Cricket: Lancashire put faith in youth

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The Independent Online
LANCASHIRE WILL turn to young talent when they launch the English first-class season at Cambridge University today.

With Mike Atherton injured and Andy Flintoff, Ian Austin and Neil Fairbrother in Sharjah, the Red Rose county will take a number of youngsters to Fenner's, and they are likely to give a first-class debut to the 22-year-old seam bowler Michael Smethurst.

Warren Hegg, Peter Martin and the two senior spinners, Gary Keedy and Gary Yates, are rested, which means that the former England Under-19 leg- spinner Chris Schofield will be in the Lancashire side. Today's other three-day first-class game sees Oxford University take on Worcestershire at The Parks.

James Whitaker is set to play his first County Championship match for 18 months against Essex at Chelmsford next week. A knee injury kept him out of action last season as Leicestershire won the Championship for the second time in three years.

Whitaker, who is set to play in two friendlies against Northamptonshire over the weekend, said: "It is 18 months since I put the pads on with serious intent and I'm just starting to come to terms with it again. Now it's a case of testing the body out and building up my strength and I hope to be back to normal very quickly.

"The plan is to hit the ground running at Essex and get a first win under our belts if we can. We want to make a successful defence of the title, and perhaps put a one-day trophy alongside it as well."