Surrey v Leicestershire, The Oval, 3rd day June 9, 2006

Surrey on the brink

Leicestershire 251 and 179 for 6 (Robinson 85*, Masters 6*) trail Surrey 668 for 7 dec (Brown 215, Clarke 165, Butcher 105) by 238 runs
Scorecard

Surrey stand on the brink of their fourth Championship victory for the season after dominating Leicestershire for a third day at The Oval. Rikki Clarke continued to shine, this time with the bat, as he hit a career-best 165 not out, while Ally Brown weighed in with 215. Their fourth-wicket stand was worth 226, Brown's second double-hundred partnership of the match.

It was a baking hot day, but Surrey must have thought Christmas had come unseasonally early as they carved themselves a feast of 668 runs before declaring. They then reduced Leicestershire to a perilous 179 for 6 by the close, still 238 adrift.

Leicestershire's bowlers toiled thanklessly and waywardly today. Not helped by a muscle injury to Mohammad Asif, and some shoddy fielding late on as heads went down, they lacked the accuracy of yesterday. Claude Henderson and Stuart Broad bore the brunt of the attack as Clarke took a liking to both, latching on to tame stuff from Henderson and some attempted bouncers from Broad.

One man's injury is another man's chance to make a double-century - and Brown continued to take advantage of the berth vacated by James Benning in converting his overnight 131. It was a measured innings, 151 balls for the first century, 144 for the second.

Brown, once considered the answer to England 's one-day woes, brought up his 200 in the most audacious manner, coming down the track and playing Henderson over long-off for a crashing six. He fell on the stroke of lunch to Henderson who picked up the only three Surrey wickets to fall today, but they came at a cost. He finished with 3 for 235 from 54.2 overs.

Clarke, overlooked for this one-day squad, continued to show just what the selectors are missing with his ninth first-class century to add to his four wickets in the first innings. He has made a fine all-round display and a crashing six over mid-wicket off Henderson took him to a career-best, beating his previous highest of 153 not out. He fell on the square-leg boundary attempting yet another six off Henderson - and this brought on the declaration.

But Clarke's innings, while a thing of beauty, was not necessarily a joy throughout. Twice while he was on 103, Dinesh Mongia found his edge to first slip, and then he slashed wildly at one which fizzed through to Paul Nixon. Surrey, already past the 550-mark, charged on through the gears in pursuit of a massive lead.

Martin Bicknell played his part with a firecracking cameo of 27 off 32 balls, including a cheeky reverse-swept four and a huge six, after being dropped in the deep on 2. Azhar Mahmood couldn't capitalise on the benign conditions, edging to slip for a duck, but he roared back with the ball, knocking back Tim New's off-stump as Leicestershire made a poor start to their second innings (34 for 2) and repeated the feat later to remove Paul Nixon (160 for 6).

Leicestershire's innings had got off to a poor start when Bicknell sent back John Maunders, who nibbled a perfect swinging delivery (13 for 1). Ian Salisbury grabbed Mongia and John Sadler in the same manner, forcing them to pop the ball to short-leg. Salisbury deserved the wickets after bowling with control and Surrey will back themselves to finish things off before England 's World Cup campaign begins tomorrow.

Jenny Thompson is assistant editor of Cricinfo

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