Cricket: Surrey's mind games pay an early dividend

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The Independent Online
Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .181 & 322-8

Northamptonshire . . . . . . . . . . .188

SURREY'S seven-match winning streak was put in peril here yesterday without Curtly Ambrose bowling a ball. Indeed without anyone bowling a ball. Surrey are 315 runs ahead and on a damp, flat wicket this may not prove enough on Monday.

As the rain fell, the talk was of Surrey's confident new look, which is evident both on the field and off. After a winter of turmoil when the coach Geoff Arnold was ignominiously purged, the team has responded remarkably well to the new management. Glyn Woodman, the chief executive, says this is the best response to critics who wanted Arnold to stay.

Woodman's explanation for the winning streak is the youth policy and a sports psychologist. He had helped, he said. This is a new departure. Golfers and yachtsmen have sports psychologists but not county cricket teams.

A check with the cricket director, Mike Edwards, brought a slight correction. Surrey had not really bought into the voodoo of modern professional sport. Their man is actually an industrial psychologist.

Before the start of the season, each player answered 150 items on a questionnaire before talking individually to the team shrink. 'It was useful to us to learn how the players tick, and some of them said they had found it useful too,' Edwards said. Using these profiles, Edwards now gives notes to players one to one, rather than delivering the traditional

dressing-room talk.

It is doing them no harm, but is it why they are doing so well? Edwards is not so sure. He attributes Surrey's success to Graham Clinton, the coach who was Arnold's deputy, rather than to the application of scientific method.

Two of Clinton's proteges, both of them all-rounders - the 21-year-old Mark Butcher and 22-year-old Adam Hollioake - have secured places in a team in which there is competition for every job. Surrey moved close to a winning position here despite the absence of Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe. But Edwards makes the point that Surrey also started well last year: 'It's early days,' he said.

The pavilion provides the other novelty at The Oval this year. The architects (The Lobb Partnership) were asked to design a building that would dominate the ground, as the old one did before it was flanked by new stands. A steep upper terrace now rises to the tiled roof. Strong vertical wings, each decorated by white wooden boxes, and two domed towers make the new pavilion look as though it has been squeezed between the stands.

The spacious proportions of a grand Victorian pavilion may have been lost forever, but the architects, who used old roof tiles and the proper terracotta brick, have done as they were asked.