Cricket: Lancashire see the light

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The Independent Online
Lancashire are experimenting with a mobile floodlighting system which they hope will increase their chances of staging one of the World Cup matches under lights in two years' time.

The Benson and Hedges Cup and NatWest Trophy holders plan a 50-overs friendly against Yorkshire at Old Trafford on 21 July, starting at 3pm and finishing around 11pm, in an attempt to gauge how northern cricket fans react to day-night matches.

The friendly Roses game follows similar ideas from Surrey and Warwickshire, who are also planning floodlit matches this season, and if the concept catches on it could become part of the 1999 World Cup, due to be staged in England.

Trucks with banks of lights will be positioned outside the perimeter of Old Trafford and illuminate the playing area. If successful, Lancashire plan to increase the number of day-night fixtures next season.

"We tested it at the end of January and it looked very good," the county's chief executive John Bower said. "It's an opportunity, by staging a day- night match, to see if it attracts a different audience.

"What we need is to attract new fans to come and watch cricket. The temperature and climate is different to Australia I know, but I believe we should find ways and means of doing things rather than putting up obstacles. If the experiments prove successful, the England and Wales Cricket Board will want to look at things differently and competitions like the Sunday League and the one-day trophies are prime candidates."

Jim Cumbes, Lancashire's marketing manager, said: "If the match against Yorkshire is successful, we will go to the Board and suggest we stage a quarter-final or semi-final of the World Cup under lights. I was amazed when it was tested because you could see everything so clearly. It's a similar system to that which Warwickshire are thinking of using but Surrey are being forced to use the lights inside the ground because the Oval is such a big playing area."

The ICC Trophy third place play-off between Scotland and Ireland in Kuala Lumpur was abandoned for the day yesterday due to a thunderstorm, with Scotland on 56 for 1 from 19 overs. If play is not possible today, Ireland will win by virtue of scoring more points in the group stages and go through to the 1999 World Cup finals in England.