Cricket: Moles makes most of his return

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The Independent Online
Warwickshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .246 and 271-5

Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143

WHEN Brian Lara had an impromptu net during the lunch break in front of the Woodbridge Road pavilion yesterday, you could almost hear the groans from Surrey's dressing-room. The last time he had one, Lara went on to make 501. This time he was 24 and counting.

In the event, he only got as far as 44 before the persevering Tony Pigott gleefully took a sharp return catch. But Lara's stand was soon left well behind by the less charismatic but rather more substantial figure of Andy Moles.

Moles, batting with great concentration and no small skill on a tricky but not unplayable pitch, made a diligent five and a half hour century, his first since August. The opener was still there, on 140, when play closed at 7.10pm, more than half-an- hour earlier than the previous day but still ridiculously late due to both sides' deplorable over-rates. The 25th hundred of Moles's eight-year career was rich compensation for a traumatic season. Having managed to streamline a Colin Montgomerie-sized body by a winter's training with Coventry City's footballers, his efforts were dashed when his arm was broken pre- season in Zimbabwe by a Paul Smith drive while standing at the non-striker's end. He then contracted appendicitis.

Recalled last month, he was dropped after his second match despite making 87 and 25 and only returned this week because of Dermot Reeve's injury.

Moles turned a strong Warwickshire position into a near-impregnable one. With two days to play, they lead by 374 runs with five second- innings wickets standing and ought to cut the Championship leaders Surrey's 21-point advantage over them to four.

Surrey, 117 behind overnight, had made things difficult for themselves by losing their remaining four wickets for 14 runs in 27 minutes. Tim Munton took 3 for six to finish with 4 for 41 and Roger Twose the other to gain a career-best 6 for 28.

Surrey have won all five Championship matches in which Alec Stewart has played. Since they have lost two and won one of the four their captain has missed, they can ill-afford to lose. It will take some exceptional performances if they are not to.