Cricket: League splutters in the rain

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LIKE THE County Champion ship last week, the opening round of games in the new National League suffered from the elements.

Lancashire may not have taken Lightning with them to Canterbury, but they did take the traditional Manchester rain, leading to the abandonment of their encounter with Kent Spitfire. Durham, meanwhile, whose opening County fixture fell victim to the snow, lost some of yesterday's play for the same reason.

Yesterday's conditions continued where Saturday's had left off, with Leicestershire and Hampshire's match only one damp squib among several.

It was disappointing for the new competition, which includes coloured clothing, squad numbers and a free hit for a batsman after a no ball.

Leicestershire Foxes made 152 for seven in 40 of their 45 overs in the new-look competition before rain brought a premature end to their innings.

Hampshire Hawks were set a revised target of 172 in 40 overs for victory under the Duckworth Lewis method and had slipped to 17 for two off 5.3 overs when the rain began to lash down again.

"Because of the early start to the season there was always an element of a risk about the weather," Leicestershire chief executive David Collier said. "But at least we managed to get some cricket in and there was a lot of complimentary comments made by quite a few people."

Neil Smith's hopes of conjuring up a first win as Warwickshire's captain were also scuppered by the weather as Northamptonshire escaped with a draw in their opening County Championship match at Edgbaston on Saturday.

The newly-appointed Smith was denied a chance of snatching two more bonus points when the last day was abandoned without a ball being bowled.

Northamptonshire were still 156 behind at 167 for six, and the only consolation for Smith was that his side again looked capable of adding to the numerous trophies they have won since 1994.

The 31-year-old all-rounder, who has followed his father, M J K, into the county captaincy, accepts that there are pressures in maintaining the success rate.

"If you are consistently successful over five or six years, as we have been, there is a great deal of expectancy, and this can be difficult to live up to," He said. "You do feel pressure from supporters, but it's also a good thing, because there is no need to motivate anyone. We have no divine right to win competitions but looking at the quality of the players here, we have the ability to do well.

Smith, as well as his Somerset counterpart Jamie Cox, will be hoping for better weather at Edgbaston today. Cox, in particular, has his reasons - it will be the first time he has led his side out.

The Tasmanian will continue to partner Peter Bowler at the top of the order - the pair scored centuries against Cambridge University at Fenner's. Somerset are expected to name Keith Parsons as 12th man with former Warwickshire off-spinner Adrian Pierson set to play against his old side.

"I'm very excited," Cox said. "I've been looking forward to this for quite a few months. Hopefully we won't see too much rain. All the boys seem to be in good form so we're raring to get out there."