Durham 335 and 52-1
IF it is still too early for talk of championships Surrey are intent on bringing the moment nearer. They demonstrated both the necessary form and commitment yesterday after being up against it for two days.
They were greatly helped in this task because Durham played as though they were determined not to surrender their wooden spoon. Surrey established a lead of 439 in quite exhilarating style before Durham reduced this by 52 for the loss of Wayne Larkins, still leaving them with it all to do tomorrow.
The foundation for Surrey's total was built with authority by Darren Bicknell, but the adornment was provided most resoundingly by Alistair Brown. The side must have been conscious of the observation, based on fact, that they are not the same without Alec Stewart, whose presence as leader, batsman and competitor appeared to have become crucial to them. This looked so much baloney as the runs flowed. Bicknell's straight driving was a joy. Gradually, he became the assured accumulator while the chaps at the other end set about causing mayhem.
The road between Graham Thorpe and the England selectors is already littered with gauntlets and he was well on the way to throwing down another when he was beaten by some late swing from Simon Brown. Talk of swing was soon to become silly as the other Brown, Alistair, went to work. He hit three sixes in his first 50.
Brown reached his hundred off 79 balls - his third century in three matches against Durham, though not his quickest, which took 71 - and by these standards was almost becalmed by the time he was out for 172 from 152 balls in little more than three hours. He and Bicknell, who equalled his highest score, put on 222 in 38 overs.
Exciting stuff, but it was slightly sad to watch the veteran twirler David Graveney getting such vicious treatment from the young Brown. Durham's captain, Phil Bainbridge, did not quite stand by and let the lads get on with it but here was the occasion when a man such as Stewart would have cajoled and enthused, even if imagination was beyond him. Bainbridge, who performed wonderfully for Durham last summer, did not.