Cricket / County Championship: Spinners' pitch battle

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Lancashire . . . . . . . . . . . . .349-5 dec and forfeit

Worcestershire . . . . . . . . . . .forfeit and 197-8

Lancs drew with Worcs

AT the centre of the debate here is Peter Marron's square. Micky Stewart says that it is exactly the kind of surface English cricket needs; quick bowlers can find some bounce and batsmen can play their strokes. Lancashire's players claim it is too good to get results and their discontent is seeping through to the members.

Marron, meanwhile, has won an award as Groundsman of the Year. On Friday this pitch was yellow with a patchy green centre, hard but not as fast as those near the Test strip. Yesterday, after a weekend of heavy rain, it was slower, softer and the ball turned and lifted for the spinners but Mike Watkinson, Alex Barnett and Dexter Fitton were neither accurate nor penetrative enough to force a victory.

They are not to be blamed: spinners are so dismissed they simply do not get enough practice of bowling in favourable conditions. Perhaps four-day cricket will help. Worcestershire, set 350 in what became 83 overs, began a voyage into the unknown just after 12.30 and went serenely to lunch at 23 for 0 with little indication of the turbulence to come.

Philip Weston departed without addition, Phillip DeFreitas making a ball pop without doing much more than turn his arm over, the first ominous signal.

Watkinson soon took over from the Stretford End and in his second over somehow tempted Tim Curtis into chipping to short mid- wicket. Graeme Hick drove briskly either side of the wicket. Barnett was taking some censure for over-pitching, allowing the batsmen to go on to the back foot and cut, when Hick attempted that very stroke and chopped on to his stumps.

Watkinson had little luck; he should have had David Leatherdale caught behind when he was 13 while Damian D'Oliveira might have been caught at silly mid-off before he had scored. By then it was clear the spinners were eliciting both turn and lift and by tea, when the target had become 228, off what became 48 overs, the question was whether Worcestershire's remaining six wickets could hold out.

D'Oliveira was bowled going back, Phil Newport taken at slip and Steve Rhodes yorked by the returning DeFreitas but Richard Illingworth and Chris Tolley, the penultimate pair, hung on for eight overs with all of Lancashire round the bat.