Cricket: Lancashire close in on title

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Lancashire 182-8 Yorkshire 81 Lancashire win by 101 runs

LANCASHIRE, THE first champions of 40-overs cricket back in 1969, moved a step closer to making the last AXA League title their own with a resounding 101-run victory over Yorkshire under floodlights at Headingley last night.

The win, built on the recalled England batsman John Crawley's innings of 73 and clinched by the seamer Glen Chapple's outstanding figures of 6 for 25, takes Wasim Akram's team into a four-point lead over Essex and puts the defending champions Warwickshire, currently in third place, out of contention. Lancashire have two matches left to Essex's three.

Drawing a crowd of more than 10,000, despite the clash with Leeds United's Premier- ship match against Blackburn, the first day-night fixture staged by Yorkshire was a huge success, although the dismissal of David Byas' team for 81 in just 25 overs meant the entertainment came to an early close.

Crawley, whose fine season has earned a place in the England squad for this week's Sri Lanka Test, dominated the Lancashire innings after Wasim Akram decided to bat first.

His patiently-constructed 73, spanning all bar the last two of Lancashire's 40 overs, provided the stability for Neil Fairbrother, Andy Flintoff and Wasim to score rapidly at the other end.

After Michael Atherton had been caught at deep mid-wicket, Crawley and Fairbrother put on 50 in 10 overs before the latter was caught behind cutting Gavin Hamilton, who clattered Graham Lloyd's off- stump four balls later.

The second of two brilliant catches by Byas foiled Crawley's bid for a century, after which his thunder was stolen slightly by his England team-mate Darren Gough claiming his first AXA League hat-trick. He dismissed Warren Hegg and Wasim - both caught in the deep by Hamilton - with the last two balls of his seventh over and Gary Yates with the first delivery of his eighth.

On a slow pitch, Yorkshire's reply was never allowed to gather momentum after Lancashire had reduced them to 20 for 3 inside eight overs.

Only Darren Lehmann, with 28 off 45 deliveries, made any headway, but he was dismissed by Chapple in the 21st over, the third of five victims for wicket-keeper Hegg.