Cricket: Lancashire throw it away

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The Independent Online
Lancashire. . . . . 172 and 356

Gloucestershire. . .298 and 155-5

THE back-patting which accompanied the centuries of Neil Fairbrother and Graham Lloyd ought to have been followed by a sustained spot of back-biting. Having seized the initiative with a defiantly boisterous innings, the Lancashire batsmen handed Gloucestershire the initiative with inexplicably reckless and ugly heaves.

Faces could yet be saved, though, with their side's attack having eroded the early Gloucestershire resistance. Should Gloucestershire fail to reach the 231 target, Courtney Walsh's initial fire would surely be reignited.

Walsh's side denied themselves the chance to break the partnership when their catching prowess was also found to be too low. Both batsmen were put down when they were in the sixties and both took full advantage of these misses.

This did not please Mr Walsh but created something of a spectacle. The West Indian captain, impeccably targeting the armpit region, threw down the gauntlet to two batsmen who do not duck a challenge and rarely duck a bouncer.

The captain's example rubbed off on Ricky Williams, who also pitched too short on a wicket with little pace. Fairbrother and Lloyd were content to fend away Walsh, and more than content to hammer away anything loose.

The two dropped chances, both off Williams at cover point, only seemed to intensify the batsmen's aggression. Fairbrother followed his reprieve with four successive fours.

Lloyd helped himself to three sixes, two of them coming off the promising leg-spinner Vyvian Pike, and a clip over third man off Walsh. Brave man.

Lancashire had manoeuvred themselves into a strong position, having taken a 126-run deficit into the second innings. Fairbrother reached his fourth century in eight innings from 160 balls, Lloyd needing just 143.

With defeat likely, the two century-makers will have to shoulder some responsibility. Fairbrother tried to pull a Mark Alleyne delivery which hit the off stump only half-way up. Lloyd took this misplaced abandon a step further, top-edging an ugly slog to a deliberately vacated midwicket area in the final over before lunch.

Pike, who has a clever googly, deserved this success. The Lancashire batsmen had never looked entirely comfortable, and rarely picked an excellent googly, which eventually trapped Ian Austin, caught behind.

The Gloucestershire batsmen realised the virtue of patience. Once the ascendancy had been gained, Matt Windows whittled away at the 231 target with punchy strokeplay.

(Photograph omitted)