Cricket: Atherton's barricade keeps out the dragon

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 310-9 v Glamorgan

MIKE ATHERTON and John Crawley, say the pavilion sages, are the next and next-but-one England captains. Both led Manchester Grammar School and Cambridge University, while Crawley was also a successful captain of England Under-19. Both have outstanding batting ability, examined on this occasion by the England manager, Keith Fletcher.

All this is red rag to the dragon, Glamorgan being regularly upset by what is regarded as indifference, if not neglect, on the part of the selectors. So angry are some of the Taffies that they might have thought of starting their own international team had not Wales popped up this year in the first round of the NatWest Trophy, leaving Glamorgan's fancied in an England-or-nothing limbo.

However, the Welsh have always been able to make the neighbours sit up. Crawley, due to be named Whittingdale Young Cricketer for June at lunch, clipped Steve Watkin precisely off his toes for four but when he tried a similar shot to a ball a little wider he was caught just behind square. Atherton had reached 10 when he was put down, at gully, off Watkin.

Robert Croft was into his second of a 28-over spell - he posted two short legs after his first delivery - when Nick Speak strode down and lifted him straight for six; the next ball was similar but pitched up further and as Speak shaped to drive he was bowled.

With four runs added after lunch Graham Lloyd, having been dropped when one, off Croft, aimed to cut the returning Watkin and glided the ball straight to gully. By then Atherton had built his barricade; making 52 out of 105, in 50 overs, an exercise in concentration on a pitch that bore dark stains around the edges and offered variable bounce.

Atherton and his county captain, Neil Fairbrother, took Lancashire to a reasonable 122 before the opener was bowled by a low delivery from Steve Barwick. Fairbrother and Mike Watkinson must have decided that brief glory was preferable to slow death and the innings accelerated as both Croft and Barwick were swung or lifted for sixes by the middle and the tail.

Fairbother must have been tempted to send in Glamorgan but his decision to bat was justified, and his team does include three spinners. Glamorgan should win one prize this season: there ought to be one for the best over-rate.

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