Cricket: Brown tans Essex again

Essex 347 and 40-0 Surrey 280
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The Independent Online
It has been a long hard slog for Alistair Brown. His rehabilitation, though, now seems complete. He went through last summer without a first- class hundred, finished up by being dropped, and only got back into the side because of England calls. It should now be difficult to keep him out, provided the hand injury he suffered while scoring a magnificent hundred is not serious.

The perception of the genial, big-hitting 27-year-old is that he is primarily a one-day batsman. A first-class career average of more than 40 gives the lie to that. Yesterday's near four-hour effort should finally have dispelled the notion for ever.

Even hampered as he was, just after reaching his half-century, by a painful blow to his right hand, which warranted a precautionary X-ray that showed nothing serious, there was still enough class to his game. His timing has never deserted him, only his confidence, and the touch of quality was certainly in evidence. In fact, the injury was just what was needed, according to Brown, who said: "I had begun to bat a bit negatively just before the injury, but when I get hurt I get angry. It fired me up and I started to go for my shots again."

And how. Brown had soon hoisted Ronnie Irani for the first of his two sixes and then brought up his first first-class century since early August 1995 with his 15th boundary. This, the 12th hundred of his career, kept Surrey in the match and was one of his slowest - it took him 135 balls to reach three figures. Considering his first three hundreds were all made off 78 balls or fewer, this one was a marathon and will have added much needed gravitas to his reputation.

Essex are probably becoming a bit tired of Brown. In the corresponding fixture here two years ago, he hit a first-innings century. Add to that the 71 he scored in Surrey's Benson & Hedges Cup quarter-final win at Chelmsford last week, and Essex certainly have grounds for grumbles.

But Brown was not alone in the rescue. His acting captain, Chris Lewis, scored a more modest, but no less vital, 40 and shared in a priceless stand of 85 with Brown. A last-wicket flurry of 31 between James Knott and Joey Benjamin earned a second batting bonus point.

n Kevin Shine finished with match figures of 11 for 97 as he helped Somerset to their first Championship success of the season, a seven-wicket victory over Lancashire that they wrapped up in under two days at Taunton.