Cricket: Saqlain helps Hollioake's gamble pay off

Surrey 502-7 dec and 130-4 dec Worcestershire 367 and 186 Surrey win by 79 runs
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THIS was one of those days when you hoped something was going to happen but could not quite see where it was coming from. Such thinking, however, failed to take into account some imaginative and adventurous captaincy by Surrey's Adam Hollioake that brought Surrey a deserved victory with 17 minutes remaining.

Even so, no one outside the Surrey dressing-room would have put money on the lunchtime declaration that gave Worcestershire 67 overs in which to make 266 for victory: a target rate of less than four an over. With Graeme Hick in century-making mode, it was definitely a gamble, but when Hollioake plays the game as he did yesterday there's more of the craps shooter than the poker player about the Surrey captain.

Certainly the dice were barely back from the wall when Alex Tudor bowled Vikram Solanki in Worcestershire's second over. Enter Hick, with four successive championship hundreds behind him, including one in the first innings here. Maybe Hollioake was gambling on Hick's mind being on a fifth successive hundred rather than on the chase.

Unlikely, of course, and the way Hick took 10 runs off Martin Bicknell's fifth over soon had Hollioake kissing his dice. He called them Saqlain and Salisbury, and in his second over Saqlain Mushtaq came up trumps, trapping Hick leg before on the back foot and going on to decide the outcome with career-best figures of seven for 41.

While none of their batsmen could fathom Saqlain's variations, playing back surely was not the answer to the ball that appears to slide away quickly from leg to off. Alistair Brown backed him up by taking three catches at leg slip (shades of the Laker and Lock combination in the 1950s), and Ian Salisbury initially played his part with some good leg spin bowling. Salisbury's accuracy and figures suffered when Tom Moody got after him in the course of a defiant 62 that included 11 fours, but Salisbury took the wicket of the Worcestershire captain, putting an end to his innings.

The portents for such an entertaining afternoon's cricket had not been great at the start of play. Worcestershire, having avoided the follow on on Friday evening with their last pair at the wicket, batted on when the more likely scenario had been an overnight declaration. In the event Phil Newport and Alamgir Sheriyar hung around for only four balls before Martin Bicknell had Sheriyar caught behind. All they had to show for it was a leg bye.

All credit to Surrey, however, for going about their second innings intent on setting Worcestershire a target. Championship leaders by 14 points going into this round, they could have sat on their bonus points and settled for three more points from a draw. But after losing Jason Ratcliffe and Nadeem Shahid, the first-innings century-makers, inside the first nine overs, they were soon chugging along at a comfortable five runs an over as Adam Hollioake and the left-handed Ian Ward put on 93 in 17 overs. The Worcestershire bowling can look pretty ordinary at times, and with their limited resources the visitors are little more than a middle-of- the-table side. Their season already looks as if it will revolve around Hick's batting feats.