Durham take a drubbing

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The Independent Online
Durham 269 and 56-2

Surrey 652-9 dec

COMPARED with what Surrey have done to Durham's bowling here in the past two days, the massacre of the innocents was mere child's play. Each of the front-line bowlers - more to the point, the bowlers in the front line - was put to the sword to the tune of 100-plus runs as Surrey compiled their sixth-highest total of 652 for nine declared. While yesterday was the 150th anniversary of cricket at The Oval, some of what we saw was first-class cricket in name only.

On the day that Durham conceded their second highest total - last season's 810 for four declared by Lancashire tops the list - they hardly needed to take the field without their left-arm fast bowler, Simon Brown. His absence, with a strained Achilles tendon, reduced Durham to a couple of medium pacers and a pair of off-spinners, and presented Surrey's batsmen with the opportunity to fill their boots after last week's morale-bruising encounter with Allan Donald and Warwickshire.

In all, there were four century partnerships in Surrey's total, with Alec Stewart and Mark Butcher prominent. Together, in fact, they had taken their own stand to 193 when Stewart, having reached 151 with his 25th four, was bowled neck and crop next ball by the 18-year-old off- spinner Jason Searle. It was a rare moment of glory for the youngster. Before the morning was through, Alistair Brown had opened his account by thumping Searle for three sixes and a four in 11 balls.

Brown's mistake was thinking Durham's bowling was fairground stuff - reasonable enough in the circumstances - and playing accordingly. The left-handed pair in partnership before him were not so reckless, adding 121 in 91 minutes. Butcher alternated between a straight bat and a full swing of the blade in attack. Graham Thorpe, with his precise footwork and stabbing off-side drives, picked off the bowling with all the pity of a sniper until, pushing forward, he edged Shaun Birbeck's first ball to the wicketkeeper.

Birbeck's medium pace also accounted for Butcher, well caught by James Daley at square leg off a powerful pull, and Brown. Butcher's career-best 167, off 263 balls, contained 25 fours and two sixes - a fine innings somewhat overshadowed by the avalanche of big hitting from Brown, Adam Hollioake and Graham Kersey. The last pair put on 109 for the sixth wicket in 99 minutes, with Hollioake's fierce striking bringing three sixes and 10 fours. Kersey had a six and eight fours in his maiden first class half- century.

Stewart's eventual declaration left Durham requiring 383 to avoid an innings defeat and a possible 25 overs to bat last night. They hardly wanted Martin Bicknell and Joey Benjamin with their danders up, but of course it was what they got. Mike Roseberry and John Morris were out to injudicious shots before bad light brought an early close.

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