Cricket: Graceful Vaughan spurs Yorkshire

Yorkshire 247-3 v Lancashire
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The whole of Lancashire appeared to be waiting for one thing yesterday, and it was not the Championship. As speculation grew over Michael Atherton's decision regarding the England captaincy, the Roses match went ahead without him, with Yorkshire dominating a rain interrupted first day, following a splendid century from Michael Vaughan.

With the Red Rose's challenge for the Championship having wilted long before the recent hot weather, this was not the prickly contest tradition would have us believe. Indeed, having lost both their chairman, Bob Bennett, and their chief executive, John Bower, in the space of a week, Lancashire, sporting the largest (14,000) membership in the land, are in a sorry state.

They can now look forward to a winter of ferment, with the securing of Shane Warne the only thing likely to appease their increasingly impatient members.

Lancashire's cricket is not too chipper at the moment either, and after a testing new ball spell by Peter Martin and Ian Austin had been negotiated, Yorkshire, currently fourth in the Championship, eased themselves into driving seat with all the confidence of a Michael Schumacher. Only when they lost Vaughan and David Byas in successive overs late in the day, was the Lancashire pulse felt.

Before his demise, playing loosely across an outswinger from Jason Gallian, Vaughan had played a faultless innings full of graceful drives. A tall wristy player, Vaughan's strokeplay recalled a less flamboyant Zaheer Abbas, particularly the way in which he disdainfully eased Lancashire's two off-spinners to the midwicket fence.

It provided a languid contrast to Byas, who - arriving at the fall of Tony McGrath's wicket - was far more circumspect at the crease. Even so, the pair added 153 for the second wicket before Lancashire managed to part them, Byas following Vaughan as he failed to clear Martin at mid- off.

Weakened by the absence of Wasim Akram and Glenn Chapple, Lancashire could ill afford to miss Atherton as well. However, the England captain apparently requested this game off in order to take his time, before announcing his decision to both selectors and public.

Yet if most people expected him to stand down by the weekend - the England and Wales Cricket Board even booked a press conference room here for today and tomorrow - the silence is being interpreted as a sign that he may continue.

Certainly that was the impression given by David Graveney, the chairman of selectors. For those who know Atherton's singular mind, though, it is probably little more than wishful thinking.

"I've not spoken to Athers since The Oval," said Graveney yesterday. "If he'd made up his mind I'm sure he would have rung me. The fact that he hasn't suggests he is still thinking about it.

"We are meeting on Sunday to discuss logistics relating to the winter tours and that meeting will also give us the chance to consider our options. If Mike says no to the captaincy, it would also give us an opportunity to discuss things further."