Cricket: Stewart keeps Surrey on course

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire 263 and 2-0; Surrey 501

THERE is a confident swagger about most of Surrey's cricket these days, which is the product of their recent success: winning becomes just as much a habit as losing. Their batsmen were shown the way against Leicestershire by Alec Stewart, who made a typically brilliant 142.

Stewart made it look so easy in the morning that the later batsmen appeared to lose their way and the tempo slackened. The real cause of this was that they do not have another batsman with the ability to destroy an attack as Stewart can.

Even so, Surrey had by the end managed a big first-innings lead of 238 which, unless Leicestershire's batsmen can toughen their act considerably, should be ample to bring them victory and keep them at the top of the table. Graham Thorpe and Darren Bicknell batted well, if in a lower key to Stewart, as did Adam Hollioake for a time, but when he passed 50 he, too, played some superb strokes against a tiring attack.

Stewart's rise has been all the more remarkable because of two significant handicaps: the first was that his father, Micky, was England's manager and brought unfair accusations of nepotism; the second was that he was a good enough wicketkeeper to be taken seriously at county and England level.

His form now was summed up in one over in the morning when he faced David Millns. A withering square cut was followed by an off-drive, another square cut and a pull which was played with a dismissive certainty. They were breathtaking strokes and one could only wonder how many other current batsmen could have strung those four together.

Thorpe was the first out in the morning, hooking Gordon Parsons low to square leg when he had put on 169 with Stewart in 41 overs. Stewart was eventually bowled playing across Vince Wells after facing 171 balls and hitting 24 fours.

David Ward was then caught at first slip pushing at Alan Mullally and Alistair Brown made an embarrassing mess of a reverse sweep. Hollioake then joined Bicknell and they put on 125 for the sixth wicket. For a while, it was all very much in Stewart's shadow until Hollioake's return to form enlivened the humid evening and he reached his third Championship century of the season with a glorious straight six into the pavilion.

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