Cricket: Stewart holds back his thunder

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Essex. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .418 and 153

Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .330 and 178-4

Match drawn

IT IS not often that cricket is as perverse as this. After two sessions and a bit of almost total boredom and complete inactivity, Surrey found themselves left to score 242 in 34 overs.

They set about it with such relish and abandon that when rain stopped play in the 22nd over they had reached 178 for 4 and needed only 64 more from 12.3 overs. Seldom can a day have had two such contrasting halves.

Alistair Brown, The Oval's newest folk hero - and how splendid it would be if he was soon to become England's - started things off. In the third over he straight drove Neil Foster's slower ball for a prodigious six and soon afterwards swung him to midwicket with ferocious power for another.

Darren Bicknell also played some vigorous strokes and 50 was on the board in only the fifth over. As seemed inevitable, Brown then holed out at deep midwicket after making 36 from 21 balls. At 85 in the 11th over Bicknell was caught at deep square-leg, sweeping.

David Ward and Monte Lynch took up the chase in scarcely less magnificent style. Both batsmen murdered Peter Such's off-spin and in one over Lynch hit him for 21. But when Derek Pringle returned, Lynch hooked and was caught behind.

By now a huge thunderstorm was brewing and the light was the gloomy side of dreadful. On Surrey went, however, and Ward reached 50 in 40 balls before being well caught by Jonathan Lewis at long-on. Alec Stewart then square cut Foster for six, but within minutes the storm broke to deny Surrey the chance of an unlikely win.

The first two-thirds of the day was as inexplicable as it was incomprehensible. Obviously neither England's captain nor their vice-captain wanted to be beaten by the other but both seemed almost anxious to ignore any chance of victory although one felt that Stewart was the more guilty here, and the rain was soon to pay him back.

When the players came off for tea, five wickets had fallen in four hours for 105 runs on a decent pitch. Having started the day at 38 for 3, 126 runs on, Essex never gave any indication that they saw a chance of anything other than a draw.

On the other hand, it was not until a quarter of an hour before tea that Stewart allowed his left- arm spinner, Neil Kendrick, to have a bowl. Two and a half overs later Kendrick went in to tea having dismissed Pringle and Mike Garnham for just one run. Why on earth had he not been brought on earlier by a captain who is roundly expected to be England's next? It made no sense as Stewart must surely have felt himself later on when he watched the rain.

Photograph, page 31