ENLIVENED by some all-too- fleeting glimpses of Graham Thorpe and Monte Lynch at their puggish best, this rain-blighted opening day of Guildford Week proved par for the course, Surrey pummelling the Kent attack around the ring at one stage, but finishing proceedings on the back foot as three dropped catches in the gloaming spared them from a technical knockout.
By then, David Ward had already thrown in the towel, retiring hurt after being struck on the right thumb by a delivery from Alan Igglesden, the mainspring of the Kent revival. Ward, who swatted the fastest hundred of the summer against Northamptonshire two weeks ago, has been in such irresistible form of late that this was probably the only feasible means of stopping him.
With Kent still moping over their Benson and Hedges burn- out, Surrey, revitalised by a run of three successive Championship wins, embarked in optimistic fettle. Indeed, at 177 for 3 and with Monte Lynch single-handedly stringing up a one-paced attack, there was a discernible swagger about the post-tea mood.
Lynch attributes his resurgence this summer to the responsibilities thrust into his lap by the demands of captaining the side in Alec Stewart's absence. And, when he is in full flight, there remain few batsmen on the circuit to match either his joie de vivre or his arrogance.
Yet some of the old traits persist. Fed by the seamers' baffling insistence on dropping short at every possible opportunity on a slow, damp pitch, he eased seven fours across a clinging outfield before deciding that he might as well have a helmet - and promptly pulled Igglesden straight to deep backward square.
In keeping with their enigmatic reputations, Thorpe and Darren Bicknell, having steadied the ship after Stewart's early exit to a catch down the leg side off Richard Ellison, also flattered to deceive.
The elder Bicknell, clearly at home on his club ground and on a strip prepared in part by his half- brother, drove pleasingly in a stand of 87 punctuated by three delays that ate up 31 overs.
Thorpe, though, was the main aggressor, passing 1,000 runs for the season in acquiring his ninth 50. Neither, however, has yet reached three figures in the Championship and both were thwarted on this occasion by the fast-improving Mark Ealham, Bicknell by an outswinger, Thorpe by a well-concealed slower ball. After three A tours apiece, self-affirmation for both is fast becoming imperative.
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