Bicknell keeps Surrey wagon rolling

Surrey 477 and 78-1 Hants 303 and 251 Surrey win by 9 wickets
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The Independent Online
The Surrey wagon rolled forward, creaking a little at times, but Adam Hollioake's band are clearly intent on making impact on what is left of their Championship programme. They had begun the season widely tipped to lift every title going, and some. Realistically, they are unlikely to do better than maybe a top-three finish if the leaders keep winning.

But yesterday Martin Bicknell, who has been bowling well all season, was performing on his home club ground of Woodbridge Road in Guildford. He wrapped up the Hampshire second innings, which had been more a case of trailing in than following on, to record his first five-wicket return of the summer, with match figures of 9 for 122. He is motoring; the Surrey machine is purring.

There were a couple of blips yesterday. Adrian Aymes, Hampshire's excellent wicketkeeper, picked up where he had left off the previous evening, getting in the way of Surrey's every effort to chalk up only their second Championship victory of the summer. Without his contribution in the second innings Hampshire would have suffered the ignominy of an innings defeat, and it was cruel that he should have been left high and dry just four runs short of what should have been a deserved century.

He had battled it out for almost four hours and must have been mightily frustrated when Surrey's stand-in wicketkeeper, Mark Butcher, snapped up a sharp catch behind - his second of the match - to account for the last man, James Bovill, and present Bicknell with his deserved return of 5 for 34.

Butcher, who was the unused reserve wicketkeeper during England A's successful tour of Australia last winter, was called up after Alec Stewart suffered a cut eye on Friday - Surrey are optimistic that Stewart will be able to play in today's Sunday League match and the man himself insists that he will be fit for Headingley on Thursday.

Butcher had a slightly less satisfying time with the bat when he and Jason Ratcliffe attempted to knock off the 78 runs needed for victory.

The pair had progressed smoothly to 42, some 20 minutes before lunch, when Butcher decided to sweep a delivery from Shaun Udal. The resultant top-edge ballooned obligingly to Bovill who was running in from deep square-leg. The England left-hander departed disappointed.

It was not a serious hiccup. Except, given Surrey's propensity for dramatic collapses - remember Lancashire in the Benson & Hedges Cup a few years ago - nothing is certain until the runs are in the bag.

Thankfully for the Surrey supporters, Ratcliffe and Graham Thorpe were in no mood for excess. They did not try to polish it off before lunch. And when they emerged for the post-prandial session, they needed just eight minutes more to pick up their first 24-pointer of the season.

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