Cricket: Harvey delays Surrey's charge

Surrey 342 & 156-5 Gloucestershire 213
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The Independent Online
AGAINST A backdrop of pristine white, the banks of freshly painted seats largely bereft of bums and the smart new perimeter fence strangely unburdened by advertising hoardings, Surrey assumed a position of some strength here yesterday - thanks to the efforts of their acting captain, Mark Butcher, and their sometime England leg-spinner Ian Salisbury - before a clatter of wickets in the evening sunshine introduced an unexpected element of doubt into today's proceedings.

Mike Smith, the Gloucestershire left-armer, responded to a first-innings deficit of 129 with a fine spell to remove four Surrey batsmen while Butcher held the fort for the hosts, moving serenely on towards a century that should ensure that Surrey start the final day as favourites to win.

Earlier Salisbury had found both lift and considerable turn while Alex Tudor generated exceptional pace, although his waywardness meant he went wicketless. But Gloucestershire's batsmen by and large had only themselves to blame for their predicament.

Resuming on 55 for 2 the day started inauspiciously for them with just seven runs coming from the first seven overs. In the eighth Mark Alleyne, trying to instil some urgency, was rapped on the back pad by Martin Bicknell as he tried to work an inswinger through mid-on and the captain's departure set the tone for the innings.

Tim Hancock, starting on 23, quietly made his way past the 50 mark before succumbing in Gary Butcher's first over for his new county, a tiny inside edge leaving the stumps in a fearful mess, and then Salisbury turned one away from Matt Windows and had him caught behind with the score at 118.

With Ian Harvey suffering from a stiff back after being welcomed to the delights of an English spring by Tuesday's freezing temperatures, Jeremy Snape came in ahead of the Australian all-rounder to join Jack Russell and see Gloucestershire through to lunch without further mishap. However, shortly afterwards Snape, playing forward to Salisbury, became the game's seventh lbw victim.

Two balls later Gloucestershire looked in complete disarray as Martyn Ball danced down the wicket to Salisbury, took an almighty heave and was comprehensively bowled, and when Jon Lewis followed, pushing hopefully at Bicknell and being taken at slip by Ally Brown, there were still 33 needed to avoid the follow on.

At this juncture Harvey finally appeared with Snape as his runner and while it took him some time to get going - 17 balls to be precise - when he did he allayed Gloucestershire's worst fears with a series of meaty blows. He took a particular liking to Ben Hollioake's bowling, taking 17 off one of his overs to see his side safely past their first target.

With mission accomplished, however, Harvey tried to pull Hollioake for a second huge six over square leg and was caught in the deep, and when Smith fell second ball Gloucestershire were left with a sizeable arrears.

When Surrey batted again they lost Ian Ward in the first over of the innings, caught in the gully flashing at a wide one from Smith, and Jason Ratcliffe, on a pair, looked far from happy once more before Lewis found some extra lift to have him caught at second slip.

Nadeem Shahid, having survived a loud shout for leg before against Smith before tea, fell to a ball angled across him shortly afterwards while Brown and Hollioake were both undone by balls from Smith that moved back in towards them.

It was an admirable effort by Smith but, with Butcher still there and the lead approaching 300, it is already beginning to look in vain.