GIVEN that Gloucestershire have spent the summer wandering from match to match like the three blind mice, the murky conditions they encountered here yesterday will at least have been familiar. So, too, unfortunately, was the plot, leaving Courtney Walsh to wonder whether taking on the captaincy was such a sound career move after all.
Inserted by Alec Stewart on a sluggish surface after rain had delayed the start by 26 overs, the visitors affirmed their inalienable right to be propping up the Championship table with a largely spineless display against Waqar Younis, who uprooted timber three times en route to his best return of the season, 6 for 42.
His only false notes were the two no-balls he delivered, which trebled his tally for the summer. Any suggestion that the umpires have been too preoccupied with the state of the ball to notice where his front foot lands is entirely scurrilous.
That Gloucestershire were able to reach three figures was due to two missed catches by James Boiling, normally Surrey's most reliable close fielder, and some unexpected resistance from the longest tail on the circuit.
When Jack Russell shuffled in at 36 for 4, Stewart had every reason to anticipate a swift mopping-up operation, yet although Russell soon surrendered his off stump to Waqar, Boiling downed Simon Hinks and Marcus Wight in successive overs and the recovery was up and running.
Hinks's patient knock was eventually terminated by a smart take at third slip from Alistair Brown, who promptly punched the air in a manner that implied the hard work was over. Instead, Walsh and Ricardo Williams swatted 35 in seven overs for the ninth wicket, the latter revealing a promising flourish in defence as well as attack.
These, though, were mere straws for the clutching. Gloucestershire might have been happier had the scoreboard lights not mysteriously short-circuited in mid-afternoon, enabling play to continue in semi-darkness before sense finally prevailed 24 overs before the scheduled close. After last Sunday's fiasco at Leicester, Surrey seem keen to give their supporters value for money.
The Australians' match against Derbyshire, which was abandoned just before noon following several hours of steady rain, ended any hopes the tourists may have had of claiming Tetley Bitter's pounds 50,000 prize for winning 10 out of 14 three-day games against county opposition. The Australians have now won four and drawn five.
Graham Gooch was consoled by Essex's fightback on the opening day of their Championship match with Leicestershire at Southend yesterday. Gooch looked to have made a mistake by inserting the visitors as Tim Boon and Nigel Briers shared an opening century stand. But once that was broken by left-arm spinner John Childs, at 109, Essex gained the upper hand. Leicestershire closed on 203 for 5.
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