Cricket: Knight's stand a timely tonic

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Warwickshire 374-5 v Lancashire

NICK KNIGHT made his third Championship hundred of the season here yesterday, an innings which was not only timely, given his recall to the England side for the third Test, but overflowing with important qualities such as footwork and sound judgement outside the off stump as well as any number of exquisite strokes.

Though he is not always noted for discipline in the off-stump area and a sterner examination awaits him at Old Trafford, Knight made the most of what a good batting surface had to offer. Whether driving off the front foot or punching the ball away off the back, his stroke-play was quite superb and his bat was not often passed, admittedly on a day when the ball did not move around a great deal.

After the loss of two days to the weather, Knight's innings was the sort of tonic everyone needed, except perhaps the Lancashire bowlers, who were switched around thoughtfully by their acting captain John Crawley; still, with a couple of forfeitures in the offing this morning, Lancashire will fancy their chances of chasing whatever they are set.

Michael Powell made a compact half-century in helping Knight to put on 109 for the first wicket. But after Glen Chapple had swung one enough to bowl David Hemp off an inside edge, even Brian Lara had to bat in Knight's shadow as he unfurled one dazzling stroke after another.

With three noughts in his last four innings, it probably suited Lara not to have to make the running. But it was still not his day. He was struck on the hand by the one ball to bounce awkwardly, then run out by Graham Lloyd's direct hit when Knight, belatedly perhaps, sent him back when Lara wanted a quick single.

If Knight was upset, it did not show. He reached his century with 10 fours, his second 50 occupying only 70 balls. Anything which gave him room outside the off stump was given a fearful whack; but all day there was nothing better than the way he drove the quicker bowlers in the arc between mid-on and mid-off, the result of playing with exemplary straightness.