Cricket: Reeve offers renewal

Surrey 463 Somerset 209-8 Match drawn
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The Independent Online
The opening days of the season at The Oval could hardly have been more contradictory to the perceived form of Surrey and Somerset. Surrey, who, even without an overseas player, must have a good chance of winning their first Championship title since 1971, have been outplayed by Somerset whose hesitant motor is being kick-started by their new coach, Dermot Reeve.

It is so important to get into the habit of winning that David Gilbert, Surrey's Australian coach, can hardly have been enthralled by their slovenly performance in all aspects of their game. Nothing is more indicative of this than the 86 extras - a world record - they conceded in Somerset's first innings, although nothing was perhaps more predictable than that Chris Lewis should have contributed 11 to the tally of 26 no-balls which, like wides, nowadays count as two runs each.

The seam bowlers, Martin Bicknell, Lewis, Alex Tudor and Joey Benjamin with Adam Hollioake in support, are on paper as strong as any combination in England, but here they have been all over the place. The leg-spinner Ian Salisbury also showed that he has not left behind him in Hove the habit of bowling too many bad balls.

Surrey's batting, too, had a distinctly rusty look to it. When Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe and Adam Hollioake were removed in the space of nine balls by Graham Rose they should have hung their heads in shame.

But Surrey have a number of star performers in their side and it is unthinkable that they will continue in this way. They have been surprised by a Somerset side who are already showing signs of profiting from the advice, enthusiasm and example of Reeve. There are signs of a greater discipline in the batting, illustrated by Richard Harden's 136 which took him nearly eight hours. In the field, after some wayward bowling with the new ball, there was also a welcome attention to the basic essentials.

Without much star quality, Reeve must try to see that every member of the side pulls his weight. This has been an encouraging start for him and Surrey are unlikely to be the only county Somerset will surprise this season.