Bicknell's 16-wicket haul is best since Laker

Leicestershire 318 & 87 Surrey 288 & 119-0
Surrey win by 10 wickets

Leicestershire 318 & 87 Surrey 288 & 119-0 Surrey win by 10 wickets

Martin Bicknell singlehandedly destroyed Leicestershire here yesterday, at the same time producing the best first-class match figures by an English bowler since another Surrey man, Jim Laker, took 19 Australian wickets for England in 1956.

"That is 44 years, I am thrilled by that," Bicknell said. "But it hasn't really sunk in yet. And I would swap all of this for a couple more wins for Surrey and the Championship."

His staggering performance condemned Leicestershire to their second hiding against Surrey in a fortnight. It was Surrey's fifth Championship win on the trot and was achieved with a day and a half to spare, consolidating their place at the head of the County Championship's First Division.

It had not been billed as Martin Bicknell versus an XI of Leicestershire, but it was on his home turf at Woodbridge Road and at times it certainly did not look as if the opposition were all there.

There was input from Bicknell's team-mates, notably the opening bat Ian Ward, Nadeem Shahid and a raft of sharp fielding. But it was Bicknell's match. Not since 1952, when Derbyshire's Cliff Gladwin claimed 16 for 84 against Worcestershire at Stourbridge, has a paceman performed so well in the Championship.

Bicknell's phenomenal return of 16 for 119, also made him the first bowler to 50 wickets this season, all of them in the Championship. His dismissal of Leicestershire's captain, Vince Wells, at 11.34am brought up his half-century, leaving the high profile Australian Test bowlers, Glenn McGrath and Shane Warne, and a fistful of other eminent purveyors trailing in his slipstream.

Wells and Phillip DeFreitas had attempted to salvage something from an impossible looking overnight position of 33 for 6. For half an hour or so they laid about them - more in desperation than expectation - before DeFreitas drove loosely and was picked up by Mark Butcher in the slips.

Wells became the second victim in Bicknell's wicked burst of four wickets for four runs in just 16 balls, when he too fell to a slip catch. Bicknell allowed Leicestershire an over of respite before claiming the wickets of Anil Kumble and the last man James Ormond.

He left the field to a prolonged ovation, the crowd rising to cheer their local hero every step of the way to the pavilion. He had rewritten the Surrey record books and had the added pleasure of producing a personal Championship best of 9 for 47 in the second innings on his home club ground.

"I have reached 50 wickets in a season before on this ground," he explained, "because the Guildford Festival is usually around the half-way mark in the season."

There are those who lament the fact that at 31 Bicknell is too old to be considered for a chance to add to his two England appearances, but his name was being bandied around for the second Test against Zimbabwe at Trent Bridge earlier in the season; and he is younger than Andrew Caddick by a couple of months and not that much older than Darren Gough, who will be 30 in September.

"I have bowled consistently for the last few years and I think I am probably now at my peak," he added. "But I am sick of the England thing. It has been talked about too many times for me to worry about it any more."

As for the perception that he is susceptible to injury Bicknell retorted: "I have missed four Championship games in the last five years, that is a record of which I am proud and it makes a mockery of those who claim I am injury prone."

He certainly inflicted injury on Leicestershire though. It took Bicknell less than an hour to skittle them for their lowest score of the season.

Butcher and Ward, the Surrey openers, then made gentle progress to victory - Butcher finishing with 47 not out and Ward on 61 not out to add to his first-innings century - with plenty of time to spare in which to celebrate Bicknell's grand achievement.

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