Cricket: Thorpe the wonder drug: Surrey's flurry is decisive

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The Independent Online
Surrey 343-6; Lancashire 218. Surrey win by 125 runs

SURREY could regard this as convalescence on a grand scale after suffering severe palpitations in recent one-day confrontations with Lancashire. While a couple of early wickets might well have raised the collective blood pressure yesterday, Graham Thorpe's rousing 145 calmed nerves and helped set records, besides ensuring that progress to the NatWest Trophy quarter-finals was a foregone conclusion.

From patience to belligerence, Thorpe had it all, and while England feel able to dispense with the left-hander's services, a Lancashire attack spearheaded by Wasim Akram was eventually cut to pieces here. Not only that, the effect of Thorpe, backed up strongly by David Ward, was such that the red rose positively wilted in reply with half the side out and only a half-century on the board.

When Lancashire arrived in town last summer, for a first-round Benson and Hedges Cup tie, Surrey were sailing home on a 212-run partnership between Thorpe and Alec Stewart, an effort undermined by the loss of nine wickets for 18 runs. Then again, at the start of this season's Sunday league, Surrey's one-run win at Old Trafford was hardly convincing. Joey Benjamin, meanwhile, kicked off the action here by stating: 'At the moment we're not scared of anyone.' Brave words, though the confidence felt by the second-highest wicket-taker in the country may have been less strong in some quarters. As Stewart, with only four to his name, headed back after being put in, Benjamin could have been forgiven if he had gone into hiding.

Nor would he have emerged once Darren Bicknell was run out in a ridiculous mix-up. Thorpe, however, retained his composure and the arrival of Ward, who made 87, signalled an onslaught that put Surrey out of sight on a strip looking full of runs. As for records, they flowed thick across the ground. The third-wicket pair's 180 surpassed all previous Surrey stands in the competition, while the county also went on to reach their highest total. Thorpe, still there at the finish after facing 135 balls and having given only a half-chance at 23, was also left celebrating his best one-day score of any kind besides completing a full set of centuries against Lancashire in limited-overs cricket.

Poor Lancashire: rocked at the outset of their reply by Cameron Cuffy, who took 4 for 43 and had the satisfaction of bowling England's captain, Michael Atherton, their best moments arrived in a century-raising show of defiance between Wasim and Ian Austin.

But then they were more than a century short of the necessary when their last wicket went down and none could surpass Thorpe, the real centurion and man of the match, naturally.