Cricket: Millns makes point of bowling Atherton

Lancashire 365-9 v Leicestershire
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The Independent Online
David Millns believes that as the most potent new ball partnership in the Britannic Assurance County Championship, he and his Leicestershire colleague, Alan Mullally, ought to be opening the bowling for England. They have 37 Championship wickets between them this season but their joint selection seems an unlikely eventuality.

Mullally, after an unhappy time in Zimbabwe and New Zealand last winter, has slipped down the pecking order, although being a left-armer remains an advantage. Millns, now 32, while not having the best of luck with injuries, has not appeared even close since touring Australia with England A four years ago.

Still, there is no harm in trying to make a point, as was their intention yesterday against a Lancashire team led by Michael Atherton. To a degree, they succeeded, especially Mullally, whose four wickets included the one they both wanted most.

Atherton was out to comfortably the best ball of the day, a delivery that darted back to beat the England captain's defensive bat and clip the off bail. If a bowler wants to make an impression with one of those in whose hands his future lies, there is no better way to do so.

That breakthrough thwarted what had looked a potentially long partnership with John Crawley following Lancashire's early loss of Jason Gallian, who edged Millns to first slip.

On a friendly, easy-paced pitch, opting to bat first seemed the right decision. Indeed, by the close Atherton, standing in as captain in the continued absence of Mike Watkinson after Wasim Akram cried off with a shoulder injury, was vindicated by the scoreboard, although the route by which Lancashire reached their satisfactory position was certainly not the intended one.

At one time, Leicestershire were well on top, their opponents reduced to a miserable 179 for 6. Lancashire's middle order, for reasons not immediately evident, batted as if it were a cup game, intent on forcing the pace and none too worried about taking risks.

However, the assumption that Lancashire, bottom of the table, would now succumb meekly to the champions proved incorrect as three innings of substance defeated Leicestershire's ambitions. That one of them should come from the bat of Graham Lloyd was no surprise. The son of the England coach made 82 with typical briskness, off 101 balls, before falling to a sharp piece of wicketkeeping by Paul Nixon.

When Peter Martin was eighth out at 264, it still seemed Leicestershire would soon be batting but Warren Hegg and Glen Chapple had other ideas, the former stubbornly surviving for almost three hours for his 58 as his partner took advantage of some drooping spirits in the most productive partnership of the day.