Safety first for sensible Surrey

County Championship: The sun shines too little and too late on England's brave new world of two divisions
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The Independent Online

Forget the loss of the best part of two day's play to rain. Somerset and Surrey were engaged in serious cricket business at Taunton yesterday.

After Adam Hollioake had rejected the opportunity to contrive a result, the two teams battled for points, each knowing that the cancellation of play elsewhere meant that the side that got the most had a chance of being the first-ever leader of the First Division of the County Championship.

Play began half an hour late, with Somerset 15 for 2 and the naturally exuberant Marcus Trescothick still to get off the mark after nine overs. Although Alex Tudor's line was wayward and his first two balls went to the boundary, there was evidently enough movement through the air and off the seam to put Surrey in the stronger position.

The evening before, Hollioake had listened carefully to Somerset's suggestion that they were willing to declare immediately, allow Surrey to score the 80 runs they would need to extend their lead to 250, and leave Somerset 250 to get in a run chase. The scenario was similar to Hansie Cronje's proposal that was played out at the Centurion Test, and is under investigation. But Hollioake was not to be tempted.

He balanced the risk of playing for 12 win points and losing them all against the certainty of four points for a draw, plus however many of the three bowling points they could pick up. A potential haul of seven points was more attractive. Individual points proved so crucial at the end of last season that there is precious little to be gained from playing the glory game, even so early in the season.

While Peter Bowler confidently hit Tudor to the boundary, Trescothick was still scratching around. He gave a hard chance to Ian Ward at point and it was not until the 12th over that he finally turned Tudor to square leg for a single - it was the 32nd ball he had faced.

Trescothick is considered one of the best young prospects in the country and has been called up to join England's contracted Test players at a training camp on 11 May. He takes a quick step back before launching himself into a forward stroke, and his fatal flaw so far has been a failure to get his foot to the ball. His brain is out of synch with his body; he is conscious of the error, but finds it hard to correct. He also lacks the fine batsman's ability to leave a good ball alone.

Never the less, he began to find the boundary with sweetly timed cover-drives and was 34 not out at lunch, which was taken shortly after Surrey managed to take the first wicket of the day. Peter Bowler was well down the wicket when he was given out lbw on 37. He had reason to look aggrieved.

After lunch, Trescothick batted as if he had spent the interval listening to a lecture from Dermot Reeve, Somerset's coach. Surrey's Ian Bishop and Ben Hollioake tried hard enough for a breakthrough, but Trescothick was suddenly leaving the good ones, while punishing the bad. His 50 took 130 balls, but included no fewer than 10 fours.

In mid-afternoon, an accurate spell by Martin Bicknell quietened Trescothick and Michael Burns, whose score also moved on steadily by means of boundaries, though Graham Thorpe did drop him at first slip when he was on nine. But Tudor's return raised the run rate; he gave away two boundaries again in the first over of his second spell.

By tea, when they were 208 for 3, Somerset had reached their first batting point, and looked set for more, until Trescothick was beaten in the flight by Ian Salisbury and was caught by Ally Brown at wide mid-on. There had been 14 fours in his 85. It was a promising start to an important season for him.