Crawley stakes fresh Test claim

Surrey 248 and 320-9 dec Lancashire 276 and 170-2 Match drawn
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The Independent Online

John Crawley answered the England selectors' call for runs by compiling his highest first-class score of the season on a tepid day's play here yesterday.

Crawley, who was encouraged by the hierarchy before last month's second Test with Pakistan that the international door was still ajar should he find form, made an unbeaten 84 in four-and-a-quarter hours as the match petered out into a draw.

Lancashire's captain is in contention, along with Surrey's Mark Butcher, to be named as batting cover for the blighted England party at Edgbaston, after Mark Ramprakash – the original fill-in – pulled out of this match when a hamstring problem recurred while batting.

With his side having lost an early wicket in their chase of an unlikely 293 to beat champions Surrey on a worn surface, Crawley stood firm for 219 balls and struck 11 boundaries in Lancashire's laborious 170 for 2.

That the 29-year-old's reacquaintance with form was found in south London is ironic given that he made his highest Test score in his last appearance in England – 156 not out against Sri Lanka – at The Oval in 1998. He went on the Ashes tour that winter and has not resurfaced since.

The red rose county had hinted at an improbable chase by reaching lunch at 41 for 1 with Crawley's fluency, missing this season, showing signs of returning in hitting a handful of boundaries. But he dropped anchor from the moment Saqlain Mushtaq was introduced straight after lunch, moving from 28 to 49 in a go-slow session with an unusually circumspect Andrew Flintoff.

Such was the spirit of the afternoon that Flintoff shedded his more familiar role of dasher to spend almost an hour and 34 balls on 24. It was Saqlain, who finished with 1 for 37, that accounted for him – a quicker ball pinning him against his stumps.

Jamie Haynes was neatly pouched low down at first slip by Mark Butcher off Alex Tudor in the sixth over to provide the hosts with hope of a victory.

But the life that had seen spin wizards Muttiah Muralitharan and Saqlain share 11 first-innings wickets had been sucked out of the pitch by the first three enthralling days and Surrey added just 35 runs in 16.5 overs yesterday morning, having resumed on 285 for 8.

The Sri Lankan added his third wicket of the innings when Ian Salisbury top-edged a sweep to Flintoff at short fine leg.

Fellow finger spinner Saqlain livened up proceedings by twice reverse sweeping him for two as Muralitharan finished with figures of 55-23-72-3, with 46 of those overs in succession from the Vauxhall End as Bicknell, whose first-innings half-century rescued his side from the perils of 141 for 7, finished unbeaten on 26.

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