Cricket Lancashire have a sting in the tail

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The Independent Online
Cricket

DEREK HODGSON

Lancashire 231 Gloucestershire 44-5

An extraordinary start to the 123rd Festival: fiercely hot sunshine, sandwiches all but sold out at noon, car parks overflowing, long queues for ice creams and Lancashire 87 for 6 at lunch. If thirsty Mancunians marched off looking for a pint of Boddington's then Gloucester folk could hear Pavarotti singing in the College Chapel.

This, as a colleague with a taste for the tabloids pointed out, was a "clash of the Cup winners", Lancashire straight from Lord's and the Benson and Hedges, Gloucestershire jubilantly from the Costcutters, and much of the day's cricket was more appropriate to limited overs.

True, the pitch was dry, quick and bouncy to the new ball yet three Lancashire men were run out - Wasim Akram failed to ground his bat - and two of the most experienced, Mike Atherton and Mike Watkinson, were leg before trying to turn the left-arm medium of Mike Smith. There was no need to hurry.

This ground's other advantages to the batsman remain a fast outfield and short boundaries square to the wicket.

Jack Russell and Watkinson, both candidates for the fourth Test next week, both wanted to bat first but after 24 overs Lancashire had three England players back in the pavilion and were deeply grateful that the unsung Steve Titchard, capped last week, was looking surprised but untroubled at one end. In fact, it was Gloucestershire's 25-year-old leg-spinner, Vyv Pike, who worried him most in an opening spell of 8-4-11-0. He eventually defeated Titchard with a classical leg-break, drawing him forward and taking the edge.

Mark Alleyene matched Pike for accuracy and when Wasim was run out just after lunch - Andrew Symonds played the principal part in all three dismissals - Lancashire were 92 for 7.

The factor that makes Lancashire genuine Grand Slam candidates then came into play: they have an armoured tail. Ian Austin and Warren Hegg added 102 for the eighth wicket in 29 overs; Austin rocked on to his heels and punched the ball through the vee while Hegg pounced on anything wide and drove, cut or pulled.

Even the last pair, Glen Chapple and Gary Keedy, managed to add 25 and Gloucestershire were batting soon after five o'clock, by then a little apprehensively as Wasim, although hobbling slightly, began firing in lifting left-armers just short of a length.

Tony Wright, having survived one past his chin, was caught behind off another and Matt Windows, after crashing four boundaries, was well taken low at third slip. Austin, as maddeningly accurate and deceptively paced as usual, trapped Monte Lynch and undermined Alleyne and the nightwatchman. Mancunians found even the local mild acceptable.

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