Cricket: Patient 80 from nurse Bicknell: Surrey left-hander shows sense of timing in front of Illingworth

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England A . . . . . . . . . . . . .268-7


THE new chairman of selectors saw the benefits of a winter training programme of sleepless nights and nappy-changing yesterday as England's A team tourists were rescued by the player they left behind.

Darren Bicknell, passed over for the trip after three previous A tours and only playing as a late replacement for Hugh Morris, spent his winter looking after a new-born daughter while England A were beating all comers under the South African sun.

But the lack of cricket appears to have done him no harm for he compiled a patient 80 yesterday as a weakened Middlesex demonstrated the resilience of champions.

Watched by Ray Illingworth, the new chairman of selectors, the Surrey left-hander batted for four hours as a succession of tour successes failed at the other end.

Most disappointing was John Crawley, who averaged 64 on tour and is inked in for England's troubled No 3 spot. Crawley made a dramatic start, hitting his third ball deep into the Mound Stand for six, but failed to score off the next 26 before being lbw trying to work Neil Williams to leg.

Next ball Adrian Dale was dropped at slip by Mike Gatting but Williams persevered, bowling the Glamorgan all-rounder for 35. Gatting went on to redeem himself with catches off Alan Wells and Mal Loye as England slid to 157 for 5.

But Steve Rhodes, a strong contender for Jack Russell's Test place, produced the best batting of the day, a lively 46, before playing on off the bottom edge attempting his third six. Support from Robert Croft and Martin Bicknell helped England, well beaten by Essex last year, to respectability.

Kent dominated the second day's play at Fenner's and led Cambridge University by 426 runs with seven wickets standing. The county capitalised on opening-day centuries by David Fulton and Neil Taylor and then bowled out the university for 84. The left-arm spinner, Min Patel, claimed 5 for 33.

Oxford University batted all day at The Parks, reaching 257 for 9 in reply to Glamorgan's 355 for 5 declared. As in the previous match with Hampshire, the Dark Blues' batting was heavily dependent on the openers, Richard Montgomerie (80) - who became Steve Barwick's 400th first- class victim - and Gregor Macmillan (50). Roland Lefebvre, who took the first three wickets, finished with 3 for 48.