Cricket: Bicknell puts Surrey on the brink

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The Independent Online
Surrey 350-9 & 1-1 Derbyshire 154 & 196 Surrey win by 9 wickets

SURREY WERE left needing only eight points to secure their first County Championship title since 1971 by their comprehensive win here yesterday. They were held up to an extent that they did not take a wicket until the last over before lunch, but it was plain sailing after that.

The next six disappeared in 20 overs to Saqlain Mushtaq and Martin Bicknell, who gave something of a master class in the art of swing bowling with the old ball before cramp forced him to go off at the start of the 21st over.

The pitch, slower than hitherto, lent itself to a back-to-the-wall battle and the way that Adrian Rollins and Steve Titchard operated comfortably and with great selectivity on the front foot suggested that Derbyshire's first-innings batting had not passed without comment in the dressing room.

There were few alarms and not too much playing and missing. For all that, it remained a pitch on which high-class bowlers could get out what they put in and when Saqlain spun his leg-break sharply to prise out Titchard, Bicknell got to work.

Suddenly where everything had seemed placid and straightforward in the pre-lunch session, there was pace, bounce and disconcerting late movement. It was all too much for the middle order, who succumbed quickly and painlessly.

Among them was James Pyemont, a Cambridge blue who, bowled by Bicknell's in-swinger, marked his Championship debut by becoming only the third batsman in Derbyshire's history to collect a king pair.

Some indication of Derbyshire's batting problems can be gauged from the fact that Matthew Cassar has yet to pass 50 in 20 Championship innings this season. Bicknell knew too much for him and also for Robin Weston, who was leg before padding up to what he must have thought, wrongly as it transpired, was an outswinger.

Between these episodes Rollins had batted calmly and with great self- discipline for some three hours. By all accounts he is currently engaged in a pay wrangle with the club. It has to be said that the stroke from which he eventually perished to Saqlain will not lend much strength to his argument.