Cricket: Lancashire toil for little reward

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The Independent Online
Durham 330-2 v Lancashire

THEY HAVE a championship down Sir Matt Busby Way; what about the other Old Trafford, just over the Chester Road? On the evidence so far, the prospects are not good.

Lancashire members had hardly finished spluttering over the breakfast news that Wasim Akram was telling Antigua that he was tired, and needed a rest, when Durham won the toss, and after examining a pitch that might have been a minefield, batted first and rolled on runs relentlessly through a gloriously sunny afternoon and evening.

Graeme Fowler, who announced this week that he has applied for Lancashire membership, despite being sacked last season, scored a characteristic 49, full of flicks, wafts and a few meaty hits.

The pitch was damp, somewhat green and scarred. The opening partnership of Fowler and Wayne Larkins produced a first-wicket stand worth 143 in 40 overs, but they were parted soon after lunch when Phillip DeFreitas, now used by his county in short bursts, brought one back when Fowler was presumably expecting it to go the other way.

Larkins' more accomplished innings - although he was missed off Mike Watkinson when 45 - ended five overs later, when a ball from Glen Chapple hurried on without lifting as much as expected.

Paul Parker and Phil Bainbridge then capitalised on an excellent start, eschewing risks, waiting for the errant ball. To Lancashire's credit, there were not that many. The third-wicket pair have passed the 1992 best, 137 by Dean Jones and Parker against Derbyshire.

In fact, the pitch was a teaser; the seamers found variations in pace and lift, the spinners some turn, but everything happened so slowly that a sensible batsman needed only to stay alert and wait for the sitting ducks.

What a 2,000 crowd did appreciate was Chapple. He is tall, fair, 19, coltish, born in Skipton but smuggled across the border into a Nelson school. He managed surprising speed in one or two overs, and can expect a turn with the new ball this morning when Lancashire have one more chance to get back into the match.

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