Cricket: Bicknell's composure saps Nottinghamshire

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The Independent Online
Nottinghamshire 125; Surrey 517-4

LIFE IS supposed to be tough at the top, but Surrey may take some convincing right now. After being pleasantly surprised at the ease with which they bowled out Nottinghamshire, they spent yesterday cheerfully grinding their attack into the dust of their own cracked and grassless pitch.

As exercises in clinical efficiency go, it worked perfectly. Surrey must have wished the game was always as straightforward. Darren Bicknell, playing the role of anchorman, faced 496 balls for his unbeaten, career-best 192, leaving David Ward and Alistair Brown to conjure up most, though by no means all, the exotic strokes.

Not long after tea, Surrey were 300 ahead, having only lost one wicket per session. Their only problem was how much longer they needed to go on to put Nottinghamshire out of the match.

By then, anyway, Nottinghamshire's interest had started to look tepid. They tended to resemble a team waiting for something to happen, rather than trying to make it happen, which admittedly was not easy on a pitch declining to disintegrate as predicted.

The absence, too, of Chris Lewis with his latest injury was hardly a boost to morale. By all accounts he was none too keen to appear because of concern about his back. If true, he certainly made his point with nothing more than two walk- on parts on the first day for which Surrey, at least, were grateful.

Yesterday, just when his team- mates could have done with him running in and hitting the pitch hard in the heat, the only glimpses they had of him were either as drinks waiter or signing autographs for schoolchildren.

The scene was thus dominated by the impressive Bicknell. During a stay of some nine-and-a-half hours his concentration rarely wavered, his bat was seldom passed. Not least of his virtues was his composure in coping with Andy Afford and Jimmy Adams, who both bowled lengthy spells over the wicket to exploit the rough outside the left- hander's off stump.

Nottinghamshire might have guessed what lay ahead when Ward, with only five to his name, was caught at slip by Graeme Archer off what proved to be a no ball from Gregory Mike. By the time Ward mistimed an on-drive, he had played his way back and he and Bicknell had added 172.

Another 166 materialised for the fifth wicket, with the setting perfect for Alistair Brown's inventiveness. Not much happened to encourage Nottinghamshire until Brown drove Afford through Tim Robinson's outstretched fingertips, leaving the captain to sit with his head in his hands. For him it had certainly been one of those days.