Harden's hard graft gives Somerset edge

Cricket: Somerset 463; Surrey 172-7
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The Independent Online
The only certainty to come out of the first two days of the season here is that both Somerset and Surrey - two of the slowest counties with their over rates in the Championship last year when they were fined pounds 6,000 and pounds 4,000 respectively - will be in this particular frame again come September. On the first day, play continued until 7.03, and on the second the players did not come off until 14 minutes past.

On this showing, too, it is most unlikely that Surrey will justify the bookmakers' odds of 11-2 for the title. They have played some poor cricket in this match so far: the bowling was all over the place and it came from players too experienced to fall back on the excuse that this is the first match of the season.

In the field, they managed to give away a total of 86 extras, a record for any first-class match anywhere in the world. Even allowing that wides and no balls now count too, 26 no balls and four wides is inexcusable.

There was little discipline to the bowling or to the batting either when Surrey's middle order collapsed in the most undignified manner to Graham Rose soon after tea. When Brendon Julian was chosen for the forthcoming Australian tour, Surrey decided to do without an overseas player this year. Now they must be considering putting through an urgent call to the French Foreign Legion.

All this before a crowd which just about struggled into three figures, and gave solid backing to the views of the editor of Wisden that the game nowadays is perceived as "elitist, exclusionist and dull". For two days the standards in this game have struggled, at times not so manfully either, to rise above the mediocre.

The first part of the day again revolved round Richard Harden, who it could hardly be said has a talent to entertain. In fairness though, his 136, which took nearly eight hours (it seemed longer) may win the match for Somerset.

This looked even more likely when, in nine balls, Rose had Graham Thorpe and Alec Stewart lbw and then surprised Adam Hollioake with a short one. All this, after Steve Herzberg's amiable off breaks had removed the openers.

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