Newman illuminates a gloomy day

Surrey 403-7 dec Northamptonshire 64-2dec Surrey drew with Northamptonshire

There was never a chance of a result. Speculation about challenging declarations and wild run-chases took place in the press box, not in the dressing-room.

Steve Rixon, Surrey's new coach, is a risk-taker by nature, but he thought there were too many variables. "It would have been kamikaze to go for a result," he said. Surrey concentrated on garnering the batting points instead. They got all five, and then hoped to add at least one bowling point, but Northamptonshire were able to declare and bring about an early finish with only two wickets down.

The most remarkable thing was that play began at all yesterday. Cloud hung low around The Oval, the air was moist, the flags were still, and conditions did not improve. Surrey's management decided no one should be asked to pay to watch. Fewer than a hundred people remained patient during a forgettable day.

Scott Newman will remem-ber it fondly, however. Newman already had a hundred - albeit against Oxford - and a couple of scores of 86 on the scoresheet this spring, and yesterday he moved, with much effort against a seaming ball, from 90 to 103, and then played as if suddenly freed of all anxiety.

He started to middle the ball and to hit it hard, until he hooked and didn't hit hard enough: caught at deep square leg for 131, after 179 balls, 21 fours and two sixes.

Newman, who has big brown eyes and black hair (his father is Anglo-Indian) was one of the Academy tourists to India last winter, and Rod Marsh included him in his list of underachievers.

The criticism seems to have helped: "It was a wake-up call," he says. Marsh was critical of his fielding and his indiscipline at the crease. He asked Newman pointedly whether he was good enough to play cricket for a living. Tough stuff, but Newman appears to have reacted positively. He has scored 450 already; 1,000 runs in May?

Graham Thorpe, on his return from the West Indies, looked unaccustomed to the south London light. This was not surprising; it was horrid. Thorpe stayed 72 minutes for 13 runs before David Sales caught him well at second slip. Surrey mostly meandered before lunch, but became action men after it.

Ali Brown was out to a wild swing, but Adam Hollioake (73 off 87 balls) and Azhar Mahmood (65 off 60) took North-amptonshire's puny-looking bowling attack apart, putting on 121 to take Surrey within slogging distance of the 400 target.

Northamptonshire's openers took the light after a single over had been bowled. They came back after 45 minutes, having drunk their tea. Off again, on again, but not long enough for Surrey to get a bowling point.

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