New best for old Athey

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The Independent Online

reports from The Oval

Surrey 239-7

Sussex 240-2

Sussex win by 8 wickets

The quicker Carl Rackemann turns up at The Oval the better. Surrey's attack is looking pretty sorry already. Martin Bicknell is crocked, Mark Butcher can bat but not bowl and, of course, there is no Waqar Younis.

Surrey admitted they would still like to have him back when he becomes available again in 1997 - assuming he tours over here with Pakistan next summer - but the confusion over Waqar's state of health (is his back bad or not?) prompted them to sign Rackemann and, subject to a Home Office work permit, the burden of strike bowler will fall on his 34-year-old shoulders later this month.

Rackemann cannot come soon enough as far as Surrey are concerned. And they must be concerned after the eight-wicket thumping they received at the hands of Sussex.

While no single Surrey bowler could match Jason Lewry's blank return for 71 runs, similarly nor did they they have a pair to Ed Giddins and Franklyn Stephenson, whose economy was punctuated with wickets at crucial times to confine Surrey to a disappointing total on a benign pitch. However, Surrey's bowling shortage has uncovered one promising talent in teenager Richard Nowell. Neil Kendrick and James Boiling left The Oval in the winter but Nowell, 19, is a slow left-arm bowler who really looks the business.

But it was a man of nearly two score years, 20 of them in the competition, who showed the Surrey youngsters the way. Bill Athey, now 37 and fresh from a pair in Sussex's dismal defeat against Derbyshire, stroked his way to a Benson and Hedges best of 97 ( he has yet to reach three figures in the Cup in 74 matches) and virtually ensured that Surrey would not progress to the knock-out stages.

After Athey departed, having hit two glorious sixes and eight fours to lift the gold award, Neil Lenham steered Sussex home with 17 balls to spare, having made an assured, unbeaten 73.

Earlier Surrey's Alistair Brown had been a study in concentration - once he had got over giving a couple of chances at 15 and 22, both off Ian Salisbury's bowling. He still produces some colourful strokes, but now more attention is paid to detail, the broad, brash brushwork of his previous couple of seasons is used sparingly, but tellingly. His career-best 187 against Gloucestershire at the weekend served notice of his intent to be regarded as a serious batsman, yesterday's innings underlined that.

It formed the focus of the Surrey innings, which was further boosted by the contribution from David Ward. The pair of them put on 60 before Brown became the fourth victim of a generally accurate Sussex attack. When Stephenson had him leg before to the fifth ball after lunch Brown's tally of boundaries was modest by his own big-hitting standards - two sixes and half a dozen fours.

Unfortunately the remainder of the Surrey batting lacked the urgency displayed particularly by Ward as the innings drew to an inadequate close.