Crawley has the authority

Gloucestershire 270 Lancashire 282-7
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The Independent Online
According to the smart money, John Crawley's name will be absent from the England squad for the first Test when it is announced today. What is smart, of course, is not always wise and the timing of Crawley's innings at Old Trafford yesterday was impeccable in more ways than one.

There were moments during it when it was possible to surmise that no selection committee should seriously contemplate discarding him, and enough evidence to suggest that he must one day soon, if not today, establish an international place. If Crawley has been unlucky at the highest level so far (on tour in South Africa last winter he was initially left out of the side despite being in better form than others and was then immediately injured, tearing a hamstring, when called upon), he has also looked occasionally diffident.

This is, for the moment, at odds with his approach in the less demanding confines of the Championship. There were three or four shots of quite exquisite authority yesterday, including a delightful push through long on using his feet against the spinner Richard Davis, a straight drive for six and a neat forcing shot through the covers off the back foot.

It should be said both that none of this would have been possible had Martyn Ball taken a straightforward return catch in the day's third over and that Crawley should have gone on to a century. It was, paradoxically, his footwork which undid him as he advanced with sublime confidence to Davis and found the ball pitching in the rough and cruising past him to give Jack Russell some stumping practice.

While this might not have been in Crawley's England interests, nor was it in those of Lancashire. They were freely and understandably tipped - the smart money again - to do well this summer in the Championship, a competition they have not won outright since 1934. Instead, their start has bordered on the wretched. Only Warren Hegg has made a century. Michael Atherton, like Crawley and Neil Fairbrother, has three times passed 50 without going on to three figures.

Fairbrother will at least have been pleased to hang around for 75 minutes yesterday after rain curtailed the morning session, but less so to be bowled around his legs in the final over before lunch. Lancashire let it slide afterwards and did so turgidly against a Gloucestershire team which has so far defied its status on paper.

Davis took four wickets in 21 unchanged overs before another squall which prevented further play until only another 16 overs were possible. His line was not as rigid as it might have been, but all his wickets were captured in different ways to demonstrate that spin bowling still ensnares all manner of batsmen, but the match is going nowhere.