DERBYSHIRE STOPPED short of handing the championship pennant to Surrey on an inscribed silver salver here yesterday, but it was a close- run thing. Much of their bowling fell short of what was needed after winning the toss and Ian Ward's maiden century left Surrey formidably placed against an injury-hit attack.
On a pitch where the ball moved around without doing anything too lavish, it must have been a marginal decision to bowl first. Among other things it means that Messrs Saqlain and Salisbury will be bowling in the fourth innings (assuming there is one). Surrey would probably have batted first anyway. Ward's well crafted 100 in his 51st first-class innings typified their patient approach on a day not without incident both on and off the field
It started when Mark Butcher went down with food poisoning. His replacement Jason Ratcliffe did not complete his drive up the M1 until 10.30am; before lunch he was obliged to retire hurt. Shaping to hook Paul Aldred, he had completed the stroke before the ball feathered into his visor. He struggled on momentarily until double vision forced his departure. When he returned later he was out first ball, hooking.
Before that, Derbyshire's only reward was the wicket of Darren Bicknell who went after an extremely wide one. A partnership of 153 in 44 overs between Ward and Graham Thorpe finally put bowling and conditions firmly into perspective.
While Thorpe dealt clinically and unerringly with the regular supply of loose balls, Ward accumulated sensibly with soft hands and straight bat and rarely missed anything directed at his pads, of which there was rather too much.
When he reached three figures from 196 balls it was from a rare false stroke, a top-edged four behind the wicketkeeper. Having failed to turn eight half-centuries into something more substantial, he was clearly setting his stall out to do so when he mistimed a back-foot force and was caught,
The bowler was Matthew Cassar, who then lured Thorpe into an over ambitious stroke after his 89 had occupied 140 balls. By now, though, Derbyshire had lost Aldred with an injured ankle and when the left-arm spinner Ian Blackwell also limped off they were forced to operate with only 10 men until they were able to borrow the Surrey 12th man, Carl Greenidge.
But Cassar's wickets, albeit a trifle fortunate, had given them a certain amount of fresh heart. The ball began to pass the bat with more frequency and Alistair Brown and Alec Stewart had to work rather harder than their predecessors before Phil DeFreitas's slower ball deceived Stewart as the light closed in.Reuse content