Butcher's consolation show

Warwickshire 546 and 171-3 Surrey 302 and 414 Warwickshire win by 7 wkts

Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe did their best, which was excellent. Michael Vaughan will be heartened that both played long and convincing innings against Warwickshire, but Surrey's England batsmen could not resolve their unfamiliarly unconvincing performances in domestic cricket. Defeat put them in seventh place in the First Division. It is early days, but that's in the relegation zone.

Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe did their best, which was excellent. Michael Vaughan will be heartened that both played long and convincing innings against Warwickshire, but Surrey's England batsmen could not resolve their unfamiliarly unconvincing performances in domestic cricket. Defeat put them in seventh place in the First Division. It is early days, but that's in the relegation zone.

The England pair put on 178 together, and it was not enough. When Thorpe went third wicket down for 89, Surrey had reached 364 and looked good for a draw. At lunch the score was 370 for 3. Après le déjeuner, le déluge: Surrey's last seven wickets then fell in 18.3 overs for a mangy 34 runs.

Warwickshire needed 171 runs in 42 overs, which looked easy-peasy. So it proved to be; they had eight overs in hand.

This was the bright side, and the game was bright for England too. Butcher had looked the epitome of cool from the start, reaching his hundred soon after Thorpe joined him on Friday when the score was 186. On a bright, still morning in Birmingham yesterday, they started on 243 and were untroubled, adding 42 runs in the first half-hour.

A small crowd seemed to enjoy the pain of their team's suffering. Why not? Warwickshire's defensive formation, with four men on the boundary, meant singles or fours. Thorpe was hitting the ball sweetly - a back-foot clip went to the midwicket boundary while the same shot by Butcher stopped short of it. Butcher was solid, wristy and strong. He did not need the occasional stroke of luck that came Thorpe's way.

Thorpe was out to a lazy forward push to the new ball, edging a wide delivery outside the off stump from the South African Test bowler Dewald Pretorius to the keeper, Tony Frost. But Surrey were already 120 ahead. Any result other than the draw seemed inconceivable.

When Butcher was sixth out, the balance was shifting fast. Pretorius, producing a hostile spell after a quiet start with Warwickshire, bowled Butcher off a thick edge. His 184 took just three minutes more than six hours and he had looked impregnable, scoring 22 fours off 331 balls.

While Warwickshire's South African pace attack is by no means the equal of New Zealand's, it is not to be taken lightly. Surrey were guilty of just that. Pretorius had bowled Jon Batty too, for eight, snuffing out a personal recovery in the first innings, when the new skipper had dropped down the order to No 5 and saved Surrey's blushes with a resourceful 92 not out.

Neil Carter, the other South African, was bowling a sharp line straight down the middle of the corridor of uncertainty. He had three more wickets, all edged - to the keeper (Adam Hollioake for a pair), to first slip (Azhar Mahmood for seven), and to second slip (Ian Salisbury for a duck).

Dougie Brown did for the tail, including Saqlain Mushtaq who was refused a runner even though he was hobbling, presumably on the grounds that, injured or not, he would be asked to bowl in Warwickshire's run-chase.

So he was, and he performed manfully. The hobble became more pronounced but until the bitter end he kept his line and length. His final figures of 2 for 49 did not flatter him. Warwickshire opened with Carter as a pinch hitter, and with great success until he called for a daft run and was out for 24 out of 47 in less than 10 overs. After that, they did nothing rash. Surrey had done that for them.

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