Cricket: Bicknell spearheads last-wicket Surrey fightback

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Surrey 342 Gloucestershire 55-2

A 10TH-WICKET partnership of 59 plus two early wickets in Gloucestershire's reply tilted the balance of this meeting between two of last season's Championship bridesmaids firmly in favour of the hosts at the end of an absorbing day's play.

When Alex Tudor was ninth out for Surrey with the score at 283, Gloucestershire had every reason to be pleased with the situation. But Surrey bat all the way down, and yesterday's opponents may not be the last to flounder at the final obstacle this year as Gloucestershire did yesterday, with No 11 Martin Bicknell hitting seven fours in an undefeated 49 in tandem with Ian Salisbury.

When Gloucestershire batted the same pair inflicted further wounds, Bicknell's outswinger accounting for Kim Barnett and then Salisbury's googly bamboozling Dominic Hewson.

In the morning, the notion that Gloucestershire might toil for their wickets on a surface that had behaved impeccably on a truncated first day seemed to have been swiftly disabused, appropriately enough with a touch of the Harvey Smiths on Gloucestershire's part.

Mark Butcher, impressive for his 68 on Tuesday, fell yesterday to the first ball he received, chopping on to his stumps after attempting to cut one from Mike Smith that was too close to his body. Ian Ward continued to play attractively but his new partner, Jason Ratcliffe, became horribly bogged down. He eventually was bowled by Ian Harvey, shouldering arms, having faced 26 balls without scoring.

Thereafter things went from bad to worse for Surrey for a time. Nadeem Shahid, Ally Brown and Ward fell in quick succession, Shahid to a fine diving catch by Matt Windows at square leg and Ward contentiously lbw, both victims of Harvey's slower ball. Brown, having flicked Smith off his toes for six at the end of one over, fell leg before to the first ball of the bowler's next, departing like Ward with some reluctance.

At 179 for 5, having started the day on 124 without loss, Ben Hollioake and the wicketkeeper Jonathan Batty now needed to steady the ship, which they did to good effect adding 69, including two Hollioake sixes, before a full delivery from the off-spinner Michael Ball dropped on to Hollioake's toes and he was gone for 49.

Shortly afterwards Batty, flashing at Smith, was dropped by Ball at first slip but Gary Butcher, making his debut, lost his middle stump to the very next delivery, bowled by Jon Lewis. Smith, however, was not finished with Batty, dropping a sharp return catch in his next over before finding the perfect inswinger to beat the batsman's forward defensive prod. When Tudor provided Smith with his fourth wicket of the day it looked as though the Gloucestershire left-armer had given his team the edge, but Bicknell and Salisbury changed that.

n Richard Montgomerie and Toby Peirce shared Sussex's best opening stand since June 1997 in their County Championship match of the season against Lancashire at Old Trafford yesterday. They put on 131 to launch their new-look side towards their total of 285 for 5.