Cricket: Bicknell's belligerent day

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Surrey 292 and 10-0

Essex 229

HAVING SPENT the summer taking on the clock, and usually beating it handsomely, the Essex batsmen demonstrated yesterday that, when the occasion demands, they are as adept at inspiring yawns as any.

The men responsible, both for upping the torpor quotient, and, more crucially, for restricting Surrey to a lead of 63, were Jonathan Lewis and Mike Garnham, whose painstaking fifth-wicket liaison mustered 118 in 61 overs.

The Championship leaders would have been in a right pickle otherwise, since the day's next highest partnership yielded a mere 23. The early strife was caused by Martin Bicknell, whose recent output must make him an outside bet to tour India.

Striding in with the controlled elegance of a runaway stag, Bicknell butted his way through the upper order, and would not have been flattered had he doubled his eventual quartet of victims.

John Stephenson departed in Bicknell's opening over, caught behind essaying something nondescript. In the following over, Joey Benjamin delivered the sucker punch, drawing unconvincing pulls from Lewis and Paul Prichard before persuading the acting captain to try his luck again, with Bicknell, a fine outfielder to boot, pouching the ensuing top edge.

Defeating Nasser Hussain repeatedly, Bicknell (unlike Mark Ilott the previous day) kept his oaths to himself, and eventually gained his due via a low slip catch to Monte Lynch, one of four for the other caretaker captain. Nick Knight went next ball, David Ward taking off acrobatically at leg slip to intercept a well-timed flick.

Lewis and Garnham proceeded to repair the damage, the former grafting with rare aplomb for someone yet to complete a full season at this level. Entrenched for the better part of five hours, he even had the good grace to walk after popping the impressive James Boiling to short leg. He'll learn.