Salisbury's turn to turn on the style

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The Independent Online

A feeling of inevitability has insinuated itself into the chase for the County Championship. Surrey's awesome, all-round power was evident once more as they wrapped up yet another win against title rivals with as much bother as they would have tying up their bootlaces.

A feeling of inevitability has insinuated itself into the chase for the County Championship. Surrey's awesome, all-round power was evident once more as they wrapped up yet another win against title rivals with as much bother as they would have tying up their bootlaces.

This match was in effect settled inside three days, since the weather had robbed it of the best part of three sessions, and it also took Surrey's winning streak to six on the trot and seven in their last eight - the stuff of champions. Lancashire's inept batting and wayward bowling made a mockery of the fact that they had arrived here as the only unbeaten side in both divisions.

The thing about Surrey is that their attack operates pretty much as a gang of four; if opposition batsmen worry about one bowler they fail to spot the danger from one of the others. This season Martin Bicknell, who took just wicket in this match, has passed 50; Alex Tudor's tally was greatly boosted by the nine he picked up in this match; Saqlain Mushtaq, the deadly Pakistani off-spinner, is on the brink of his half-century; while the leggie, Ian Salisbury, is a mere dozen behind Saqlain's 49. The quartet's combined total in the Championship is 175 wickets. And the batsmen are getting runs.

Lancashire's captain, John Crawley, said afterwards: "Surrey are the best side in the Championship. They are a beautifully balanced side, especially when you thinkthat there is Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe to come."

Lancashire are by no means out of the title race, although on this dreadful showing they will not win it. The two sides meet again in the last match of the season up at Old Trafford, and that September confrontation may well be the one which decides the destiny of the crown; if so Lancashire, and their coach Bobby Simpson, have much to do in all departments.

If the first-innings capitulation was bad enough, it got no better second time around. Lancashire persisted with the experiment of opening the batting with Glen Chapple, even though it had not worked out first time. Not that he was the reason they folded. That should be laid firmly at Salisbury's door. There had been no need for him to bowl in the first innings, with Tudor producing a career-best 7 for 48, and he was only shyly, and slyly, introduced by Adam Hollioake to the innocent Lancashire batsmen 20 minutes before lunch.

Chapple, Andrew Flintoff and Crawley had been and gone by then, and they were soon joined by Dravid Ganguly, whose guard was pierced, possibly with a little help from the bat. There could have been another one as well, when Neil Fairbrother had a yahoo - not a search engine, more a lost plot - at Saqlain. His survival meant little, though, because Graham Lloyd went after lunch, and although Fair- brother and the Australian Joe Scuderi cut and carved themselves a few boundaries, Salisbury would not be gainsaid.

Fairbrother's attempted sweep presented Alistair Brown with a straightforward catch, and in the same over Warren Hegg fell to a brilliant piece of work by Mark Butcher, diving to pluck a fingertip catch just millimetres from the turf.

Lancashire's leg-spinner Chris Schofield did not succumb to the wiles of his opposite number, preferring instead to give his wicket to Saqlain. Salisbury applied the double coup de grâce by having Scuderi caught behind and Mike Smethurst taken at mid-off after an ugly smear.

Salisbury finished with 5 for 46, his second such return of the summer, and in the 95 minutes in which he spearheaded the attack he ensured Surrey recorded their second-largest runs victory over Lancashire in 199 meetings. The Gang of Four must relish the prospect of Old Trafford.

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