Surrey limited by their lack of spin

Nottinghamshire 392-6 v Surrey
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The Independent Online
Surrey must find it irksome to be reminded as often as they are that they lack a decent spinner but there would be no use pretending that it played no part in their frustrations here yesterday, reinforcing the view that their title credentials are flawed as a result.

Nottinghamshire won the toss but after five consecutive defeats in the Championship can have approached their task with little confidence. Tim Robinson and Ashley Metcalfe began serenely enough but then both got themselves out, as did the captain, Paul Johnson, through poor strokes, a regrettable waste against undemanding bowling on an easy-paced pitch.

It was at this point, after Johnson's dismissal at 98 for 3 that Surrey must have wished that they had a Phil Tufnell or a Peter Such in their locker, someone canny enough to keep things tight but attempt a few more of the indiscretions to which their opponents had already shown themselves prone. One could not fault the effort put in by Richard Pearson, the off- spinner acquired from Essex, but Surrey again felt the need to fall back on Darren Bicknell, their opening batsman, to help out.

Bicknell's slow left-arm bowling claimed six Sussex wickets at Guildford last month in a Surrey victory. He picked up two more yesterday, but not before the initiative had been wrested away from his county by Matthew Dowman and Graeme Archer, two young batsmen in need of better fortune, whose partnership of 187 in 38 overs was not only an entertaining spectacle but one that turned the day into Nottinghamshire's most satisfying for some weeks.

Dowman's century was his first in the Championship in 16 first-class games, spread over three seasons, completed when he crashed his 15th boundary through the covers off Darren Bicknell. The same bowler was to claim his wicket shortly afterwards but until that moment, ignoring Martin Bicknell's appeal for a catch at the wicket when Dowman was 66, it had been a chanceless innings that exuded authority.

In 1993, Dowman made 267 for Young England against the West Indies at Hove and while it may still be pertinent to ask how it is that so little has been seen of him since, a few more innings as mature as this, which equalled his first-class career best, may lead Nottinghamshire to think themselves wise not to have rushed him.

Archer, who has had more chances but could have made more of them, began looking less secure than his partner but went on to prosper none the less. Disappointingly, he received little support from Chris Cairns, but after reaching his hundred with his 11th four he found a more adhesive partner in Wayne Noon. When bad light forced an early finish, Archer was unbeaten on 143, after four and three-quarter hours at the crease, in a seventh- wicket partnership worth 83.