Cricket: Lloyd and Austin enjoy rub of green

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 492 v Hampshire 180-9

SO FAR Hampshire have not found the green, green grass of home much to their liking. Asking Lancashire to take first knock on a juicy strip, they watched the visitors bat through Wednesday and crack on yesterday morning, adding a further 163 in 36 overs to finish after lunch at 492. So happy were Lancashire with this state of affairs that they kept their jack-in-the-box, Muttiah Muralitharan, locked away for a further two hours while the seamers made early inroads into Hampshire's batting. In the evening, they made late inroads as well.

When the hosts finally came into bat, saving the follow-on was the height of their ambitions. Lancashire started the day securely placed at 329 for 5, with Graham Lloyd and the nightwatchman, Peter Martin, barely set. But they prospered on a cloudy morning, and Martin was beginning to feel like Alex Tudor when he snicked Peter Hartley. Lloyd then continued where John Crawley and Neil Fairbrother had left off on the first day and when Ian Austin joined him in a brutish mood, they cracked up 77 in 14 exhilarating overs.

The only Hampshire player to take any satisfaction from Lancashire's run feast was the wicketkeeper, Adrian Aymes, but his pleasure was tempered by a painful collision half an hour before lunch. Making yet another salmon leap to pouch would what have been his sixth catch of the innings he collided, nose-first, with Jason Laney's knee, dropped the ball and held on to his nose instead. He left the field masked in a crimson handkerchief but within an hour he was his usual chirpy, combative self.

Although Hampshire had backed their all-seam attack on this wicket it was their muscular Lancashire counterparts who made rich use of the lush track. Martin and Austin, together with Glen Chapple and Andy Flintoff, comprised a useful quartet, and though all the Hampshire top order stayed around for a while it was heroic backs-to-the-wall epics, not defiant little cameos, that were required.

When Muralitharan made his much-anticipated entry into the attack he thudded the thrusted pad time after time, never failing to appeal, but umpire Vanburn Holder was calmly unimpressed. The batsmen were respectful and defensive, the pitch only grudging towards the Sri Lankan. His one success in a probing spell came when Laney, on the verge of 50, top-edged a sweep.

Returning to pace, Lancashire had immediate success when Martin removed the stubborn Aymes. The evening sun shone only on Lancashire, Flintoff in particular, as Hampshire imploded from 164 for 4 to 180 for 9. And all because they had been afraid of Muralitharan, who had taken just 1 for 21.

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