Sarwan's 99 tips balance away from Surrey

Gloucestershire 350 & 294-6 Surrey 463
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The Independent Online

They came off early for bad light last night with Gloucestershire 181 runs ahead and acting captain Alex Gidman looking well set for a second substantial score and the opportunity to deny Surrey victory. But neither side has really taken charge. Each time one team appeared to have a grip on events something or someone has popped up to loosen that hold.

For much of the day Ramnaresh Sarwan was a central figure as he headed for what looked like being his second hundred in three Championship innings for Gloucestershire. The nerveless way he entered the nineties with a six over extra cover off Nayan Doshi made him odds-on to reach three figures at the earliest opportunity. That he did not merely underlined the ups and downs of a game between two sides dwelling too close to second division cricket for comfort.

Some 30 balls after getting into the nineties the West Indies batsman attempted to sweep the Pakistani off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq hard at shoulder height to Alistair Brown at square leg and it was over.

After almost three hours of sensible fightback Sarwan walked off with the first 99 of his career to his name, having shared in a stand of 151 for the second wicket with Kadeer Ali, who scored a half-century himself.

Gidman took over from Sarwan, but when he lost first Matt Windows then Stephen Adshead in the same Doshi over shortly after tea there was a wobble amidst the West Country batting.

But Surrey had problems of their own. Mark Ramprakash was forced to leave the field just after lunch with a stomach upset and did not reappear for the rest of the day. Minutes later Azhar Mahmood, fielding at slip, was struck on the forehead when a fast edge flew off Kadeer's bat and caught him above his right eye. Azhar left the field bleeding profusely and returned later sporting a John McEnroe-style bandanna of a bandage over the wound.

Earlier the Surrey innings had rather fizzled out. Ramprakash was denied a 10th double hundred when, 22 minutes into the day, he pushed at a William Rudge ball that was leaving him and was taken at slip by Spearman, eight runs short of the landmark.

Tim Murtagh did at least reach a half-century, butthis match looks destined to peter out into a draw.