Brown goes to town

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire 307-4 Surrey 308-7 (Surrey win by three wickets)

Dark mutterings at Surrey's decision to charge pounds 10 to watch Benson and Hedges Cup cricket at The Oval, compared with the more modest pounds 6 charged north of the Thames at Lord's, were muted after another value-for-money performance by Alec Stewart and his merrier men.

A second successive victory for Surrey, studded with some superlative batting from both sides, brightened a generally overcast day. Alistair Brown's devastating 17-ball blitz, which took him from 31 to 81, almost - but not quite - overshadowed a marvellous hundred from Gloucestershire's Rob Cunliffe in only his second appearance in the competition.

Cunliffe's unbeaten 137, which took Gloucestershire to their highest total in the Cup, was all the more admirable since the 22-year-old had to come in at an inglorious moment for Gloucestershire - first wicket down in the third over. The gold award was probably poor consolation for Cunliffe.

He played with the composure of a veteran. In tandem with opener Tony Wright he helped put on 161 for the second wicket to make a match of it. He was there until the end. More than three hours of fine strokeplay and an outrageous shot or two, notably the second of his two sixes over the long-off boundary, when he removed his bottom hand as he struck the ball.

But Brown, following up his half-century at the weekend, naturally out- hit everyone. His 57-ball innings contained a variety of blows, with one thing in common - distance. One of his four huge sixes finished up in the road close to the gasometers and another would have reached Vauxhall Station had a stand not been in the way. He moved from 31 (which took him 31 balls) to 81 in 17 deliveries and brought to mind the exploits of Sri Lanka's World Cup sensation, Sanath Jayasuriya.

Brown did much to lay the foundations for victory and enhanced his reputation as a possible for England's Texaco squad. He is regarded as a "pinch-hitter", although there is nothing pinched about the way he plays. He is generous, extravagant even, a true crowd pleaser with his stunning strokeplay.

When he went, run out with a century there for the taking, the cudgels were taken up by Adam Hollioake (45) and Darren Bicknell (46). Ghosts of collapses past returned to haunt them briefly - three wickets falling with victory in sight - but thankfully the new regime has instilled some backbone in the team and they eased in with something to spare.