Cricket: Benjamin in form for Surrey

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Nottinghamshire 125; Surrey 167-2

THE sound of crashing timber is not normally associated with this particular venue in high summer, and Surrey must have feared the worst when they lost the toss yesterday. The sun blazed down, the pitch was straw-coloured, but Nottinghamshire's batting was even more anaemic - and it looks like costing them dearly.

Counsel for their defence might point out that, with Paul Pollard and Paul Johnson unfit, they had three relatively inexperienced batsmen in their top five; that the ball swung (especially after it had been changed); and, not least, that they nicked every good delivery rather than got away with playing and missing, as sometimes happens.

Spearheaded by Joey Benjamin's 6 for 27, Surrey bowled an excellent line, exploited occasional variations in bounce, and only Tony Lock could have improved their close catching.

On days like these, something substantial is required from the batting stalwarts. But not long after Surrey had persuaded the umpires, in only the seventh over, that the ball was not up to requirements, the hitherto untroubled Tim Robinson was palpably lbw on the back foot to Benjamin.

The negligible bounce of this delivery prompted several quizzical glances at the pitch. In the last game here, only 21 wickets fell in four days.

Elsewhere, Surrey enjoyed occasional bonuses, as when Chris Lewis, after batting on a loftier level than the others, was languid and late on a ball of full length.

Lewis the bowler went off after two overs in which he had Andy Smith lbw. A strained back was diagnosed. By the time he returned, Darren Bicknell and Graham Thorpe had eased Surrey effortlessly and flawlessly into the lead.