Cricket: Surrey ready to sweep away dust

David Llewellyn reports from The Oval Surrey 395 and 298 Northants 235 and 233 Surrey win by 225 runs
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The Independent Online
Whisper it, but Surrey are definitely in with a shout in this year's Championship, and not before time. Too often in the past they have promised much and delivered nothing. This year it is very different. They are not so much a team as a collective, thinking and playing as one. Players have come in and out of the side but everyone has had a part to play.

Captain Alec Stewart's absence at his wife Lynn's hospital bedside for half this match was irrelevant, he knew Adam Hollioake could cope in his stead, the stand-in having led the side to four wins in his seven matches in charge this summer.

Stewart's joy at becoming a father again, this time to Emily Elizabeth (at 6lb 12oz about the weight of two jumbo bats), would have been heightened at the way in which the Surrey attack stuck to their task yesterday, overcoming some disconcerting resistance to pick off the remaining three wickets and render one batsman, David Ripley, hors de combat with a bruised left index finger.

Only David Capel, who was dismissed a tantalising two runs short of a deserved fifty, and Jeremy Snape got any kind of a score, but it was never enough.

To add injury to the insult of defeat, Ripley joins Paul Taylor (Achilles tendon injury) on the doubtful list for tomorrow's crucial Sunday League clash. These sides make up a trio with Nottinghamshire sharing second place on 42 points, although Surrey's superior run-rate gives them a considerable edge.

The dust in the trophy cupboard was last disturbed in 1982 when they lifted the NatWest Trophy but now the double is on at a success-starved Oval.

It is just a matter of whether Surrey can maintain the pressure and retain their confidence. Hollioake's analysis of the Surrey resurgence is blunt: "When we are performing well the only people who can beat us are ourselves."

He admits that as a club they straddle the thin line between arrogance and self confidence - downfall and success. "The boys are naturally quite an arrogant bunch," said Hollioake, 25, candidly, "and I am up there with the best of them." Arrogant or not, there is silver to be won and wipe away a clouded recent past, and this could be the side to do it.

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