Cricket: Knight darkens Surrey's day

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Essex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .378


THIS is not quite the tonic Surrey needed after Tuesday's shattering NatWest Trophy semi-final. With the Championship their only remaining hope of honours, they spent Thursday being frustrated by rain and yesterday by Essex's batsmen.

The prime irritant was Nick Knight, who spent more than four hours compiling a periodically attractive 115 to underline his growing status as an opener. Even after his removal Surrey toiled long into the gloom as stubborn batting and a static over rate took the innings past 7pm.

With the pitch occasionally behaving strangely, Essex are thus in a stronger position than they usually manage to achieve without Graham Gooch, missing with the hamstring injury he suffered in the Leeds Test.

On the plus side, it was one of his absences that gave Knight the chance to open against Warwickshire earlier this summer. He made a century and has retained the position ever since. A strong cutter and smooth back-foot driver, he added 116 for the first wicket with Darren Robinson and 109 for the second with Jonathan Lewis.

At that stage, Surrey were staring at a day of utter despair but, showing impressive character, they reined in Essex and, were it not for a typically pugnacious innings from Mike Garnham, would have dismissed them for barely 300. Garnham was ultimately yorked by Martin Bicknell, who understandably greeted his first Championship wicket in three months with some relief. Since it was also his first such match in that time he was equally relieved when, after more than seven hours in the field, he dismissed Childs and could wearily head for the pavilion.