Cricket: Lancashire extend lead

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IT WAS just as well there was plenty of World Cup entertainment on television yesterday because sports fans had precious little live cricket to admire, thanks to the weather.

When play finally got under way at Old Trafford after a delayed start, Lancashire attempted to extend their lead against Somerset. The visitors had made 233 in their first innings in reply to Lancashire's 267 and the home side were 173 for 4 overnight.

Lancashire's Graham Lloyd and Glen Chapple made a firm start before Lloyd was caught off Matthew Bulbeck three runs short of a half- century. Chapple was then dismissed for 26 off Andy Caddick before Michael Watkinson was trapped lbw by the Somerset seam bowler for 17. Lancashire were on 207 for 7 - a commanding 241 runs ahead - before bad light again stopped play.

Rain saved Hampshire from an early defeat at Headingley where incessant drizzle forced play to be abandoned at tea yesterday, denying Yorkshire the chance to press home the clear advantage they had gained over the first two days.

Robin Smith's side will hope for more of the same tomorrow, not that a draw would paper over the cracks evident in their top-order batting when Yorkshire bowled them out for 104 in 31 overs with Chris Silverwood taking 5 for 13. Second time around, Hampshire were 109 for 3 at Friday's close but they still face an uphill struggle to score the 114 runs they need to avoid an innings defeat.

It has not been a happy return to Headingley for Peter Hartley, the veteran seam bowler discarded by Yorkshire after 13 years at the end of last season. But the 38-year-old, who has reverted to the role of strike bowler for his new county, insists the picture is not as bleak as some would paint.

"We've not done so well here but we have a lot of young players and the side is at a developmental stage," he said. "We showed in beating Glamorgan by nine wickets in the last match what we are capable of.

"It has not helped that there have not been many opportunities for the batsmen to play themselves into form in the Championship. This is Yorkshire's seventh match as opposed to five for us."

The victory over Glamorgan was made possible by a second Championship hundred of the season for Adrian Aymes, an underrated wicket keeper who at 34 has not had the recognition his talents deserve. Half-centuries by Smith, Giles White and Paul Whitaker ensured that Aymes' efforts were made to count.

In this match, by contrast, Hampshire have found the going tough against Yorkshire's bowlers, even with Darren Gough and Craig White absent. Silverwood and Paul Hutchison exploited favourable conditions for swing and seam to such effect that Hampshire were 29 for 7 before their tail-enders capitalised when Hutchison lost his fluency.

Last week was not a good one for Yorkshire, bowled out for 93 by Leicestershire in the Sunday League and then bundled out of the Benson & Hedges Cup by Essex. This one should start on a better note tomorrow, weather permitting.

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