Cricket: Cuffy's resolve pays off

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Leicestershire 263 and 188

Surrey 501

Surrey won by inns and 50 runs

SURREY put last week's heavy defeat by Somerset at Bath well and truly behind them yesterday with an innings victory that extends their lead at the top of the Championship table.

For a jaded-looking Leicestershire it was their second successive defeat at the hands of a London county, following four Championship wins in five games, and they will be glad to have the capital behind them.

Whether or not Leicestershire can sustain their Championship challenge is another matter. They began yesterday needing another 236 runs to make Surrey bat again, yet only while Tim Boon and James Whitaker, Yorkshire-born both, were adding 64 for the third wicket did they look like coming anywhere near. Boon batted studiously for two-and- a-quarter hours and deserved his first half-century of the season, but Whitaker's needless dismissal, caught at first slip driving at the penultimate ball before lunch, exposed Leicestershire's underbelly.

Both batsmen fell to the persevering Joey Benjamin after the long-limbed Cameron Cuffy had broken through as early as the fourth over of the morning. Wrapping up the tail 10 minutes before tea not only gave Benjamin 10 wickets in the match but also made him the first bowler to take 50 Championship wickets this summer. While talk in some quarters of England selection may be optimistic, there is no denying that Benjamin's wholehearted efforts have been a major factor in Surrey's form.

With Cuffy's fast-medium pace and Andy Smith's off-spin giving Benjamin good support, Leicestershire lost their last seven wickets in 33 overs after lunch. In the morning session, Cuffy's extra bounce had accounted for Phil Simmons as the West Indian opener cut to gully. James Boiling, on as substitute, took the catch in front of his face. Next, Cuffy's persistent passing of Nigel Briers's off-stump undermined the Leicestershire captain until he edged a low catch to his opposite number, Alec Stewart, at second slip.

Under brooding skies following the overnight rain, the start of play had been delayed for a quarter of an hour while the umpires dithered over the conditions. There were only two lights on the board, however, hardly sufficient reason to prevent play, and if any rain was still around it was not obvious to the handful of spectators, who sat in shirt sleeves reading their newspapers. As Leicestershire now know, it takes more than a thunderstorm to stop Surrey these days.