Exquisite Stewart caught napping

Surrey 457-9 v Hampshire
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The Independent Online
The mood was there, so was the Benson and Hedges Cup won at the weekend, the only thing missing was a Surrey century. They did everything else pretty well, including batting first on a benign Guildford wicket, which revealed a rich seam of runs to be mined and an outfield cropped close, thus helping to speed the ball on its way to the modest boundaries.

Alec Stewart got closest, the roof caving in on him when he was a tantalising two runs away from what would have been his 41st first-class hundred. He fell to a catch behind by Adrian Aymes, the quality of which was worthy of the England wicketkeeper's innings.

The timing and placement of Stewart's 15 boundaries were exquisite and effortless. If he played and missed early on, there was not a false stroke once he had got under way. His abrupt departure not long after lunch was soon followed by that of his England colleague and brother-in-law, Mark Butcher.

The left-hander, dropped on 11, was beginning to excel, but the hundred that was there for the taking passed him by as well. At least by then he had turned in his best batting performance for Surrey this summer.

Adam Hollioake, the captain, emerged to have a dart. Having decided to part with his manager, Gareth James, prior to his innings, he quickly showed that he had also shed the baggage of poor form that has dogged him in the first-class game.

A collection of boundaries enlivened the afternoon session; he managed to make his highest score for Surrey, but he too was fated not to reach three figures.

His younger brother, Ben, has been Surrey's man of the moment, and that was just about as long as he lasted, but hopes were raised by Graham Thorpe. He, too, reached the glass ceiling of a season's best in the Championship, then perished.

By the time Chris Lewis, 66 not out - his first time past 50 this summer - and the teenage fast bowler, Alex Tudor, had unleashed a flurry of savage shots to brighten the evening the maximum four batting bonus points were safely in the bag - only the third time they have managed that this year.

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