Cricket: Dominant Surrey rush to title

Nottinghamshire 115 & 233 Surrey 199 & 153-0 Surrey win by 10 wickets

SURREY STORMED to their first County Championship for 28 years in double-quick time last night. The openers Mark Butcher and Ian Ward savaged the Nottinghamshire attack with a murderous blitz which saw them get the 150 runs needed off just 22.4 overs.

It was a distillation of the attacking, attractive cricket Surrey have endeavoured to play for the last few seasons when they have frequently threatened but have equally often failed to deliver.

Last night their delirious fans were chanting "We are the champions" long after the sun had set. There was an element of symmetry to the lifting of the title in that Surrey's present president, Micky Stewart, was captain of the 1971 side, and the year before his team had finished fifth, just as Surrey did last summer.

Back at the beginning of the 1970s the title was only clinched during the final match, but this season Adam Hollioake's men have managed it with two matches remaining. During the last one, against Yorkshire at The Oval, Surrey have announced that bar prices will be fixed at 1971 prices in the Members', which means a pint of lager should cost around 15p.

But yesterday it was bubbly that flowed after some champagne cricket from Butcher and Ward, who both finished with unbeaten half centuries. There were 23 runs on the board after three overs, and it was slaughter as the pair smashed the bowlers around the ground to wrap it up in 95 minutes. Butcher's 81 not out included 13 stunning boundaries, although it was Ward who had the honour of driving the winning boundary.

Then came the presentation of the PPP healthcare Trophy - which had been sitting in the Prince of Wales Room at The Oval since early yesterday - and a cheque for pounds 100,000.

Surrey's achievement eclipsed a fine century by Usman Afzaal. The Nottinghamshire left-hander was only the second batsman to take a championship hundred off the Surrey attack this season, the first being Essex's Paul Prichard in May.

It was a gritty, gutsy innings although not without chances, but that made it all the more worthy. As nervy as he appeared when confronted by the spin twins Ian Salisbury and Saqlain Mushtaq, the former England Under-19 all-rounder overcame that and ignored every edge as he battled to the third first-class hundred of his career, managing to fiddle, diddle, dab and jab as he got on to the front foot whenever he was given the chance.

Afzaal was also a major contribution to Saqlain's first three-figure return of the season before he became one of Salisbury's four victims, and during his near four-and-a-half-hour stay he shared in a valuable 110-run stand for the third wicket with the veteran Paul Johnson either side of lunch. While those two were at the crease there was every chance that Nottinghamshire would drag the match into a third day.

Unfortunately Johnson had a rush of blood and aimed a wild heave at Saqlain's mystery ball with the ritual result - he was bowled. There was little left in the Nottinghamshire cupboard after that and the spinners had dusted it bare by the start of the 11th over after tea. Saqlain finished with 4 for 100 and Salisbury a commendable 4 for 66.

Surrey, 199 for 8 overnight, lost Saqlain in the first over to give Vasbert Drakes his fourth wicket, then Mark Patterson tried a hopeless single in a bid for at least one batting point.

Champions Surrey, page 23

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