Ostler is hard on Surrey

MICHAEL AUSTINreports from EdgbastonWarwickshire 344-4 v Surrey
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Forewarned and forearmed, maybe not. Only last week, Mike Gatting put in Warwickshire on this same green sward and Middlesex lost heavily. Alec Stewart repeated the feat, or perhaps fate, and could suffer in the fullness of a sunlit match.

Whether it was the thought of ducking Donald, Allan that is, or believing the green-tinged pitch might grow in generosity for batsmen was debatable, or possibly Surrey have decided to do things the hard way this summer.

Earlier this week they beat Gloucestershire after being forced to follow on. This time, Dominic Ostler, with his eighth first-class hundred, caused them psychological and pediatric pain. He scored 181 not out from 291 balls with 30 fours and two sixes as Surrey's limited attack, lacking the injured Martin Bicknell, started to fret, despite the sharp assistance of the infielders.

They had to be supportive because Surrey's line and length was variable. Stewart did a sifting job, using six bowlers in the first 60 overs, without finding the golden key to unlock a collapse. Ostler saw to that, along with Dermot Reeve, his captain. Together, they added 146 in an unbroken partnership, which contrasted heavily with the first-morning waiting game, that illustrated how Warwickshire have adapted to the four-day format.

Ostler, Solihull-born, made his debut five years ago, has strode on to big hundreds when passing three figures, with a career-best 192 against Surrey at Guildford three years ago, and knows he needs to reproduce some of the major innings which Brian Lara played last year.

At lunch, Warwickshire were 87 for 3. Tea arrived at 211 for 4 with Ostler, on 89, having batted throughout the afternoon session. The Reeve factor makes most teams as jittery as he appears to be when batting. For him, taking strike five overs before tea is just a pill to be taken, with two sugars. He was back out in the middle after his Darjeeling and appreciated the old, familiar feeling.

Surrey recognised it, too, not least Tony Pigott, one of Reeve's contemporaries with Sussex. Pigott's competitive urge, like that of Reeve, remains unquenchable. This match also has the young and the new-ish. The 24-year-old Wasim Khan, Warwickshire's opener, made his first-class debut in this, his fifth season on the staff and Richard Nowell, 19, a Surrey left-arm spinner, showed resilience, alongside willingness to experiment with flight in difficult circumstances.

Ostler created many of them, taking 11 from a Pigott over after tea to reach a century, having survived, on 67, when bowled by a no-ball by Mark Butcher. Trevor Penney and Roger Twose had battled hard in Warwickshire's earlier attritional process and Surrey became somewhat ruffled roosters.