Cairns back in business

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 277-8 v Notts

Nottinghamshire, spearheaded here for the first time in the Championship this season by the bowling of Chris Cairns, showed a refreshing unwillingness to be Lancashire's sacrificial victims in the first of three formats under which they play them over the next week.

Lancashire are everybody's team of the moment, and suddenly favourites in all three of the competitions in which they play Nottinghamshire between now and next Tuesday.

The real test of their credentials in the County Championship, however, will be how they cope when weakened by England calls, the complaint around these parts having changed from the selectors never picking Lancashire players to them picking too many.

Yesterday was their first experience of managing without regulars: Michael Atherton, Neil Fairbrother and Peter Martin all witnessing the last rites at Trent Bridge. Largely thanks to Cairns, they came through it with only limited success.

The New Zealander has been restricted by a side strain to his other role as a batsman of late and he was used sparingly in short bursts yesterday. In the first, he accounted for Jason Gallian, who chopped the ball onto his stumps. In his second, after lunch, he removed both elements of a dangerous partnership by trapping John Crawley and having Stephen Titchard caught in the slips.

Titchard's 57 was the major encouragement for Lancashire's season ahead. Standing in for Atherton, he played with considerable confidence, if the occasional piece of luck, for his half-century.

Graham Lloyd survived Cairns and lofted a huge six off James Hindson but then fell plumb lbw to Kevin Evans. Mike Watkinson was another who looked capable of seizing the initiative before giving Evans his second victim with a dreadfully miscued shot.

The combination of the patient Nick Speak and the more urgent Wasim Akram took Lancashire forward smoothly until Speak reached his half-century with a nudged single off Andy Afford and Wasim perished trying to reach his off the next delivery. Cairns returned to account for Speak, and Andy Pick's dismissal of Ian Austin left Nottinghamshire reasonably satisfied.