CRICKET: Weakened champions limp home

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The Independent Online


reports from Edgbaston

Warwickshire 470 and 201-4 dec

Surrey 288 and 301

Warwickshire win by 91 runs

Adam Hollioake flourished but Warwickshire triumphed, heading up table via the Metropolitan Line, having beaten Middlesex last week. Long after Surrey's hopes had gone down the tube, they added 186 for the last two wickets against the walking wounded XI, alias the county champions.

The 23-year-old Hollioake, England-qualified though Australian-born, plundered 117 not out from 114 balls, with 13 fours and four sixes. He derived such admiration from his pertinent partners, the 19-year-old Richard Nowell and Joey Benjamin, playing on his old pastures, that Surrey's innings extended for two hours after they lunched at 116 for 8.

It went from collapse to carnage of a Warwickshire attack lacking Allan Donald, except for an over from a short run, and Dermot Reeve, as well as the already absent Tim Munton.

Hollioake especially relished the offerings from the left-arm spinner Richard Davis, hurtling from 75 to 97 in four balls with six, six, four, six. Nowell also looked as if he could have batted until Christmas, sharing a ninth-wicket partnership of 86 in 22 overs and Benjamin, illustrating that he has a fine eye, figured flamboyantly in Surrey's last-wicket stand of 100 in 48 minutes from 14 overs.

It was marvellous entertainment but it forced Warwickshire to contemplate their injury-ridden vulnerability. They go to Leicester today for their Benson and Hedges Cup match with an outside chance, even if successful, of retaining interest in one of the three competitions they won last season. Reeve is doubtful, Donald too. Keith Piper, the wicketkeeper, will be absent, as will Nick Knight, Munton and Dominic Ostler, who has knee trouble.

Three substitute fielders appeared and the 'dolly' that Grant Flower, the Zimbabwean Test player, dropped at gully off Roger Twose when the left-handed Nowell had made five, consigned Warwickshire to another hour of hard labour before Nowell edged Gladstone Small to second slip. Despite a niggling groin injury, Small was suddenly the fittest seam bowler on the staff, with 5 for 71 to prove it.

Twose had taken 3 for 7 in nine balls, including the wickets of Alistair Brown and Alec Stewart with successive deliveries, but Hollioake grasped the situation by the throat.

Stewart was not enamoured with a pitch of uneven bounce and there had been an element of avoiding Donald when putting in Warwickshire to see precisely what a dry surface produced. The answer: another Warwickshire win.

After Alistair Brown skied Twose to Michael Burns, Stewart was leg before, pushing tentatively. Surrey's problems seemed somewhat in the mind as later events proved. If it is not Brian Lara then Donald is the man, but bits-and-pieces Warwickshire have much more than that. The whole is greater than the sum of the parts.