Butcher's lead role

Cricket: Surrey 221 and 419-9 Somerset 260
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The Independent Online
SITTING down for a chat with Graham Clinton, Surrey's coach, he says he hopes you will excuse the language if one of Surrey's batsmen does something daft. As he spoke, Alistair Brown, one of Surrey's batsmen, tried to hit Mushtaq Ahmed, a world-class spinner, for six and was bowled. Clinton managed to delete the expletives, but it is no fun being Surrey's coach watching from the dressing-room balcony while his batsmen do what they know they should not.

By the close of play at The Oval yesterday, Surrey were 380 ahead of Somerset with one wicket standing. The few hundred, mostly solitary, spectators who preferred live sport to the television extravaganza had seen an absorbing day's play. On the face of it, Clinton had nothing to complain about, but Surrey could have been in a stronger position.

The scorecard suggests the opposite, but the rot set in with the dismissal of Mark Butcher. He and Jason Ratcliffe put on 111 for the first wicket, making this a memorable Surrey debut for Ratcliffe, who added 48 to his 70 in the first innings. Butcher had already been hitting the ball hard, but in the next 35 minutes he hit the ball even more fiercely. His hundred came from a vicious hook to square leg - his second fifty came in 38 balls.

What Surrey needed now was another quick fifty from Butcher, but he tried to repeat the shot off the next ball, caught the top edge instead of the meat of the bat and was easily caught. This began a mini-collapse. Adam Hollioake, perhaps the most promising of all Surrey's young batsmen, played a mechanicallooking sweep and was lbw to Harvey Trump. Nadeem Shahid carelessly clouted Mushtaq to Andy Hayhurst for only 17.

When Brown played his daft shot, Surrey were 218 for five and on the verge of trouble. But David Ward, playing his first Championship game this season, compiled a fifty which included a long six into the second balcony of the pavilion. However, he celebrated his half-century by dancing down the wicket and being bowled by Trump. After this daft shot, Surrey were only 246 ahead - it was not enough.

It was left to two bowlers to put Surrey in a good position. The off- spinner Andy Smith and the fast bowler Martin Bicknell put on 84 for the eighth wicket; Smith's confident 88 was his highest score in the Championship. At 419 for nine, Surrey look safe from defeat, but Clinton would have felt more confident of victory if so many of his batsmen had not caused him to swear.