Inhospitable Surrey are taking no prisoners

NATWEST TROPHY QUARTER-FINALS: Home side poised to join Essex, Lancashire and Yorkshire in final four
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The Independent Online
Somerset 225 Surrey 126-4

Their place at the top of the Championship shows that Surrey have improved immeasurably as a team this season. As a club, however, their self-importance consumes them to the point of ridicule. Trying to park a car inside the prison camp perimeter of Surrey's unlovely HQ is now as difficult as having a picnic at Stonehenge.

Mind you, it was hardly a "help yourself" buffet in the middle yesterday either, as the batsmen from both sides struggled to dominate bowling that was never quite as straightforward as it looked. But if the general hypothesis that Somerset's score of 225 appeared inadequate the proof will have to wait until today because bad light ended play early.

With 25 overs of their innings left, and six wickets in hand, Surrey need exactly 100 runs to go through to the semi-finals. However, should rain wash the day out completely, Somerset will triumph by virtue of a superior run rate, and more than a few flagons of cider will, no doubt, have been sacrificed to the rain gods last night.

Failing that, Somerset will have to rely on Andy Caddick to produce something extraordinary in his two remaining overs. Caddick, who has not played for England since the Antigua Test in 1994, when Brian Lara set his world record score of 375, has been the best bowler on either side here, although, with Chris Lewis failing a fitness test, comparisons with the current England bowler were not possible on a pitch with more than a tinge of green in it.

Loping in off his short run, Caddick got steep bounce and generous movement off the seam. Darren Bicknell, off the mark with a four first ball, was lbw to the next. A productive opening over also saw the exit of Alec Stewart, the Surrey captain, run out for nought by Harvey Trump's direct hit.

Changing to the Vauxhall End for his second spell, the tall Somerset bowler then removed Graham Thorpe, Rob Turner taking a fine tumbling catch behind off a defensive edge. His legside loosener to open his third spell from the same end induced Alastair Brown to glance Turner the chance to complete another fine catch and end an 83-run partnership with Mark Butcher before the bad light and rain descended.

Earlier Somerset squandered the good start given to them by Peter Bowler and Simon Ecclestone. However, with just over 10 overs to go, they lost six wickets for 45 runs and a decent total evaporated in a flurry of hot- headed batting.

Reaching one's 150th birthday is another important milestone for this club, and Surrey have commissioned a painting by Jocelyn Galsworthy to celebrate the occasion. However, as far as those who make lengthy journeys to this ground are concerned, they would be better off employing someone to paint in a few more parking bays behind the stands at the Vauxhall End.

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