Cricket: Lancashire have the belief

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The Independent Online
Derbyshire 281 & 198 Lancashire 487 Lancs win by innings and 8 runs

FEROCIOUS BATTING by Graham Lloyd and the potency of their pace attack took Lancashire several strides closer to that coveted first County Championship in a lifetime.

Coupled with Surrey's struggles at Headingley, Lancashire's win in the last scheduled over of play made this the best day of the season for their title aspirations. The fact that it was achieved at the expense of tomorrow's opponents in the NatWest final was an added bonus.

If it was their bowlers, notably Wasim Akram and Peter Martin, who finished the job, this was a victory made possible by the exhilarating stroke play of Lloyd, John Crawley and, briefly but even more belligerently, Neil Fairbrother. In a match which lost its first day to the weather and was threatened by more rain today, their enterprise compressed what was needed for victory into the two middle days.

While the elder Lloyd was waiting to hear if he would keep his job, the younger was doing his to perfection. He took over the initiative when Crawley was out in the first over of the day, completing his century then putting Lancashire in a position to crush Derbyshire with an unbeaten 212, though it seemed for a time that he might not find the partners to stick with him. Andrew Flintoff, Warren Hegg and Wasim all gave up their wickets tamely, while Ian Austin was the victim of an extraordinary run out.

Having edged through the slips, Austin set off for the other end at his leisure - which is very leisurely indeed - only for Dominic Cork to pursue the ball, retrieve it just before the rope and uproot the middle stump at the bowler's end on the full. It was a spectacular piece of cricket in tune with a spectacular match.

Much of the spectacle came from Lloyd, who found his most reliable henchman in Glen Chapple. "Son of Bumble" reached his century in a fluent but sensible 123 balls and then went completely berserk, hammering the left-arm spin of Ian Blackwell for 28, with four fours and two sixes, in one over. Chapple went for 42 and Lloyd went on to reach his double century and remain undefeated.

The objective was then to remove Derby without giving the weather a chance to intervene. They made a nervous start by twice failing to catch Kim Barnett. When his wicket fell, however, three more quickly followed and it took Robin Weston and Cork to steady a sinking ship by riding their luck in a defiant stand of 78. When they both fell lbw to Chapple and Martin in consecutive overs, the end was in sight. Phil DeFreitas, an obstacle in the first innings, was caught behind off Martin, while Wasim removed Vince Clarke and Blackwell with the score on 191. Martin's rearrangement of Glenn Roberts' stumps completed the rout.

As a morale boost for tomorrow it could hardly be better, but the supporters left Old Trafford talking also of 1950 when they shared the Championship, and 1934 when they last won it outright. For the first time, there is belief in the air that the long wait could end this month.