Hooper's fireworks defy Surrey

Surrey 337 Lancashire 341
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The Independent Online

Surrey wavered but did not break yesterday afternoon. Lancashire, despite a confident debut from their 23-year-old opener from Cheshire, Mark Currie, did crack down the middle and were saved from a considerable first-innings deficit only by a valiant century from Carl Hooper, who, with Gary Keedy, added 79 from 19 overs for the last-wicket.

Hooper loves a crisis. Lancashire were in trouble when Keedy joined him and his mix of massive defence and thunderous attack had a good crowd on their feet when he reached three figures. After so much late frustration Surrey looked both short-tempered and sulky by the close and got a slow handclap for their pains.

During a bright morning Jon Batty duly became the first Surrey player to carry his bat at Old Trafford since Harry Jupp in 1870. Iain Sutcliffe soon fell tamely at short-leg for Lancashire but the 50 arrived in 13 overs and the impression was that batting was a breeze.

Or was it? Mark Chilton played a reckless on-drive at a near yorker and was bowled. Saqlain Mushtaq bowled the 20th over and was inches from claiming Stuart Law, on 13, a mistimed drive falling just short of mid-on. Currie dug deeper, Law was content to snipe and by a hazy mid-afternoon the contest had become as limp as the pavilion flags.

Currie was missed behind, off Saqlain, on 40, then dropped at slip, five runs later, off Rikki Clarke, at which point Law overtook him with a fine straight drive to reach a 50 off 57 balls. The debutant reached his 50 with a similarly handsome cover drive off Saqlain. The Surrey captain Adam Hollioake was off the field "feeling unwell after a virus last week", and for half-an-hour Surrey gave the impression they could be driven.

It is at such times that they demonstrate why they are champions. Ian Salisbury took charge at the Stretford End and immediately found both a length and direction, aided by occasional turn, that gave the innings a nervous twitch. Law hopelessly mistimed an attempted pull and Chris Schofield was trapped by a sharply turning leg-break. As Currie had been smartly taken at slip off Jimmy Ormond, Glen Chapple taking the same route, an affluent 163 for 2 had become 183 for 6 in seven overs.

Azhar Mahmood conned Warren Hegg into a square-leg hoist and then cut one away to confound Peter Martin. John Wood was bowled neck-and-crop. When Hooper was left with only Keedy, Ian Ward had seven men policing the boundaries. The West Indian swung and drove five sixes, two in succession off Clarke, to give Lancashire the lead and walked off to a storm of applause after succumbing to the new ball.