Saggers tarnishes Surrey's Championship credentials

Kent 535 Surrey 125 and 169-7
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The Independent Online

Surrey, county champions for three of the last four years relinquished any hope of winning the title again with an abject batting performance that garnered them no bonus points and indeed, without some last ditch resistance and bad light during the claimed extra half-hour they would likely have suffered the ignominy of a two-day defeat.

In total Surrey lost 17 wickets in 87 overs and this after Kent had amassed 535 at nearly 4.5 an over. Collapses can happen to any side but to be forced to follow-on, 410 behind after only 28.5 overs is nothing short of unprofessional, and that is something that Surrey rarely, if ever are.

Partly the often underrated "scoreboard pressure" is to blame and Kent increased the feeling of loneliness for the batsmen with a high-energy performance from the first delivery, but these would have been surmountable without the excellent opening spell by Martin Saggers. His discipline was exemplary, probing a tight off-stump line at brisk pace with sharp and late out-swing as demonstrated by the three top-order dismissals all being bowled and the fourth, Nadeem Shahid, leg before. He may be a bit-part player but the others, Ian Ward, Jonathon Batty and Mark Ramprakash are not and Saggers earned their wickets with good bowling.

This is his fourth consecutive season of 50 or more wickets and in a summer where so many others have received Test calls, he can consider himself more than a little unlucky to be uncapped.

What he did to the top-order, Amjad Khan replicated for the middle albeit in different fashion, the highlight of which was a fantastic catch by the captain, David Fulton at leg gully. Having just positioned himself there he gleefully hung on to a firmly struck clip by Alistair Brown. The saying goes "when you're hot, you're hot" and both he and Saggers proved it in the second innings.

Switched to the Nackington Road End, Saggers had Ramprakash leg before, although it did look a little fortunate as it may have hit him outside the off-stump line, and then Fulton caught Shahid, again at the unusual leg-gully position.

The rest were a procession with only Ward and Brown showing any resilience as Muttiah Muralitharan wheeled away from the Pavilion End to his usual good effect.

Worcestershire yesterday celebrated promotion to the First Division of the County Championship but will have to wait to defeat Hampshire. Worcestershire learned of their elevation after Durham's defeat by Northamptonshire. But Hampshire, second from bottom, showed dogged resistance in chasing an unlikely 413 to win in a day and 26 overs. Nottinghamshire were relegated after a nine-wicket defeat by Essex.