CARDS and messages from adoring fans have been dropping on the mat here all week in readiness for next Monday, but the only thing Graham Thorpe wants for his 25th birthday is an England call-up this weekend.
He deserves it on weight of runs alone. The 71 carefully but stylishly amassed yesterday by the Surrey left-hander took his total for the summer to 824, at an average of more than 58. And there is still plenty of time for Thorpe to reach 1,000 runs in a season for the fifth time in his burgeoning career.
Far from dropping his head at being overlooked by the Test selectors, his application has intensified. His dedication and attention to detail were revealed sharply in the Caribbean last winter. He went there with a propensity for the occasional injudicious pull, but half- way through the tour he went straight and has continued to improve since.
It is a shame Thorpe's remarkable consistency - one of the hallmarks of real class - is not emulated by his Surrey colleagues. They went into this match as Championship leaders, albeit with a fragile three-point advantage which was swiftly overhauled elsewhere by Warwickshire. It was not helpful to be whipped out for a modest 195, especially when there is the added pain of not picking up a single batting bonus point.
The damage was inflicted chiefly by Franklyn Stephenson, who is 35 going on 25 to judge by the way he ran in yesterday for a summer's best 6 for 50. That took him to 41 wickets for the season. He was helped by some brilliant fielding, notably from Jamie Hall, who pulled off two stunning catches in the covers, the first of which put paid to Thorpe.
But by then Thorpe had surely done enough with his immaculate driving, the odd pull and hook as well as cut to impress the watching England manager, Keith Fletcher. His end was appropriate, too - the best batsman caught by the best catch off the best bowler.
He did have a modicum of support from Alistair Brown, who made an attractive and responsible 40 off 41 balls, including a six and four fours. The pair added 59 for the fourth wicket but could not sustain the momentum.
By the time bad light drove everyone off, Surrey had gained some recompense with a couple of Sussex wickets. One of them fell to a former Sussex man, Tony Pigott. The animated bowler was unable to suppress his satisfaction at having Bill Athey well caught by Brown in the slips. Joey Benjamin, the leading wicket-taker in the Championship, picked up the first when he caught Neil Lenham at the end of his follow-through.Reuse content