Surrey short of runs and time

Nottinghamshire 446-9 dec Surrey 128-4
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The Independent Online
Inspiration, allied with desperation bred of five consecutive championship defeats, launched Nottinghamshire into a remark-able position of command over third-placed Surrey in this heavily rain-affected match which has already lost a day and a half.

The bottom line is that the weather ironically kept the Championship challengers in contention because with Friday's play washed away, the captains must inevitably make declarations to resuscitate the contest. Despite Alistair Brown's ebullient half-century Surrey are 218 runs adrift with six wickets intact.

Given three full days, Nottinghamshire would have been in even greater control. They were forced into a declaration simply by the lack of time, a curious situation after their previous batting misadventures this season.

Surrey fared badly in their twin attempt to survive and score swiftly, Mark Butcher being caught at the wicket and Darren Bicknell, hitherto the scourge of Nottinghamshire, miscuing to mid-off. Bicknell rubs his hands at the sight of the not-so-rampant stags on Nottinghamshire sweaters. He has made two double-hundreds against them in the past two summers, one during a marathon in excess of 10 hours at Trent Bridge.

Mention double-hundreds to Matthew Dowman and he could be forgiven for wincing. Dowman, the highest scorer for England under-19s with 267 against West Indies at Hove three years ago, has done precious little since by those days.

That record has haunted Dowman until now, when a maiden Championship hundred matched his career-best 107 against Oxford in The Parks last year. The 22-year-old Lincolnshire lad, recalled for this match, has become a key member of the Sunday team which has won five games in a row. As well as opening, he has been used as a medium-fast bowler. Recently, Dowman has been in earnest conversation with his team-mate Chris Cairns, the New Zealand Test all-rounder, and has apparently benefited from the tutorials.

Bringing in Dowman and Graeme Archer, another previously omitted batsman, for Paul Pollard and Afzaal Usman, on England under-19 duty, worked well. Archer's seventh first-class hundred was followed by Wayne Noon's first Championship half-century of the summer.

This frustrated Surrey who had risen from 13th in the table in early June to top two months later. Brendon Julian summed up Surrey's dilemma as Nottinghamshire recovered from a first-day 98 for three.

His line was variable, as his figures of four for 104 at around five an over illustrated. But his dismissal of Archer, without addition to his Thursday score of 143, punished the batsman's error as he attempted to work the ball through the on-side.

Surrey's ground fielding had lacked the conviction of aspiring champions, and when they batted the loss of Nadeem Shahid, third out at 52, and then Jason Ratcliffe made the follow-on look possible until play was abandoned after tea. Surrey's position remains tenuous but Paul Johnson, the opposing captain, knows they will chase anything to sustain hopes of a first Championship title for 25 years.