Cricket: Surrey stranded

Surrey 581-7 dec Northants 401 & 241-2 dec Match drawn
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Persistent drizzle after lunch dampened even the most hardened optimist's hopes that Surrey might force a result in this run-drenched match. The bat's dominance over the ball in the preceding three days showed little sign of abating during the morning session, which saw Northamptonshire inch their way to a deficit of 35 runs for the loss of two wickets.

The opening overs of the day were enlivened by the unusual sight of both sides' coaches on the field. Surrey's Dave Gilbert was pressed into service as an emergency fielder due to injuries to Ian Ward, who was nursing a swollen knee, and Ben Hollioake, who had succumbed to a bout of food poisoning. Gilbert was eventually relieved by Saqlain Mushtaq, who had flown in from international duties with Pakistan in the Asia Cup.

Nor was illness and injury solely confined to the players. Umpire John Harris was suffering from a migraine and Northamptonshire's John Emburey donned the white coat to take up duties at square leg. Darren Bicknell (tonsillitis but forced to field) and Paul Taylor (severe bruising to an arm) rounded off the casualty list.

The fit players did their best to provide some entertainment amongst the gathering gloom. Martin Bicknell and Chris Lewis, who inflicted the damage on Taylor on Friday, both bowled hostile opening spells and got some movement off the pitch. Cornishman David Roberts, who scored his maiden first-class century against Essex a fortnight ago, fished so often outside the off-stump to Bicknell that it would not have been a surprise if Emburey had strode up from square leg to give him an impromptu coaching session. Roberts eventually succumbed to a straight, fast delivery from Lewis which uprooted his off-stump.

Richard Warren lost his middle stump to Joey Benjamin but Robert Bailey and Alan Fordham went on to forge an untroubled partnership. This was particularly significant for 32-year-old Fordham who is due a benefit next year but made only his first Championship appearance of the season in this match.

Fordham has been making big scores in the second XI and marked his return to the main stage with a determined 72 on Friday. These fighting qualities were again in evidence yesterday where he mixed stubborn defence with some thumping back-foot drives through the covers to reach 82 not out at the close. A long stay at the crease (62 not out) also did no harm to Bailey, who is dogged by rumours about the future of his captaincy.

The clouds rolled back after an early tea to allow the muted hostilities to continue, but the match was meandering in such a desultory fashion that Surrey resorted to using nine bowlers, including their wicket-keeper Jonathan Batty.