Century-makers take their time

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Cricket

MIKE CAREY

reports from Old Trafford

Lancashire 346-6 v Northamptonshire

After six successive wins, one or two of them featuring some of the country's livelier pitches, Northamptonshire might have expected it would be a different game here. They were not wrong and yet, all things considered, should not have been too dismayed by their efforts yesterday.

They were, after all, denied by pedigree batsmanship from John Crawley and Warren Hegg, who each made a century and not only shored up their below-strength side but ensured that first use of a good pitch was not wasted; their partnership of 237 was only 12 short of Lancashire's fifth- wicket record.

Early on a mixture of injudicious strokes and poor footwork suggested that the advantage of the toss (won by Crawley while Mike Watkinson was somewhere on the M6) might be squandered and Northamptonshire probably could not believe their luck as they gleefully held their catches. The ball moved only negligibly through the air or off the seam, but somehow Lancashire were 85 for 4. With Watkinson resting after his travels and the situation not exactly cut out for Wasim Akram, it was Hegg who appeared next.

Immediately he and Crawley commended themselves by playing very straight and with much patience, two qualities not exactly commonplace nowadays, though 10 fours in Crawley's first half-century indicated how well he picked up any errors of length and line.

The knowledge that even on this pitch another lapse might mean disaster probably strengthened their resolve and with Neil Mallender, Paul Taylor and Kevin Curran giving little away the cricket was almost old-fashioned in its absorbing tightness.

Though Northamptonshire bowled grudgingly, often restricting runs to two an over or less, not much passed the bat and with Crawley smoothly timing the half-volleys and Hegg missing little that offered him width, the pair put the crisis behind them by making their first hundred in 37 overs before moving up a gear.

Crawley's third century of the season came from 241 balls, the studious manner of his second fifty showing his determination to build a big innings. Hegg's hundred, from 210 balls, was the third of his career but his first on this ground. Faced with batting of this quality on this pitch, Northamptonshire's acting captain, Rob Bailey, found his options reduced as the ball lost its hardness.

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