Sorry Surrey let it slide

Surrey 452 & 106-5 Leicestershire 411
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The Independent Online
Despite early season optimism, Surrey are yet to record a win in this year's Championship. They let Derbyshire off the hook two weeks ago at the Oval and managed to convert a dominant position into ragged retreat here yesterday through poor fielding, toothless bowling and inadequate batting.

The only bright spot for Surrey was a sparkling innings of 66 from the newly-capped Mark Butcher. The left-hander is in rich form, having passed 50 eight times in 11 championship innings, and he made batting look absurdly simple as the wickets tumbled around him. When he was out, caught at cover, Surrey looked very shaky.

Leicestershire resumed needing 81 to avoid the follow-on and looked to be in dire trouble when Aftab Habib drove a simple return catch to Darren Bicknell with only five runs added. Surrey anticipated running through the tail but they were met with dogged resistance from Gordon Parsons and David Millns, who added 75 to get within a run of the follow- on mark.

The partnership started slowly with off-spinner Richard Pearson bowling eight consecutive maidens but the batsmen's confidence grew with each passing delivery. Parsons rode his luck with a bottom edge which flew past the wicketkeeper to end Pearson's parsimony but he flourished as his innings progressed. Pearson was cut for four, Joey Benjamin pulled through square leg and Darren Bicknell clumped for six over long-on.

Parsons brought up his 50 with a sweet drive for four off Chris Lewis but perished in the following over attempting the same shot with Alistair Brown taking a fine, diving, one-handed catch at point. Millns followed in the next over, his off-stump uprooted by a yorker from Lewis.

The arrival of Alan Mullally at the crease is usually heralded by the sound of kettles being boiled in anticipation of a speedy close to the innings. Mullally looked true to form and had failed to score when he prodded a Martin Bicknell lifter to short leg only for Adam Hollioake to spill the chance.

This was a ghastly error but worse was to follow as Surrey's out-cricket deteriorated into a shambles. Mullally was dropped twice more (by Benjamin at deep square-leg and Pearson at mid-on) as he doubled his previous career best of 34 and added 105 for the final wicket with Adrian Pierson.

Each of Mullally's personal landmarks was cheered raucously from the visitors' balcony. Lewis was short-arm pulled over square-leg for six and smacked for four over long-on. No bowler escaped punishment and Surrey were a picture of dejection when he was eventually bowled round his legs as he attempted an outrageous sweep.