Cricket: Surrey blown apart

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The Independent Online
Essex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .378

Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .88 and 187-5

SURREY, having started this match second in the championship, began their innings on time yesterday. But, at lunch, they were seven for no wicket and anyone arriving at Castle Park in time to see the players trudge off for the break could be forgiven for thinking that time had stood still. In a way, it had. Not because the Surrey openers were still at the crease - this was their second attempt of the morning - but because this was a vintage Essex performance on a ground where so many of their fruits in the past have ripened.

Surrey's first stab at overhauling Essex's total of 378 took just 25.5 overs, in which an unbroken opening spell by Mark Ilott and Mike Kasprowicz dismissed the visitors for only 88, some 290 short of the day's first target. With a devastating combination of seam and swing bowling, allied to some fine catching, the wickets were shared six to four in Ilott's favour, while Surrey's top scorer was Extras with 25. They fared somewhat better in their second attempt and finished the day at 187 for five, 103 runs adrift.

Surrey have done this kind of thing before. In 1983 they were bowled out for 14 at Chelmsford on a perfectly respectable pitch, and while the Essex score in this match has flattered the conditions, there was nothing in the surface that warranted Surrey's collapse.

The day started disastrously for Darren Bicknell - widely touted as a replacement for the injured Graham Gooch for the next Test - who was out for a duck, lbw to the third ball of the morning, not offering a stroke. Things went well for the Surrey opener second time around, however, and he was still there on 70 at the close.

Ilott was determined not to be outdone by his Australian counterpart in the first innings jamboree. He has had a frustrating season, and, returning from this winter's England A tour of South Africa, he was clearly the pick of the bowlers and some way ahead of Darren Gough in the pecking order for an England place. But whereas Gough has gone from strength to strength, Ilott has not made comparable strides. This has been partly due to a recurring groin injury, but mainly because he has not consistently been able to recapture the inswinger which turns the left-armer into one who wins matches.

Running in from the River End, he had no such problems here and theball that bowled Alec Stewart, another who declined to offer a stroke, was a beauty that swung in late and removed off-stump. Surrey managed a brief revival through Graham Thorpe and Alistair Brown, who put on 29 together, the former carrying on where he left off at Headingley.

Undeterred by his colleagues' dissarray, Thorpe was determined to react positively, but one ambitious drive too many saw him spoon a simple catch to mid-on. Brown followed soon afterwards edging a beauty off Kasprowicz that left him sharply off the pitch with Surrey reeling at 47 for five.

When Surrey's No 11, Cameron Cuffy, a right-hander, waltzed out to bat wearing the left-handed pads of Darren Bicknell with a further 158 needed to avoid the follow-on, the end looked nigh. It came soon afterwards.

The Colchester pitch usually begins to help the spinners and Peter Such weighed in with two wickets just before the close. With John Childs sidelined for the rest of the match after being struck on the foot by a yorker, a concerted effort by the other bowlers tomorrow should see Essex to their sixth Championship victory.

(Photograph omitted)