Cricket: Fairbrother falls just short

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 233-3 v Yorkshire

NEIL FAIRBROTHER almost established himself as the Hammer of the Tykes. He needed one more century to surpass Clive Lloyd, with seven, as the foremost scorer of hundreds against Yorkshire. With nine fours in his first 50, Lancashire's captain was reminding a small crowd on this cold, grey day of last month's 166 at Headingley.

He followed that with Championship scores of 66, 16 and 70, all not out, romped to the top of the national averages, returned joyfully to England's Texaco team and left the spring, and memories of a nagging hamstring, behind him.

Nothing Martyn Moxon and the Yorkshire bowlers could contrive seemed likely to stop him from passing three figures yesterday. Once a left-hander gets established, Yorkshire seem unable to dismiss him and Fairbrother was soon lashing into the spinners, especially Jeremy Batty.

Fairbrother added two more boundaries before Moxon, just before tea, brought back Peter Hartley. Fairbrother, on a roll, wanted to keep firing, aimed a furious drive, the edge flew high, Richard Blakey got a glove to the ball and deflected it into the hands of the only slip, thus dismissing Fairbrother for the first time in the Championship since 16 July.

By then Lancashire were fast approaching 200, after being sent in by Moxon and losing John Crawley in a hostile opening burst from Paul Jarvis that should also have accounted for Nick Speak, dropped at third slip before he had scored.

Mike Atherton, too, began edgily but he raised 64 in 19 overs with the adventurous Speak and 103 in 29 with Fairbrother. Paul Grayson, Yorkshire's new left-arm spinner, bowled a good line but was forced to be mostly defensive on a good batting pitch. Atherton reached his fourth Roses century in four seasons in the 65th over (166 balls, 12 fours, one six) before the rain.