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Cricket: Bell and Trott in cruise control; Warwickshire beat Surrey by seven wickets.

Byline: George Dobell Chief Cricket Writer At Guildford

That two Warwickshire batsmen should play innings of maturity and composure is hardly a surprise in this run-gorged season.

That those two batsmen should be aged only 22 and 23 makes the achievement all the more impressive and augurs exceptionally well for the future of this young team.

Deeply impressive batting by Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott saw Warwickshire make light of a potentially tricky last-day target of 207 against Surrey and claim maximum points for the fifth time this season. Victory stretches their lead at the top of the table to 41 points.

Bell, adding an unbeaten 96 to his first-innings 155, and passing 1,000 runs in the season for the first time in the process, added 138 in 34 overs with Trott, soothing some anxious Warwickshire hearts and securing victory.

Given just a little contrivance, Warwickshire could have helped Bell to his second century of the match. But, good team man as he is, Bell was having none of it Set 207 to win, Warwickshire had stuttered to 37 for two when the pair came together. Mark Wagh, who looks less happy on pitches offering bounce, played on attempting to leave a ball from Ormond, and Nick Knight was lulled into reaching outside his off stump. The pitch was as true as ever but Surrey's bowlers sensed their chance and moved up a gear. Many are the side that have let the pressure of such situations prey on their minds. But Bell (11 fours, one six, 146 balls) and Trott (100 balls, nine fours) played with calm authority. At first they were happy to occupy the crease; seeing off the new ball and repulsing fresh bowlers. Slowly, however, they began to dominate, with Bell skipping down the pitch and planting Nayan Doshi over the marquees lining this attractive ground and Trott unleashing his rapier-like square cut whenever the bowlers dropped short.

Everyone involved in the Warwickshire set-up is anxious that Bell should not be talked of as an England prospect lest the 'pressure' affects his game. They needn't worry. Bell is an admirably level-headed 22year-old and quite capable of dealing with the intensity of Test cricket.

Besides it's too bad. Of course Bell's name will be linked with England, and so it should be. Not only did he look imperturbable in this innings but he has the range of strokes to complement his fine temperament. There is no reason why, in due course, he should not be a success as a Test and a one-day batsmen.

Knight, his captain, said: 'He is an international player of the future, for sure. He's developing nicely and has taken a big step forward this season.'

Once again Bell had a couple of moments of fortune, first when Mark Ramprakash failed to cling on to a very hard, onehanded chance running in from square leg as Bell hooked Sampson on 16. When Bell had scored 69 Doshi failed to cling on to a hard caught-and-bowled chance. In the first innings Bell survived chances, too, and it isworth reflecting on those tiny quirks of fate that can shape a career.

Knight said: 'Our games are taking a stereotypical form at the moment. We are winning the first innings of games, which puts you in control. There are a lot of runs in the camp.

'I was surprised that they inserted us on winning the toss. I never questioned that we would bat if I had won and we took control in the first innings. The wicket stayed flat throughout and 207 was a very gettable total. Another 100 would have made it interesting.'

Surrey will be disappointed that they added so few to their overnight total. Tim Murtagh's firm prod back down the pitch was very well held by Dougie Brown, while Doshi's wild heave down the pitch typified a Surrey performance that lacked application.

It leaves them peering over their shoulders at relegation. Their team contains talent and, at times, the fight. But the ground fielding of a side is so often the window to its soul and Surrey's is sloppy and unpredictable. The sight of half a dozen of them stopping for a cigarette break upon leaving the field somehow typified their performance.

A shake-up is expected this winter, with several notable names likely to be discarded and some new faces acquired. Vikram Solanki is one man linked with a move to The Oval. It is Warwickshire's batting that has earned their success to date. Their bowling resources remain limited - coach John Inverarity referred to the attack as 'modest' - and their were times during Surrey's second innings when Knight seemed at a loss to stem the tide of runs.

He said: 'We're a disciplined, hard-working side, who know how to play within our limitations. And now there's a realisation that we have a healthy lead in the table.'

Yet they also realise that Surrey had a 40-point lead last August but lost their final three games to enable Sussex to snatch the title. Such an example will ensure Warwickshire take nothing for granted.

CAPTION(S):

Nick Knight, Warwickshire's captain, glances a delivery to the leg-side in the visitors' successful chase at Guildford on Saturday
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Title Annotation:Sport
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 26, 2004
Words:872
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