Cricket: Bicknell maintains his concentration

Click to follow
Surrey 178-4 v Middlesex

A MONTH ago, this match might have been billed as one pitting reigning champions against likely heirs. As it is, three successive innings defeats for Surrey have diminished its importance to that of a local tiff between neighbours anticipating winter with some relish.

Nothing that occurred here yesterday will have altered the basis of both sides' recent decline. Middlesex lacked the seam resources to take advantage of a helpful pitch, while their beleaguered hosts batted as if unsure whether the game was scheduled for 40 overs or a week.

Detecting more than a glint of green in the pitch, Mike Gatting left out Phil Tufnell and elected to field, whereupon rain prevented a start until 3pm, 58 overs in all being lost. Darren Bicknell, a fringe candidate for Australia, set off a hectic pace, taking five boundaries off the wayward Kevin Shine's opening three overs, and although Neil Williams, resurfacing for the first time since mid-June, swung one back to trap Mark Butcher, 50 had been posted by the 11th over.

Monte Lynch contributed breezily to a stand of 64 in 14 overs before being caught behind off Mark Feltham, and David Ward, with just three Championship half-centuries since his 294 against Derbyshire in May, duly maintained the tempo with a rugged 47 out of a third-wicket stand of 84. Indeed, he accelerated in inverse proportion to Bicknell, who spent nearly an hour in the sixties.

It was as if Bicknell had suddenly remembered his side's recent impressions of a tent without a pole. Surrey's propensity for the fallible was borne out again as Shine returned to persuade Ward and Alistair Brown to throw away their wickets in successive overs. Bicknell, though, retained his concentration as proceedings meandered to a close in mocking sunshine.