Cricket: Surrey and England hope for Thorpe

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GRAHAM THORPE looks likely to be fit for today's Benson and Hedges Cup quarter-final against Lancashire at The Oval. If he plays, it will be good news not only for Surrey, but also for England with only one round of Championship games to come before the first Test against South Africa at Edgbaston starts on 4 June.

A back problem forced the left-hander to miss the one-day matches against the tourists, which finished on Sunday with England losing the series 2-1, and his forthright run accumulation was sorely missed.

"I'm very optimistic," Thorpe said. "It's been a combination of treatment and stretching exercises in the bid to be ready."

England's Test captain, Alec Stewart, and Thorpe put on 212 in a zonal match against Lancashire in 1993, with Thorpe scoring 103. However, Surrey contrived to lose nine wickets for 18 runs and Lancashire edged home by six runs.

Wasim Akram, their captain, is Lancashire's biggest worry after he picked up a shoulder injury against Essex in the recent Championship match.

Middlesex will be attempting to reach their first B & H semi-final for 12 years when they take on Essex at Lord's. With two victories over Essex already this season, their confidence will be high, although history favours Essex, who have won 10 of the 15 B & H matches between the sides.

Kent will give a chance to their young prospect Robert Key against Leicestershire at Grace Road in recognition of his one-day innings of 54 against South Africa last week, which followed his maiden Championship century against Durham. Leicestershire will give a fitness test to the England all-rounder Chris Lewis, who has had a hip injury since the second Texaco Trophy match at Old Trafford.

The Yorkshire bowler Chris Silverwood will have his sore shins checked before the game at Headingley against Durham, whose captain, David Boon, should return after a broken toe.