Cricket: Thorpe in overdrive

Northamptonshire 248 and 338 Surrey 286 and 301-2 Surrey won by eight wickets
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The Independent Online
GRAHAM THORPE tuned up for the World Cup yesterday with the 34th century of his career and, crucially, he avoided the fate of his team- mate Nadeem Shahid, whose wrist was broken by a Devon Malcolm lifter on the first evening of the game.

The injury recalled Ian Botham's opinion that it was silly for World Cup players like Thorpe to be asked to take risks in a county game just before the campaign begins. Thorpe, however, was only in half-agreement.

"It's a fair point, for bowlers," he said after steering Surrey to an early-afternoon victory by eight wickets. "But batsmen could have a hard time early on in the World Cup, so the quicker we get used to the home pitches the better." As for the troublesome back that brought him home depressingly early from Australia, he now feels confident that he is on top of the problem and his temperamental vertebrae will see him through. Any special precautions? "Yeah, avoid driving six hours to a game and six hours back."

In perfect weather and on a proper four-day pitch, this match remained beautifully poised until Friday evening, when Thorpe and the blossoming opening batsman Ian Ward began to take the game away from the hosts. But Surrey are capable of crumbling spectacularly, and stern work against Malcolm and Paul Taylor was required yesterday morning.

In the end, though, it was all too easy. Thorpe punched, stroked and hoicked as if injury was a distant memory, ably supported first by Ward and then by a belligerent Ali Brown.

Thorpe spoke warmly of his fellow left-hander Ward afterwards, insisting that he had a "top future" in the Surrey line-up. As for Brown, performances like this in first-class cricket belie his international type-casting as a big-hitting gambler to be employed sparingly. There is technique behind the violence, and after the cut and thrust of the first three days he helped to escort Surrey home.

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