Cricket: Flintoff stamps his authority

Warwicks 374-5 dec & forfeit Lancashire 39-0 dec & 338-6 Lancashire win by 4 wickets
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The Independent Online
LANCASHIRE, WITH all their top-order batsmen making solid contributions, defeated Warwickshire with an ease that probably surprised even themselves here yesterday. Needing 336 from what proved to be 96 overs, they got home by six wickets with nine balls to spare.

On such a good pitch, Warwickshire required rather more inspiration and penetration than their attack could deliver. If, as Brian Lara said in a somewhat unconvincing TV interview recently, he is enjoying the learning experience of leading a county for the first time, he will be feeling more chastened, if slightly more knowledgeable after this.

True, he was unlucky to lose the services of Ed Giddins, by some measure Warwickshire's most dangerous bowler, with influenza early in the proceedings. Later, Lara's tactical acumen was severely tested and Lancashire, needing 69 from the last 16 overs, must have been surprised to find field placings that permitted comfortable ones and twos.

By then, Warwickshire's last throw of the dice, on a pitch offering some slow turn, was to have Ashley Giles operating over the wicket into the bowlers' footmarks, a ploy which earned them nothing as Andrew Flintoff, who, making 70 off 95 balls with eight fours and two sixes, all but saw his side home.

From the moment that Mike Atherton and Nathan Wood put on 75 together, it had always looked straightforward. Though Atherton was palpably lbw to Dougie Brown going across his stumps, the left-handed Wood batted positively for 63 overs. However, he is as yet not as reliable, at least outside his off stump, as his namesake in Guys and Dolls.

When Wood was caught trying to assault Giles, Atherton, as the only other batsman out, found himself pressed into service as a runner for Neil Fairbrother, who was carrying a calf injury. It scarcely affected Fairbrother's immaculate judgement of length, however, and his ability to pick off anything loose was the main feature of a partnership of 70 in 14 overs with John Crawley.

Crawley attracted a lot of bowling, which allowed him to display his fluency off his legs before he was caught behind off an inside edge off the persevering Brown; a rare mistimed stroke brought Fairbrother's downfall after he had made 50 from 99 balls, but Flintoff batted with a composure beyond his tender years.

He picked up Brown effortlessly for six over midwicket and also struck Graeme Welch a long way over the long-on boundary. Between these exhibitions of sheer power, however, he was highly selective. His first mistake was also his last when he was caught in the deep off Brown, but by then the game was virtually won and lost.