WHAT PRICE Surrey quadruple champions? Pressure will tell when nitty-gritty time arrives but they enhanced a top-of-the-table position with more to spare than the scores suggested in the AXA Equity and Law League at Archdeacon Meadow yesterday.
They already lead the County Championship and are Benson and Hedges Cup semi-finalists with power to add when beginning their NatWest Trophy campaign against Staffordshire at The Oval next month. Not for the first time, David Ward was the central figure, despite Jack Russell's innings of 70 from 69 balls on the day he was omitted from England's party of 13 for the Test against New Zealand on Thursday. Gold award-winner at Trent Bridge last week, Ward is third in the national first-class batting averages and added an innings of 75 from 91 balls on an uncooperative pitch.
The ball sometimes kept low but Ward overcame the hazards with purposeful strokeplay, cut short when Kevin Cooper took a catch at long off, leaning on a board marking the boundary, as permitted, to hold the ball. Cooper's catch epitomised the excellence of the fielding. Tim Hancock ran out Andrew Smith with a pinpoint, flat throw from the boundary and, in Gloucstershire's innings, Ward and Alec Stewart clung on to difficult chances.
Curiously, Courtney Walsh was the most expensive of Gloucestershire's bowlers but he flailed away with the bat after his team looked way out of contention with 83 needed from the final 10 overs. Walsh made 22, including two sixes, off only nine balls.
Tony Wright did Gloucestershire's ground work before playing on to Joey Benjamin. His partnership of 69 in 14 overs with Russell proved that Gloucestershire's hope springs eternal after two heavy Sunday defeats, followed by two points from an abandoned match against Durham.
Surrey's win was narrower than seemed likely. Gloucestershire were hampered by Martyn Ball, the last man, batting one-handed when 14 were needed from the final four balls. Ball had sustained a broken bone in his left hand while fielding, and he will be out for six weeks.Reuse content