Cricket: Crawley leads the careful crawl

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The Independent Online
Leicestershire 206 and 16-0

Lancashire 358-9 dec

IF THE roaring was anything to go by, all the action was at the other Old Trafford yesterday. Here, at the more gentle preserve of Mancunian culture, there was a distinct end of season atmosphere. For all that Leicestershire had pounds 10,000 riding on this game - that's the difference between their finishing in second place or third. Bonus points here have already ensured them of third, but their fielding and bowling suggested that they have relinquished the runners-up ranking which they enjoyed before this game.

Lancashire, at present 11th, have every incentive to pull out the stops after their committee's decision to calculate bonuses on where the county would have finished in the table had 25 points not been deducted when their pitch for the Middlesex game in July was deemed unsuitable. But for that penalty, Lancashire would have entered this match in fourth place, having second in their sights.

Certainly they have been playing enterprising cricket of late, and the appetite was whetted yesterday by the knowledge that John Crawley was not out overnight. Sadly, although he and Nick Speak, his fellow overnighter, both scored 70, the tastebuds were never really satisfied. Each favoured the on- side too much in a second-

wicket stand of 138 for there to be many memorable strokes.

Crawley was the first to his fifty, made off 93 balls with six fours, and must have fancied his chances of a hundred. He had just hooked Gordon Parsons for four when, flicking to leg at a delivery of fuller length, he was leg before. Speak, too, was playing across the line when he was bowled by Vince Wells.

With Michael Atherton holding himself back because of a back spasm, there was a chance for Graham Lloyd and Ian Austin to milk the easy batting conditions. However, when Adrian Pierson's off-spin removed them both, Atherton saw Lancashire to full bonus points and improved his championship aggregate this season to 333 runs in nine games. Lancashire were 152 runs ahead when he declared and he will be looking to his bowlers to force home the advantage tomorrow.