Cricket: Flanagan puts case

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The Independent Online
Essex 242 and 244 Lancashire 314 and 107-3

ESSEX may not be expecting too much from their first full season post-Gooch, but what looks certain to be three defeats in four Championship matches is a miserable start by any reckoning.

Essex could use injuries as an excuse in this match - Peter Such, Paul Grayson, Paul Prichard and Ashley Cowan were all absent - but Lancashire had been similarly afflicted and by the close were only 66 runs short of victory with seven wickets remaining, after Essex had squandered a promising position. To add insult to injury, Lancashire's England hopeful Andrew Flintoff seemed intent on finishing the match yesterday, with a ferocious assault on Mark Ilott which produced two sixes before he holed out at deep square-leg.

Essex's injuries did give two of their promising youngsters a rare chance to stake a claim for regular first-class cricket. Ian Flanagan and Stephen Peters, aged 17 and 19 respectively, are two of the five players Essex contributed to England's Under-19 winter tour of South Africa.

They both gained valuable experience yesterday after bagging a duck apiece in the first innings, and complemented each other well at the crease too. Left-handed Flanagan is a clean striker of the ball while right-handed Peters displayed a defter touch and some sprightly footwork.

Flanagan started more aggressively with two sweetly timed fours either side of the wicket off Glen Chapple, but he found Mike Watkinson's off- spin more constricting and frustration eventually played a part in his dismissal, lbw for 42. However, Peters flourished after a nervy start, which saw him dropped twice, and took a full part in a lively stand with Stuart Law.

Peter is strong off his legs and he took two fours off successive deliveries from Richard Green before losing concentration and limply spooning a catch to cover. Then, when Ronnie Irani followed caught behind three balls later, Essex looked to be in danger of throwing away a hard morning's work.

The onus was now firmly on captain Stuart Law to play a big innings and set Lancashire a significant target. For a time Law set about this task with typically belligerent relish. Green again suffered the bulk of the punishment as a series of thundering drives crashed over the ropes. But he eventually got his revenge with another soft dismissal, which characterised Essex's day.

With the slips removed to stem the tide, Law attempted a one-day glide to third man but succeeded only in nicking the ball into Warren Hegg's gloves. With Law gone, Essex succumbed meekly to some accurate but hardly threatening off-spin from Watkinson's second spell. Only Danny Law tried to hit him off his length with a six over midwicket, but he was stumped attempting a similarly extravagant stroke and Essex's last seven wickets produced just 77 runs.