SURREY, without Alec Stewart, who has a cricked neck, offered feeble resistance to Somerset yesterday, and on the point of lunch were bowled out for 139 and lost by 281 runs. Nine wickets fell in two hours as Surrey went to their third successive defeat.
They have now lost four of their last six matches, which argues strongly that all is not well at The Oval, where dressing-room problems have not been unknown. It is strange that after a good first half of the summer they should have fallen away like this.
Stewart, the Surrey captain, blamed the batsmen. 'The bowlers have performed well all season, but the batting has let us down,' he said, tracing the start of the decline to the defeat, coincidentally against Somerset, in the NatWest Trophy quarter-final last month. 'We played well as a team for the first two months of the season but we haven't batted well since the quarter-final. At least there are a couple of games left for us to try to get it right.'
Yesterday's collapse, which owed nothing to the pitch, was a case in point. The batting was poor and without any discernible heart. The decline began at once when Ray Alikhan was leg before, pushing across the line to Neil Mallender in the first over of the day.
There were some handsome strokes from Alistair Brown, who hit five fours in 20 balls before being bowled through a loose drive against Mallender. Brown must learn how to build an innings, otherwise a fine talent is going to be wasted. The left-hander, Mark Butcher, also produced a few good blows.