Durham dazed by Surrey's openers

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The Independent Online

Mark Butcher and Ian Ward piled up a few notable records and a whole heap of runs between them as they continued Surrey's remorseless quest for the County Championship against Durham here yesterday.

Mark Butcher and Ian Ward piled up a few notable records and a whole heap of runs between them as they continued Surrey's remorseless quest for the County Championship against Durham here yesterday.

The most bizarre item on the record card was that they reached their respective hundreds off consecutive balls. Butcher arrived at his century with a single and Ward dispatched the next delivery from off-spinner Nick Phillips to the cover boundary for his hundred.

It was only Butcher's second century of the season, although he has now passed fifty three times in his last five outings. For Ward it was his third hundred of the year and fourth of his career.

By the close the pair were within two runs of the present record opening stand of 245 for Surrey against Durham. And along the way the two of them achieved another, less noticeable, but still significant, feat for Surrey.

Earlier this season Surrey had travelled to Chester-le-Street and suffered the humiliation of their first defeat in any competition against Durham. To add to the blushes, their two innings totalled a meagre 189 runs. That particular hiccup in their recent history was expunged from memory in this relentless stand.

After a couple of false starts, courtesy of the weather, those few spectators scattered around the ground were treated to an almost leisurely procession by Butcher and Ward. Their progress in the arena which had throbbed with excitement and triumph only two days before when England had clinched the Test series against the West Indies, was unhurried in these now tranquil surroundings.

The Surrey cause was greatly enhanced by Durham's one true wide boy, Stephen Harmison. The former England A fast bowler, who has not enjoyed the best of seasons what with injury and paucity of wickets, suffered a malfunctioning radar and sprayed the ball every which way.

His seven wides provided Surrey with 18 runs (one of the deliveries careered on to the boundary for a total of six runs) and even when he did get it there or thereabouts one or other of the batsmen usually managed to take something off it.

Of chances there was one, late in the day when Jimmy Daley hit the stumps after Ward had called Butcher for a single. The batsman was given the benefit of the doubt. There was also the ghost of a chance when Ward reached his fifty, the ball edging between a static wicketkeeper and slip. Otherwise Durham were given nothing but heartache in the outfield. There were even two all-run fours, one for each batsman, late on. It must have seemed a long day, even without the 33 overs lost to the rain and there is the promise of more tomorrow - rain and runs.

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