Stewart's class undoes Yorkshire

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The Independent Online

Surrey 198-6Yorkshire 191Surrey win by seven runs

Few teams survive batting first in the Headingley fug, but Surrey overcame the disadvantage after Matthew Hoggard had removed four batsmen in his first seven overs. The reason they did so was, in equal parts, an unbeaten 97 from Alec Stewart and some late-innings panic from Yorkshire, who turned certain victory into something more sobering than defeat, by seven runs. Surrey now play Glamorgan at Cardiff on Saturday 27 May for a place in the Benson and Hedges Cup final on 10 June.

If the bottom line is that Surrey held their nerve far better on the day, the Yorkshire post-mortem will want to know why, with 38 balls and five wickets remaining, and just 33 runs required, the home side lost the plot with three run outs. Sadly, with pay-offs from bookmakers suddenly being used to explain every minor aberration, the more mundane truth here was that Yorkshire's youngsters simply lacked the mettle for the big occasion.

Not so Stewart, who grafted, stroked and then accelerated his way to a score that gave his team a working total. Last winter, the Gaffer, as Stewart is known, was less than chuffed about being surplus to requirements for England's one-day series in South Africa and Zimbabwe. This was his riposte.

"I know there were probably reasons for not picking me last winter but I hope the slate is clean now," Stewart said. "I would like to think that what happened today would help my cause. I want to play more one-day internationals."

He did not manage it without support and Ben Hollioake, playing with sensible restraint, helped Stewart add 96 in 21 overs. The contribution was vital after what had gone before when the 23-year-old Hoggard, swinging the ball at a brisk pace, had left Surrey's early order in tatters.

Both Mark Butcher and Graham Thorpe were undone by balls that swung into them late, while Alistair Brown was bowled through the gate. When it does not swing, Hoggard tends to slip himself and bowl fast, and the delivery he dismissed Adam Hollioake with fairly flew off the shoulder of the bat to David Byas at second slip.

Following injuries to leading contenders, England are looking for a pace bowler to support Darren Gough and Andrew Caddick in the first Test. Hoggard's timing was spot on. His bowling looks pretty good too, and he spent the winter honing it while playing for Free State in South Africa.

Only Stewart had the right mixture of technique and temperament to survive the early onslaught, a combination that also saw him to within a decent thump of his century. Ironically, it was his inability to slog effectively in the final few overs, that probably denied him the landmark his skill and determination deserved.

At this time of year, with pitches grassy and plush, the new ball is vital and Alex Tudor struck twice courtesy of two magnificent salmon leaps in the gully by Hollioake Jnr, whose catching and fielding was outstanding. Martin Bicknell, another who could be in the shake-up for a bowling berth in the first Test, also bowled well, removing Byas with a ball that cut back sharply off the pitch.

With Yorkshire also indisposed from losing early wickets, it was left to Darren Lehmann to re-enact the role Stewart had played earlier. It might have seen Yorkshire home too, but he was given out, caught down the leg-side, off Adam Hollioake. Television replays later showed the decision from umpire Tony Clarkson to be a harsh one, the ball clipping his pad instead of bat.

If that was fate from an outside agency, the rest was self-inflicted as wickets tumbled in the closing overs and Yorkshire grit became dust in the breeze.

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