Cricket: Mixed reviews for Stewart's final audition: Somerset and Surrey seem evenly matched in rain-curtailed day while Warwickshire's bowling attack holds the whip hand in NatWest Trophy quarter-finals

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The Independent Online
Somerset 230-9; Surrey 26-1

AS a cricket match and a final audition for the game's top job this was an afternoon full of hints but with no conclusions, rather like an England press conference.

Alec Stewart, who may soon be conducting a few of those himself, provided ammunition for critics and supporters alike with his efforts on the field but, with this game only half- played, Surrey are no more sure than he of having celebrations today.

With 50.1 overs remaining they need 205 runs with nine wickets in hand. Stewart, having been dismissed eight balls before bad light forced a 7.46pm close, will only be in action today if he is called to give an acceptance speech as England captain.

He was caught for 15 slashing at a widish ball from Andy Caddick but, if his concentration wavered, it was hardly surprising. As if captaining, wicket-keeping and opening the batting were not enough Stewart, thanks to the ill-preparedness of England's kingmakers, had to lead Surrey in their most important match of the season with the shadow of the England post hanging over him.

He made a good start when, with rain prevalent, he got the day's most important act right, calling correctly to insert Somerset on a used pitch, good drying conditions having enabled a 2.30 start. Waqar Younis, though very fast, struck just once, Andy Hayhurst playing on; the spinner James Boiling was the central figure.

He allowed just 22 runs either side of tea for the wicket of the impressive Nick Folland - caught at mid-off - and held on to a brilliant one-handed gully catch to account for Mark Lathwell. He also dragged Stewart into a debate with the umpires when his parting shot on Graham Rose's dismissal led to first the all-rounder, then the umpires having words with Stewart.

That followed Stewart's visible unhappiness at a late no-ball call by Jack Bond following a useful Joey Benjamin bouncer but, if those incidents had his critics beaming, his leadership in the field was impressive.

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