Cricket: Surrey's collapse revitalises title chase

Yorkshire 250-9dec & 151-4 Surrey 147
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The Independent Online
AN EXTRAORDINARY batting collapse involving the loss of 10 wickets for 60 runs seriously undermined Surrey's County Championship challenge here yesterday.

Surrey's rapid decline from 80 without loss to 140 all out handed Yorkshire an advantage they could not have envisaged as their own innings was falling apart the previous evening - until it was embellished handsomely by Craig White with his second half-century of the match. This created a position from which it will be almost impossible for the Championship leaders to emerge with anything better than a draw. If that is the outcome following Gloucestershire's victory on Wednesday and Lancashire's yesterday the race would be throw wide open.

After restricting Yorkshire to 250 for 9, thanks to a successful final session on Wednesday, everything went to plan for Surrey in the first hour yesterday as Mark Butcher and Ian Ward briskly set about putting Hollioake's game plan into practice.

It had been the captain's wish, in view of a poor weather forecast for the end of the week, to get batting points in the bag as quickly as possible by way of insurance, he said, against a possible washout.

But after the opening pair had put on 80 in 25 overs came a deviation from the script as spectacular as Surrey's rivals could have wished for. It was brought about mainly by a continuing run of form from the Yorkshire all-rounder, Gavin Hamilton, whose recent improvement has led him to question the wisdom of committing himself to a limited international future with Scotland.

Hamilton, taking advantage of a pitch still offering lively bounce and movement off the seam, ran through Surrey's innings to such devastating effect that he finished with figures of 7 for 50 in 17.1 overs. Matthew Hoggard, only 21 and another product of Yorkshire's successful academy, collected three wickets.

For 24-year-old Hamilton, raised in Kent but born in Scotland, the analysis represented his fourth career-best display in three matches. He took 5 for 69 and 5 for 43 against Glamorgan last month and followed that with 6 for 50 against Essex.

Hamilton has been chosen to play for England in next month's World Super Max Eights in Perth but by agreeing to play for Scotland against Bangladesh earlier this year he disqualified himself from representing England in official ICC competitions. Given that consideration for an England A place might have been on the cards, he is appealing against his ineligibility on the grounds of confusion over the rules.

This, of course, was of no consequence to Surrey as the departure of Butcher, who played over a full-length ball from Hamilton, precipitated Surrey's rapid decline. Ward was lbw to Hoggard, Nadeem Shahid fenced to White at first slip and Ally Brown nicked an outswinger to the keeper, four wickets falling in six overs for 18 runs.

Worse was to follow after lunch as conditions continued to aid swing as well as seam movement, as Alec Stewart and both Adam and Ben Hollioake departed with the total on 125. Martin Bicknell, splendidly caught by David Byas at second slip, became Hamilton's sixth victim before Hoggard tore out Saqlain Mushtaq's off-stump. Hamilton completed his work by trapping Joey Benjamin as Surrey conceded a first-innings lead of 103.

Surrey might have hoped their own seamers would redress the balance but it was not until White and Matthew Wood had taken Yorkshire's lead beyond 200 that two quick strikes by Ben Hollioake gave them hope of pegging back the home side.