Cricket: Shambles for sorry Surrey

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The Independent Online
Essex 347 and 302 Surrey 280 and 222-9 Essex win by 147 runs

Not even Ben Hollioake's maiden first-class half-century could save Surrey from slipping to their second home defeat of the season yesterday.

In the end, Test calls and injuries proved too much of a drain on the Surrey resources, the remnants of the squad were unable to cope and Essex, as ever, were canny enough to be able to take advantage of the absence of Alec Stewart, Graham Thorpe, Mark Butcher and Adam Hollioake. Injury was then heaped upon call-up with the pre-match loss of their in-form strike bowler, Martin Bicknell.

Not content with five, the fickle finger of fate then singled out the first-innings centurion Alistair Brown for a knock on the hand which prevented him batting yesterday, while their promising fast bowler Alex Tudor pulled up early in the Essex second innings with a strained side. He is now also part of one.

The remains of the sorry Surrey outfit, with the honourable exceptions of Ben Hollioake and Jason Ratcliffe, capitulated. Essex's batsmen had been able to set an imposing 370-run victory target, 300 of which were still required when Surrey resumed yesterday morning. Essex only needed to take seven wickets, as it emerged, and their potent attack was well up to the task.

Ashley Cowan is promising. From an economical run-up he is able to generate plenty of pace off the pitch and in the heavy atmosphere was also getting prodigious movement through the air as well as off the deck. Ronnie Irani looked sharper than he has in a long while, and to back them up was the wily off-spinner Peter Such.

Ratcliffe had a go but, although he scored a welcome half-century, he never looked completely convincing. Still, at least he stuck around and played himself into some kind of form.

David Gilbert, the Surrey manager, later promised that there would be changes for the next Championship match, against in-form Yorkshire. Ratcliffe should have sealed his first-team place. Hollioake Jnr definitely has.

For almost two and a half hours, the younger Hollioake belied his years (19) and lack of experience - six first-class matches including this one - as he pieced together a mature 72. It was studded with some glittering drives and he lofted his way past fifty with a couple of effortless pulls.

He has the lot. Timing, power, a great eye, and he also rides his luck well - one edge went tantalisingly just over the slips when he was on 38 - but, as Ian Botham used to say, if you're going to slash, slash hard. The ball went to the boundary and the momentary slip did not faze him.

In all, he faced 105 balls, sending 11 of them to the boundary. His fall - caught behind by the tidy Robert Rollins off the deserving Such - presaged the end for Surrey. By then, the acting captain Chris Lewis had departed to a terrible shot and there was no way Tudor, Joey Benjamin or Ian Salisbury were going to hold out for a draw.

There is a great deal to do if Surrey are to realise their over-abundance of potential this season. It is likely that they will be looking to their new signing, Saqlain Mushtaq, the Pakistani off-spinner, for most of the work.