Yorkshire face trouble on and off the pitch

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The Independent Online

Yorkshire were last night expecting to hear that they had been docked eight points for insufficient preparation of the pitch here at North Marine Road. A glance at the scores makes such a decision seem bizarre, if not ludicrous, and they will almost certainly appeal.

Yorkshire were last night expecting to hear that they had been docked eight points for insufficient preparation of the pitch here at North Marine Road. A glance at the scores makes such a decision seem bizarre, if not ludicrous, and they will almost certainly appeal.

If the appeal fails, after what looks likely to be a second defeat of the season by Surrey, another Championship campaign will have crumbled and there will be dark mutterings around Headingley this autumn. Frustration at another year of under-achievement will only partly be eased by winning the National League. One-day cricket is small beer where Yorkshire are concerned.

The mysterious pitch controversy seems not to have taken into account the fact that a new cricket ball will seam and swing on wet, cloudy northern grounds at almost any time of the year. What Surrey have complained about (as did Lancashire at Leeds) is that the surface was unnaturally damp at the start.

The umpires (John Harris and Barrie Dudleston) informed Mike Denness, the pitch liaison officer, who called in the panel overnight and was joined yesterday morning by Chris Wood, the ECB's pitches consultant, and Alan Fordham, Director of Operations. Members queuing for early admission were delayed 10 minutes while the pitch, by then presumably dry, was prodded and inspected.The panel interviewed both captains, the umpires and groundsman Adrian Griffiths at close of play, then informed the Board and both counties of their decision before it was made public.

Another good crowd, approaching 5,000, was unaware of this drama, though rumours were circulating the ground. But there was more than enough to keep them occupied in the middle. The Surrey tail wagged for another 10 overs and 26 runs, the last five wickets adding 188, before Alex Tudor gave a dramatic lesson to his young rivals in co-ordinated fast bowling.

His first ball, cutting back, confounded Simon Widdup; his second, swinging away, found Anthony McGrath's edge.

Ben Hollioake yorked Victor Craven in the second over and at 4 for 3 the pitch might have been made of blue cheese for all it mattered. The veterans Darren Lehmann and David Byas responded with 50 runs in 10 overs and a genuine recovery seemed probable when Byas pushed forward at a slower ball and was scooped up at short leg.

Gary Fellows flickered before falling to the returning Tudor, then there was a five-over break for rain at which point Gavin Hamilton played to cover, ran, changed his mind and Lehmann, on 66 off 74 balls, was run out by Ian Ward's throw.

Hamilton, mortified, did his best to rally the tail but once Saqlain appeared the last two wickets fell without cost in seven balls. Tudor having limped off with cramp, Adam Hollioake, with a lead of 198, did not further strain his thin bowling resources by enforcing the follow-on.

Yorkshire did bowl with more sense and purpose a second time: Silverwood at last found Ward's edge and Nadeem Shahid was bowled not offering a stroke. Adam Hollioake should have been caught at mid-off, off Matthew Hoggard, when one, at 39 for 2.

In the fading light the county champions took a pounding from Hoggard, and it was no surprise when the umpires intervened with 22 overs remaining, Surrey having extended their lead to 251.

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