Cricket: Brutal day for deputy Bicknell

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The Independent Online
Surrey 181; Northamptonshire 123-3

ANYONE wondering why Northamptonshire declined to return Curtly Ambrose's P45 following his decision to go AWOL at the start of the season need look no further than his five wickets in the opening session here yesterday. Having the world's finest fast bowler on tap is worth a good few pints of swallowed pride.

As initiations go, Martin Bicknell's first day in charge of Surrey was brutal. Having stormed from the stalls with eight wins and one point dropped out of the 80 available in Championship and Sunday League, the hosts were overdue a reunion with terra firma. It scarcely required a degree in tea-leaf analysis to conclude that the absence of Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe would remove the spine from Surrey's batting.

On a pitch affording a modicum of movement off the seam yet little else to trouble batsmen, 68 of the first 89 runs came in boundaries, as seven wickets fell before lunch to stress the price of excess. Mark Butcher restored a semblance of sanity with a patient unbeaten 41, while Neil Kendrick also showed his betters that graft and dash need not be mu-

tually exclusive. By and large, though, the kamikaze spirit was all too infectious.

Not that Ambrose needed much of a leg-up. Darren Bicknell was lured forward and caught behind, a firm- footed prod did for Andy Smith, lifters for David Ward and Adam Hollioake, a yorker for the captain. Monte Lynch's rash flash at Tony Penberthy, however, gave Allan Lamb the first of three slip catches, and Alistair Brown, as is his wont, followed a lordly four off the same bowler by chasing the next ball and nicking to second slip.

Joey Benjamin soon had Alan Fordham taken in the cordon when Northamptonshire replied, but by the time Nigel Felton sliced Hollioake to backward point, he and Rob Bailey had added 96 in 26 untroubled overs. Lamb mis- drove Benjamin to slip in the gloaming, yet Stewart's call to his deputy is unlikely to have been unduly complimentary.