County Championship: Harbhajan hits bouncer trouble

Surrey 340 and 310-7 dec - Warks 209 and 222-3 (Match drawn)
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The Independent Online

A hard-fought draw thanks to a dogged century stand between Michael Powell and Alex Loudon ended worryingly for Surrey when their Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was called for a no-ball after attempting a bouncer at Powell.

A hard-fought draw thanks to a dogged century stand between Michael Powell and Alex Loudon ended worryingly for Surrey when their Indian off-spinner Harbhajan Singh was called for a no-ball after attempting a bouncer at Powell.

As it turned out Harbhajan, who was twice called for chucking his "doosra" delivery this winter and has subsequently been under scrutiny by the International Cricket Council, was no-balled because the ball was above head height, which will have been a relief to Surrey.

It was late in the day when Harbhajan attempted the bouncer, which sailed over the batsman and the wicketkeeper. Umpire Alan Jones consulted with Peter Willey, his colleague at square leg, then signalled a no-ball under Law 42.6a ii - the bowling of fast, short-pitched balls which pass over head height of the striker standing upright at the crease.

After bad light ended play early Jones refused to make any comment without first seeking clarification from the England and Wales Cricket Board, but it rather took the gloss off Powell's and Loudon's efforts, since they had frustrated Surrey and salvaged a degree of pride for the defending county champions.

The Warwickshire performance was all the more impressive in the light of how well Surrey had played throughout this match. Ultimately rain, as much as the efforts of Messrs Loudon and Powell, was what denied Surrey a deserved win.

But the fact the Brown Hats played so well promises much for the rest of the season. Mark Butcher, their incapacitated captain, said: "It's been a difficult start to the season. We've been hit by injuries and haven't had our full complement of overseas players. But with our form I think things are looking good." Not quite good enough yet, though.

However, it had all looked so promising for Surrey when they resumed on an overcast morning. After a brisk workout for Martin Bicknell and Jimmy Ormond, the acting captain, Mark Ramprakash, called Harbhajan into the attack.

And in his second over the Warwickshire captain, Nick Knight, appeared to edge a ball to Alistair Brown at slip. But despite Surrey's delighted squeals, umpire Jones quashed the appeal, ruling that the ball had come off the left-handed batsman's boot.

While that decision did not cost Surrey a great deal in runs, eight in all, Knight then clung barnacle-like to his wicket for a further 25 overs.

Surrey's first wicket of the day came sometime after midday, when Jonathan Trott pushed defensively at Harbhajan and this time Brown's appeal for a catch at slip was upheld by Jones.

Knight did not fall until after lunch - the resumption having been delayed by nine overs as rain took the total of play lost to 75 overs, which was increased by a further dozen when bad light ended play prematurely. Ormond claimed his wicket when he dug one in and Knight gloved the short ball to the wicketkeeper, Jonathan Batty.

By then Powell was well into limpet mode himself. He neither took nor gave a single chance as Surrey tried every-thing legal they could to winkle out either Powell or his fourth-wicket partner Loudon, but to no avail.

Powell eventually passed 50 after a gritty two-and-a half hours at the crease. Loudon took almost as long to follow up his first-innings 50 with a second half-century.

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