Saqlain turns the screw

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The Independent Online
Middlesex 205 and 201 Surrey 531-9 dec Surrey win by an innings and 125 runs

Saqlain Mushtaq's fourth successive five-wicket haul in an innings may have helped steer Surrey to a second impressive win on the trot, but it also served as a painful reminder of what they are about to lose.

Surrey are in delicate negotiations with the Pakistan Cricket Board over how much longer they can keep the mesmeric off-spinner. The best they can hope for is that he will miss only their last game before departing to take part in yet another one day tournament - the Sahara Cup in Canada - but he could be forced to leave a match earlier. Since he has already had to have a mid-season exeat to turn out in the Asia Cup, Surrey can feel justified in thinking that they have had the hard part of a bargain.

Thanks to Saqlain, Surrey have now picked up a maximum 48 points from their last two matches, and while the Championship may be out of reach a top three or four placing is not an unrealistic goal. It is doubtful whether any other side will be quite so obliging as Middlesex, who rolled over with more than a day to spare. It was an object lesson in abject submission, and Middlesex made even less of a fist of it second time around.

Richard Johnson, the nightwatchman, stuck around for more than 14 overs while putting on 57 for the second wicket with Jason Pooley, but when he was needlessly run-out the die was cast.

Experience, in the shape of Mike Gatting and Mark Ramprakash, and raw talent (Owais Shah), fared no better. Ramprakash survived two deliveries and was Saqlain's first victim. Gatting was the second and Surrey went for the jugular.

Pooley was doing what he does best, going for his shots, until he got the inevitable unplayable delivery from Surrey's young left-arm spinner Rupesh Amin. Shah and Keith Brown ensured play entered the afternoon session, but they could not stem the tide.

Lewis accounted for Shah; Brown, Keith Dutch and Angus Fraser earned Saqlain a return of 5 for 66 and match figures of 10 for 116; and Amin had the honour of dispatching the last man, Jamie Hewitt.

The former prime minister, John Major, was moved enough by the victory to congratulate the winners; perhaps he will intercede on their behalf over Saqlain.