Cricket: A day too many for Surrey

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire153 and 162

Surrey381

Surrey win by innings and 66 runs

SURREY evidently don't think much of this four-day lark. Having won their last two games inside six sessions and sussed out Sussex with a day to spare, the Oval square dance continued yesterday as Gloucestershire staggered around the floor, two left feet to the fore.

The gulf between victors and vanquished could scarcely have been wider. Propelled by Waqar Younis and Martin Bicknell - who carved up 17 wickets between them here - Surrey are accelerating towards their first penant since 1971. Gloucestershire, for whom a change of captaincy has thus far done little to stem the tide of discontent, are merely in pole position to become the first county to finish behind Durham. Today marks the 145th anniversary of the birth of Dr Gooster himself, W G Grace: the celebrations are likely to be somewhat muted.

W G's descendants certainly tempted providence when play resumed. Given all the GBH he has dished out during his career it is a wonder no bright broker has thought of offering Waqar's opponents foot insurance.

By the same token, the Pakistani must expect to be hoist by his own petard now and then, yet the wisdom Courtney Walsh showed in striking him on the bowling hand was questionable. Doubling him up with successive blows to the body was positively masochistic. After Joey Benjamin's agricultural scything and a late flurry of fluent cover drives from Andy Smith had extended Surrey's seemingly sufficient overnight lead to 228, Waqar was soon biting back.

Chris Broad's return to Bristol has found the former England opener in decidedly less than ship-shape fettle and his only answer to the obligatory yorker was an inside edge that pegged back his leg stump at a drunken angle. Simon Hinks was equally defenceless, sparring at a rising delivery and locating Monte Lynch's fly-paper paws at second slip.

To his credit, Dean Hodgson refused to cower, adding 62 with Mark Alleyne and reaching a poised half-century with a typically elegant off-drive. This, though, was simply a case of sticking a finger into a rather sizeable dyke, and once James Boiling had induced a catch to silly point, Martin Bicknell moved out of Waqar's shadow, twice claiming two victims in an over on his home ground as the last six wickets seeped away for 34. The Guildford lager louts lapped it up, chuntering 'Cheerio' at each departing batsman and finishing with 'One Alec Stewart, there's only one Alec Stewart.'

Bicknell, in contrast, should be saying Hello to Test cricket come Thursday. Only Steve Watkin has taken more wickets this season and the Surrey man's sure- handed fielding, obdurate batting and keen competitive edge supplement a capacity for sharp movement off the seam, singling him out as a redoubtable performer whose time is surely nigh.

(Photograph omitted)

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