By Peter Deeley at Chelmsford
First day of four: Surrey (127-4) v Essex
A DAY of volatile action, all squeezed into a morning's play, was climaxed with Essex left-arm spinner Paul Grayson twice being called for wides by umpire Mervyn Kitchen under the new negative tactic rule.
Surrey were going along at five an over, despite being put in and losing four wickets, when Grayson was brought on with instructions from his captain Nasser Hussain to close down the run rate.
Grayson chose to bowl over the wicket and with wicket-keeper Robert Rollins taking a line outside leg, it was a pretty clear indication of Essex's strategy. The umpire said: ``I let Grayson bowl a couple of balls, then drew an imaginary line in my mind and when a couple pitched outside that line it was my duty to call him.''
A new playing regulation was introduced this season which says: ``For bowlers whom umpires consider to be bowling down the leg side as a negative tactic, the strict Limited Over wide interpretation will be applied.''
Grayson's three overs went for nine runs - including four for the wides - so he had effectively put a brake on Surrey's rampage when play finally ended for the day nine minutes before lunch.
Mark Ilott struck the first blow as early as the second over when he bowled Mark Butcher on the drive but debutant fast bowler Jamie Grove, 18, had an early insight into the problems of trying to restrict Alec Stewart when the England captain three times hammered him to the boundary.
It was left to Ilott to remove Stewart leg before when the batsman pushed his pad forward and offered no stroke. Surrey were 59 for three in no time when Danny Law, taking over from Grove, dismissed Jason Ratcliffe as the opener attempted to drive a full-length delivery.
Law broke through again as Graham Thorpe chopped on to his stumps but Adam Hollioake and Alistair Brown fairly rattled along, reaching a half-century stand in 42 balls.
Day 2: Stewart's secret is a matter of honour
By Peter Deeley at Chelmsford
Second day of four: Essex (120-6) trail Surrey (373) by 253 runs
FOR such a hyperactive player, Alec Stewart has had something of an uneventful two days watching the championship leaders once more in the ascendant. But the England captain has been nursing a secret - today he is made an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours List to go with his father's OBE.
By way of marking the occasion, Stewart took a couple of slip catches but for much of the time he was content to let his Surrey colleagues make all the running.
That was not very difficult because Essex - who are bottom of the table - are hardly the force of old. Surrey's last four wickets added 174 with the final pair of Jon Batty and Saqlain Mushtaq putting on 63 in 71 balls as the home captain, Nasser Hussain, seemed at times to allow matters to drift out of control.
There was compensation for Essex in the brisk pace and penetration of James Grove, 18, marking his debut with three wickets, two of them in his first over of the day.
Grove claimed the scalps of the Hollioake brothers in three balls. The omens were not good for Grove when he came on with Adam Hollioake and Alistair Brown going full-blooded on the attack.
Brown hit Grove's second ball back for six but then the Surrey captain sliced the bowler deep to third man to bring to an end a fifth-wicket stand which added 131 in 24 overs.
Almost immediately, Ben Hollioake, seeking to maintain the impetus, skied an attempted pull off Grove to mid-on and when Brown was leg before coming across the line to Mark Ilott that should have been the end of effective Surrey resistance.
But Batty with his second half-century of the summer and Saqlain's highest for Surrey were so in control that it was hard to understand why Peter Such sent down only nine overs in the innings.
After the early loss of two wickets Essex were dependent on Hussain and Stuart Law. They added 36 runs in half an hour, each hitting a six, but Ben Hollioake then claimed two victims in successive overs, Hussain being picked up at deep point off a loose drive by Brown who retired to nurse a damaged hand.
When Hollioake dismissed Law he had taken three wickets in 24 balls.
Day 3: Surrey treat Stewart with 'kid' gloves
By Scyld Berry at Chelmsford
IN a dramatic rescue bid, Essex and Surrey cricketers broke the ice on the River Chelmer to free canoeists who had become stranded when the water froze yesterday. Well, not quite, but it was still cold, bleak, wet and windy enough for only 14 overs to take place yesterday morning.
In that period Surrey took two more wickets to maintain their chances of dismissing Essex for less than 224 on Monday and 'inviting' them to follow on. Martin Bicknell had Danny Law caught behind in the act of withdrawing his bat and Mark Ilott caught with typically immaculate precision by Surrey's second slip, MBE.
Shortly afterwards a fly-past of aeroplanes took place over the County Ground, but it transpired to be on behalf of the Trooping of the Colour rather than Alec Stewart.
``We thought about giving it the 'we-are-not-worthy' said Surrey's captain, Adam Hollioake, of his newly honoured team-mate. ``But Nadeem Shahid isn't here and he's our main joker.''
After the result at Edgbaston, Stewart fully merits his honour, of course, for becoming the first England Test captain since Bob Willis not to start his official captaincy with a defeat. His batting, more seriously, has at its best been the most handsome feature of England's cricket since Graham Gooch's fading. It will be interesting to see if he is asked to wear wicketkeeping gloves when he receives his medal.
In his typically controversial way, Stewart disclosed yesterday: ``I celebrated with a Perrier.'' He also took some Micky out of his father when he told him the news. ``He said I've got an OBE, and you've only got a MBE. But I told him he had to wait until he was 65 before he got his award.''
For Surrey to achieve collective honours this season their injury list will have to shorten soon. Ben Hollioake has now strained his groin, could not bowl yesterday and will not be able to play today in the AXA League - the competition in which Surrey are bottom, compared with top of the Britannic Assurance Championship - and therefore liable to start next season in the lower division of the National League.
Ali Brown was unable to field yesterday with his bruised right hand but may have to play today. Graham Thorpe nursed his bruised left fingers by fielding away from the slips at mid-on and third man; Darren Bicknell's back, Shahid's virus, Ian Salisbury's groin tear and Adam Hollioake's slightly dodgy pelvis will also be subjects for the Bedser twins when they celebrate their 80th birthday in three weeks time.
To fill in yesterday, into the wind, Mark Butcher had a brief spell during which he achieved the distinction of six no-balls with a single delivery, something that again did not happen in the Bedsers' day. He overstepped, fired down the legside and saw the ball go for four byes.
Of their four championship wins so far, Surrey have won three by an innings. To achieve a fourth against Essex, and to paper over their injury list, and give the Bedsers something else to celebrate, Saqlain Mushtaq is going to be a central figure, but yesterday was so cold that he concentrated on off-breaks without dipping into his sack full of variations.
Saqlain this season has so far taken 23 wickets at 18 runs each, while spin elsewhere in the country is in such general recession that last season, perhaps for the first time since Adam (not Hollioake), no left-armer took 50 championship wickets. It is through being an offand leg-spinner, on the same individual lines as Sonny Ramadhin, that Saqlain manages to buck the trend.
But in the AXA League Saqlain is limited to his eight overs, and Surrey have yet to win a match. ``Against Warwickshire we had a 10-over game, and Darren Gough bowled brilliantly for Yorkshire, but we did play bad cricket against Hampshire,'' admitted the senior Hollioake.
To win the championship and come bottom of the unlamented league, that would be style.
Day 4: Frustrated Surrey are still on top
By Peter Deeley at Chelmsford
Essex (203 & 75-4) drew with Surrey (373)
SURREY, frustrated by the rain in their drive for a fourth innings victory of the season, can only take consolation in the fact that they remain at the top of the championship table while Essex stay bottom.
Less than half a day's play was possible yesterday, in which time Essex's tail-enders held out for an hour before Martin Bicknell whistled through their top order when the follow-on was enforced.
Surrey began the day with three absentees - Alistair Brown (bruised finger), Ben Hollioake (groin strain) and England captain Alec Stewart with an upset stomach.
Stewart said he would be fully fit for the Lord's Test which starts on Thursday. More worryingly for England, Mark Butcher bruised his left thumb when missing a slip catch.
Essex debutant James Grove resisted bravely and was prepared to attack before Alex Tudor disturbed his stumps. When Essex batted again, Bicknell's pace and movement were too much for Paul Grayson and Nasser Hussain and when Darren Robinson edged to third slip Bicknell had claimed three wickets in 22 balls.