Salisbury lights up the gloom

Surrey's title push frustrated by weather as Lancashire win maximum bowling points

Surrey's drive for maximum points and the victory over Durham that would take them to within touching distance of the County Championship was frustrated on two fronts yesterday. The first was a meteorological one - the best part of two precious sessions dribbled down the storm drains - the second was a dogged Durham tail.

Surrey's drive for maximum points and the victory over Durham that would take them to within touching distance of the County Championship was frustrated on two fronts yesterday. The first was a meteorological one - the best part of two precious sessions dribbled down the storm drains - the second was a dogged Durham tail.

But eventually the Surrey spinners, Ian Salisbury and Saqlain Mushtaq, bowling in the gloomiest of conditions with five lights gleaming on the scoreboard, prevailed. Durham subsided, but not before Andrew Pratt, their wicketkeeper who bats at seven, had provided some stolid resistance in partnership with the off-spinner Nicky Phillips.

Play had finally got under way at 3.0pm and Pratt entrenched himself in the 11 overs up to tea and beyond. He had taken his contribution to 36 in an hour and a quarter when his luck ran out.

Stepping down the track and pushing at one from Ian Salisbury, he got a thick inside edge. The ball, having just missed the stumps, found its way into the gloves of the Surrey wicketkeeper Jon Batty, who pulled off a sharp stumping to give Salisbury his fifth wicket of the innings for his third such haul this season.

That seventh-wicket stand had realised 43 runs, but Phillips and Neil Killeen battled on, conjuring 20 more for the total between them before Salisbury struck again by having Killeen lbw. Saqlain accounted for Phillips, then Stephen Harmison became another Salisbury victim to give him a return of 7 for 105 which took his wicket tally for the season to 47.

On a day when Pakistan's Wasim Akram was calling for pitches to be prepared for spinners when England tour there this winter, there was a quirky touch to the fact that one of those Pakistan spinners, Saqlain, had been outshone by Salisbury, who is in the England tour party.

Durham, following on 212 behind, knocked off 10 of the deficit - the spin twins having taken the new ball for Surrey - before the weather closed in once more.

It all made for a trial on Surrey patience and nerves, especially since they could follow the progress of their title rivals, Lancashire, as they kept the pressure on the Londoners by picking up maximum bowling points against Somerset.

Surrey and Lancashire meet in what will almost certainly be a title showdown at Old Trafford next week, especially if there is any more of the steady rain which had confined the County Championship leaders to quarters for almost four hours.

Yet the rain had not been expected in the south east according to the forecast broadcast by the Meteorological Office from early in the morning, and even at 1.15pm, when the drizzle was still falling, the official outlook was "cloudy, mainly dry".

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