Austin battles the odds

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The Independent Online
THE odds remain stubbornly against Lancashire adding to their impressive tally of victories in all competitions this season on their first visit to Liverpool for two years.

Despite finishing off Nottinghamshire's first innings shortly after lunch yesterday and beginning their own second with some purpose, Lancashire still have their work cut out to try to force a result on a placid Aigburth pitch, especially as the threat of rain finally materialised to curtail play after tea.

An overnight deluge had delayed the start for what seemed an over-generous hour, but at least Lancashire did their best to make up for lost time by dismissing the five remaining Nottinghamshire batsmen for a modest 48 more runs.

Ian Austin, only in the side because of the absence of England's new hero Peter Martin, bowled unchanged at the Pavilion End in preference to another much touted England candidate, Glen Chapple. It was a decision that was vindicated when he had Kevin Evans caught behind with one that lifted in his first full over and again, most emphatically, when he removed the defiant Tim Robinson.

The Nottinghamshire captain finally went after five hours, leg before for 130. It was typical Robinson, not exactly overflowing with memorable shots and utterly devoid of any unnecessary flourishes, but highly effective and, for Lancashire, deeply frustrating.

His departure left the Nottinghamshire tail exposed and Wasim Akram, building up a good head of steam from the end that offers a panoramic view of the Mersey, the Wirral and the Welsh hills, soon accounted for Wayne Noon and Andy Pick. Andy Afford's exit, run out by a fine throw from third man by Gary Keedy, left Lancashire with a slender first-innings lead of 17, hardly something upon which to build a convincing victory strategy.

Jason Gallian and Steve Titchard went about their task positively, however, with Titchard, Lancashire's leading scorer with 57 in the first innings, again starting well.

Gallian lived a little more dangerously, surviving an lbw appeal from Afford and a chance driven low to the 12th man Gregory Mike at mid-on in consecutive balls. Titchard, another of Lancashire's reserves, proceeded with less drama. He completed his second fifty of the match with a four off James Hindson. Gallian also advanced to his fifty in the brief respite the weather allowed after tea.

The loss of play means that Lancashire are running rapidly out of time; but if they do manage to achieve a fourth con- secutive championship victory, Titchard's contribution, and that of his fellow stand-in, Austin, will have been central.