Cricket: Ward is a big hit in the Surrey ranks

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Nottinghamshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .275-8

Surrey . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 278-4

Surrey win by 6 wickets

THE slate grey skies happily failed to deliver here yesterday, but wiser spectators kept their brollies raised in recognition of the fact that it was raining cricket balls. Surrey, needing to make a potentially awkward 276 on the second day of this dribbled-over match, eventually got themselves comfortably home - and relatively dry - on the back of 73 minutes of high-calibre violence from David Ward.

Ward turned the game irretrievably away from previously unbeaten Nottinghamshire by striking (as opposed to slogging) six of 10 Surrey sixes in an innings of 73 from 57 deliveries. Darren Bicknell's 109 was the pivotal innings and Alistair Brown, another batsman who regularly scatters spectators, administered the coup de grace with 20 balls to spare by smiting Andy Afford's last three deliveries for six, six, four.

Surrey did not make the best of starts on a pitch with enough moisture still in it to make it an apparently equal contest between a powerful batting line-up and a thinnish attack, and lost Alec Stewart to a faint edge off Kevin Evans in the 10th over. It was faint enough to prompt only a half-hearted appeal and the raised finger prompted Stewart to depart in something approximating to medium dudgeon.

Graham Thorpe also struggled but, although he made only 24 in 21 overs, Bicknell's contribution of 52 in the same period ensured a decent launching pad and when Thorpe drove to short-extra cover, Ward arrived to turn a target of 151 from 24 overs into a pea-shelling operation.

The height of the carnage came in a single over from the hitherto economical Kevin Evans, who was dispatched for three sixes in four deliveries, and the dot ball was a ferocious straight drive that all but reduced the bowlers' stumps to a pile of sawdust.

Ward had a lean time of it last summer and his unbeaten 294 against Derbyshire a couple of weeks ago was well over half the total number of Championship runs he made in the whole of 1993. The pick of his sixes was off Pick - an effortless off-drive - and by the time he missed attempting something similar against Mark Crawley, only a major cock-up separated Surrey from a place in today's semi- final draw.

They are well capable of this sort of thing, as losing their last nine wickets for 18 runs with 25 needed to beat Lancashire in last year's B & H bears eloquent testimony, and there was a minor hiccup here, too.

Bicknell reverse swept Afford so often that he more or less played the spinner as a right-hander rather than left, but he then went to the well once too often, and Brown survived a caught and bowled chance to Crawley as soon as he came in. However, Brown then finished the game in a burst of pyrotechnics, and Ward's sabre beat Bicknell's foil to the Gold Award.