Cricket: Salisbury spins Surrey towards title

Surrey 224 and 315-7 dec Sussex 115 and 217 Surrey win by 207 runs
AFTER VICIOUS overnight rain had prevented any Wednesday play at Hove, the wicket that eventually greeted Surrey was green and lush.

This was probably less out of deference to the excellent home seam attack of Jason Lewry, James Kirtley, Mark Robinson and Robin Martin-Jenkins than out of fear, not unjustified, of Saqlain Mushtaq. But the Pakistani could turn a ball on Brighton beach, and so a track intended to deny him was no problem. In Sussex's first innings he took 7 for 19, including a hat-trick.

On Friday Adam Hollioake decided that Saqlain, together with Ian Salisbury and Martin Bicknell, could bowl at a lead of 424. Sussex had chased a bigger total to win this season - 452 against Gloucestershire - but there was to be no second miracle yesterday.

At the start of play Sussex were 94 for 2, five runs short of where their first innings had stood on Friday morning. Unfortunately on that occasion they could add only 16 more. This time, with captain Chris Adams and Australian Mike Di Venuto in charge, they would surely do better.

Martin Bicknell had other ideas. In what unintentionally turned into a spinners' match, he enjoyed himself at Hove, top-scoring in Surrey's first innings with 67, watching brother Darren clump 115 in the second, and bowling with venom from both ends of the sloping ground. Coming down hill, he immediately removed Di Venuto.

Tony Cottey joined Adams in defiant mood. In one glorious Saqlain over they stole 19 runs, equalling the spinner's entire first-innings concession. Adams pulled a six, plumped a long-on four and sneaked a single. Cottey pulled a full toss to square-leg and swept the next ball to the boundary.

They continued the mayhem against Salisbury in the next over, but the bowler won. Cottey cut a four and tried it again. Salisbury had flipped in the googly, however, and with Cottey's departure the Sussex charge ended and became a retreat to the dressing-room.

There was a final act of defiance. On Friday Mark Robinson reached his 500th first-class run - in his 201st game. He then coincidentally captured his 500th wicket.

Yesterday Saqlain posted fielders all around the nation's favourite No 11 - and Robinson hit him for a perfect straight six back over his head. Saqlain was content to wait until Robinson tried again, and Surrey had won. They are now clear Championship favourites.