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Cricket: Surrey stride for the title

Warwickshire 227 & 133 Surrey 483 Surrey win by innings and 127 runs
A FACILE victory here achieved with four and a half sessions to spare has propelled Surrey towards their first Championship for 28 years by another mighty stride. Their eighth victory in 11 matches establishes a lead that the chasing pack will find difficult to pull back, even with almost two months of the season still to come.

A third consecutive defeat for Warwickshire, which effectively eliminates them as contenders, did not go down well with the Edgbaston crowd, such as it was. There were only scattered pockets of spectators, even on a gloriously sunny day, but enough shouts of "rubbish" to cause discomfort in the committee room as the home side surrendered pathetically by an innings and 123 runs.

One felt sorry for Nick Knight, to whom was thrown the temporary captaincy in the absence of Neil Smith, with his players seeming less than properly focused. In any event, they could not muster any resistance to a Surrey charge led by their spinners, Saqlain Mushtaq and Ian Salisbury, who bowled in tandem from the 19th over and carved up the spoils largely between them.

After their first innings had continued for 13 balls at the start before Ed Giddins was stumped to give Salisbury 5 for 49 as an opening return, Warwickshire followed on 256 behind with minimal prospects of avoiding a humiliating defeat.

Martin Bicknell accounted for Knight, who could not muster another defiant stand, before Adam Hollioake brought the turning ball into play with rapid effect. Saqlain claimed two wickets with his fourth and fifth balls, bowling Mark Wagh with a leg-break and then trapping Anurag Singh, playing back when he should have been forward, leg before.

Ostler survived a leading edge but then departed to Salisbury's first delivery, which meant Warwickshire had gone from 55 for 1 to 56 for 4 in four balls. More trouble followed in the next over, when David Hemp gave an easy catch to cover off the bowling of Saqlain.

There was no way back now, and although Dougie Brown and Graeme Welch mounted a minor recovery, adding 47 in 19 overs. Each then departed to successive balls, Welch bowled through the gate by Salisbury, Brown likewise by Saqlain.

Salisbury, who finished with 9 for 95, accounted for Keith Piper with the aid of Jonathan Batty's brilliant catch before Allan Donald was leg before to a full toss. When Saqlain saw off Ashley Giles, Warwickshire were 133 all out and the four Surrey men picked for Test duty had hardly been missed.

Saqlain has 26 wickets in his last three matches but as Surrey move closer to the spoils he is unlikely find many more pitches as helpful as this one, the behaviour of which was watched from closer distance than usual by the Warwickshire groundsman, Steve Rouse, yesterday morning, when he stood in as square-leg umpire after Tony Clarkson succumbed to a stomach upset.