Surrey 370 & 287-7dec Leicestershire 244 & 314 (Surrey win by 99 runs): Clarke benefits from party line
Surrey have never been the most popular of county cricket clubs. A certain arrogance has occasionally pervaded their play, a haughtiness towards provincial clubs bred resentment and so their relegation at the end of last season was rather well received everywhere except Kennington.
If their efficient victory over Leicestershire, completed yesterday by some disciplined bowling by Rikki Clarke and Jimmy Ormond, is a precursor of the rest of the season then those that gloated last September had better prepare for the Browncaps return to the top flight.
They certainly have the personnel and the father and son management-captain partnership of Alan and Mark Butcher is hugely experienced in both the good and bad of life to ensure a calm, professional club.
They started off yesterday needing nine wickets with another 340 runs to use if necessary, although once Hylton Ackerman was bowled followed soon after by Dinesh Mongia, it was more a matter of when, not if.
Clarke has for long been acknowledged as a very talented player but the obstacles to his becoming a more central part of England's squads have been a seeming immaturity and lack of pace with the ball.
Not any more. Surrey have appointed him vice-captain, extra responsibility which has already started to accelerate his mental development, and he bowled a tight off-stump line to both left- and right-handers.
This accuracy was well allied to a consistently good length, something that the stubbornly slow and low pitch demanded but even then he still made the occasional delivery bounce sharply. He certainly cannot be labelled quick but there were definite signs of briskness and he deserved his three wickets.
Ormond also contributed three wickets and ended the stubborn resistance of Darren Maddy although the former England bowler was hampered somewhat by a hamstring niggle. For Maddy it was an infuriating end to his best championship innings for almost two years, a poor return for a player of his stature. He cut powerfully, defended with a straight bat and negated the threat of any daisy-cutters by committing well forward, and when the bowlers strayed towards his pads he neatly worked and clipped them into the gaps on the leg-side.
In recent seasons he has been used more as an all-rounder, his medium pace swingers forcing him to drop down the order but what he needs is a decent run opening the innings. It is how he made his name in the nineties and Leicestershire are certainly going to need some substantial scores from him.
For Surrey it was a perfect riposte to the indignity of being made to follow-on by Derbyshire last week. With Mohammad Akram to return from injury and Anil Kumble due a spell from mid-summer, anything less than winning the division should be a disappointment.
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