Cricket: Lancashire the better of two poor efforts

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 218 & 357 Nottinghamshire 115 & 171 Lancashire win by 289 runs

THIS VICTORY, which has taken Lancashire into third place, 11 points behind Surrey, like so many others which have been played towards the end of the season, has shown how badly the present system of county cricket is in need of an overhaul.

With a couple of exceptions, the Nottinghamshire batting has been uniformly awful, not that much of Lancashire's was a great improvement.

In mildly helpful conditions, the seam bowlers held sway, some returning figures which suggested ability or promise and, in the instance of Paul Franks, both. Yet all these few days have done is to emphasise the huge gulf that exists between county and Test cricket.

When the ball deviates more than just a fraction as it did at times at Trent Bridge the batsmen yell "foul" and get out in their droves, as a quick look at the scores show they have been doing in similar conditions all round the country. When these players come to Test cricket they find they do not speak the same language. The excellence that there is in county cricket urgently needs to become more concentrated.

It is extraordinary that anyone can still shelter behind the belief that all is well. On Saturday, Nottinghamshire's last six first innings wickets capitulated with indecent haste and, after some lovely strokes from John Crawley, Lancashire subsided to 144 for 7 in their second innings.

Wasim Akram then played one of those imperious innings, full of good strokes and disdain in equal proportion and made 155 off 178 balls. He dispatched the ball to all parts of Trent Bridge as if he was giving the more recalcitrant members of his staff a no-nonsense fielding practice.

The less said about the Nottinghamshire bowling the better - and that is the point. Apart from Franks who has a nice high, whippy action and deserved his six wickets, the rest were more or less what Wasim would himself have chosen. At just above medium pace, and sometimes below it, the ball came pleasantly on to the bat and it was all a bit like an exhibition match.

Then Nottinghamshire started batting again soon after lunch and they were 12 for 2 before you could blink and 52 for 5 not long afterwards. The strokes, if one can dignify them with such a description, are not worth talking about and all they argued was poor techniques and faint hearts.

Then Paul Johnson batted, as always, with character and determination and played some lovely crisp strokes around the ground.

Franks was another who, wonderful to relate, moved into the line of the ball and kept his bat straight until he top-edged a pull to fine leg.

They had put on 90 for the sixth wicket but at 164, Johnson played back and across Wasim and was bowled 10 short of his 100 and it was all over 15 minutes later.