 136 balls and had helped himself to 10 fours.

Hollioake had departed a couple of overs earlier, but not before some entertaining hitting. In one over he dismissed three deliveries from Mushtaq for six - two of them out of the ground. There were eight further boundaries in his 98-ball innings. That, coupled with his three wickets with the Somerset innings approaching its climax, was enough to earn him the Gold Award.

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