Cricket: Surrey settle in on top: Bye-bye to Gloucestershire

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Gloucs . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .319-7 dec and 106-4 dec

Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .72-3 dec and 354-9

Surrey win by 1 wicket

SURREY became more than just the embryonic Championship leaders with their fourth victory in five matches, this time when Cameron Cuffy and Mark Butcher scampered a bye from the last ball, delivered by Courtney Walsh.

It was a thrilling finale at 6.50pm, in what was effectively an old-style, three-day declaration game, four sessions having been lost to rain.

The final countdown was a quest to make 354 from 90 overs. Darren Bicknell's hundred from 163 balls was the steadying influence as four wickets tumbled around him for 157 almost by the half-way stage.

Bottom lines were 36 required from five overs, 22 from three and finally eight from the last over.

Surrey made it breathlessly, with Joey Benjamin being caught at the wicket after hitting a mid-wicket boundary almost off the splice of the bat. Cuffy, who has barely faced a ball this season, ran a bye from the last delivery, with Butcher making his ground after Jack Russell's shy at the stumps missed narrowly.

Walsh's declaration and target set was eminently fair. Gloucestershire had been put in, so Surrey, in their own exalted position, could barely expect Walsh to be a benefactor.

Surrey's strength is that even when the stroke players disappear prematurely, as they did here, they still have scoring reserves.

Adam Hollioake and Butcher proved the point, long after Bicknell and Alec Stewart launched the innings with a partnership of 121 in 29 overs. Neil Kendrick added bold strokeplay until Tony Wright took his second stunning catch, right-handed, over his shoulder and tumbling to the ground at long-off.

Bicknell had been sixth out at 282 but Surrey, swept along on a wave of confidence and by their bits and pieces contributors, flourished in the sun.