Cricket: Surrey bid to sweep away the blues

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The Independent Online
IT IS all a question of balls, or colour. Surrey, according to their manager, Keith Medlycott, have the best one-day team in the country, yet the Championship leaders are struggling in the Second Division of the National League and have been beaten twice this season by Somerset.

The teams meet today at Taunton in the first of the NatWest Trophy semi- finals. It is a 7,000 sell-out, with Medlycott confident his side will reach the final at Lord's on 29 August. His reasoning is that when Surrey are confronted by a red ball - used in the County Championship and the NatWest Trophy - they play excellent cricket. When a white ball is used, as in the National League, it is a different story.

"Maybe it's the blue clothing of the National League," offered Medlycott, "whatever, it has not been going well for us in the National League. But we have been playing exceptional cricket with the red ball and there is no doubt that this tie is very important to us, regardless of how well we are doing in the Championship."

Surrey start without Alex Tudor, but otherwise, with Alec Stewart behind the stumps, expect to be at full strength. So do Somerset, who have offered their captain, the Tasmanian Jamie Cox, a further year with them. Cox, who works in banking administration, said: "I have a verbal agreement with the chief executive, Peter Anderson, but before I sign anything I have to see if the bank will extend my sabbatical. If they don't I might just come back anyway as cricket is more fun."

It must be with his side almost certain of promotion to the First Division of the National League and riding high in the Championship, in fifth place. They have won 13 out of 14 one-day matches this season, striking echoes of the golden era of Botham, Richards and Garner when the county dominated the one-day scene, winning five titles between 1979 and 1983.

But Cox said: "In the past that era has been a monkey on our back. Members talk about the past affectionately. We want to start another generation talking about us."

Tomorrow at Bristol Gloucestershire entertain Yorkshire, whom they beat in the Benson & Hedges Super Cup at Lord's at the beginning of the month. Yorkshire will test Gavin Hamilton's hamstring while the home side expect to be at full strength.