Cricket: Patient Moles digs in

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Warwicks . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .246 and 399-9 dec

Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .143 and 122-5

A PATIENT double-century by Andy Moles set up a fine chance of a Warwickshire victory against the Championship leaders, Surrey, on their home territory yesterday.

Set 503, Surrey needed the highest ever fourth-innings winning total in Championship history. By the close of play, 381 runs behind with five wickets standing, they were trying vainly to stop a rout.

While Moles and Neil Smith proved that there is nothing malign in this Guildford wicket that cannot be overcome by technique and application, Surrey batted with neither confidence nor commitment against Smith's well-directed, good length off-spin and a succession of accurate seamers.

Towards the close of play Warwickshire seemed to appeal every time the ball hit the pads: 15 of the first 34 wickets to fall were lbw. This has been a festival for Warwickshire all right; for Surrey, more like a wake.

Warwickshire will leave here only four points behind Surrey, and the locals blame the wicket, which is slow, lacks bounce and takes only a little spin. There is a memorial on the pavilion to Jock Paterson, who was groundsman here two generations ago and used horse manure. Then, the Guildford wicket was always fast, though on a hot summer's day fielders were reluctant to linger near the wicket. Yesterday, the only threat to anyone's sense of smell was when Tony Pigott used sweat from his armpit to get a shine on the old ball.

The seamers got most out of the pitch when 16 wickets fell on the first day and when Warwickshire efficiently polished off Surrey on Friday morning. If form had meant anything, Warwickshire would have been struggling to reach 200 in the second innings.

They still did not feel entirely secure yesterday morning, when Warwickshire were 271 for five and, if Surrey's bowlers had emulated Warwickshire's, the total may not have been big enough to resist a Surrey charge.

But Moles was making up for lost time and had something to prove. During a pre-season tour of Zimbabwe his arm was broken; on his return, he had his appendix out. This is only his third game back and apart from an 87 he had not distinguished himself.

None the less, Moles was cross when he left out of last week's Benson & Hedges trophy-winning team. Yesterday's innings was designed to prove Warwickshire's selectors wrong. He had the time and the inclination to accumulate runs.

His scoring rate never accelerated and he attacked only the bad ball. Moles's double century came with a hook to backward square leg, his 29th four. His 203 not out took nine hours and 22 minutes.

Moles put on 169 with Neil Smith; when Smith was bowled by Benjamin for 57, it was his 60th Championship wicket this season. Between them, he and Cameron Cuffy have taken 91 wickets, one reason why Surrey came here top of the table.

The man behind Warwickshire's high placing has had a quiet game. Brian Lara, who got a mere two and a slow 44, is a star who does not hide away in the dressing room. Before play began, he was in the outfield bowling slow left-arm off- breaks to Keith Piper, and when that was over he stood in the middle of a crowd of small boys and grown men patiently signing autographs.

When Surrey batted again, Lara took the field, stayed on it and at the end of the day actually came on to bowl.

(Photograph omitted)