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Cricket: New low point for Minor Counties

Minor Counties 51 Lancashire 53-3 Lancashire win by seven wickets

LANCASHIRE'S Glen Chapple cleaned up with remarkable figures of 5 for 7 off five overs as the Minor Counties slumped to an all-time Benson and Hedges Cup low at Lakenham yesterday.

The 24-year-old former England A seamer, fully fit after a double hernia operation in the winter, pocketed five of the last six Minors' wickets as the part-timers collapsed to 52 all out.

It was their worst-ever performance in all their different guises in the competition, lowering their previous worst total of 63, made by Minor Counties (East) against Sussex at Eastbourne in 1978.

Chapple, whose selection as the Gold Award winner was a formality, said: "I had a poor year in 1997, injuries or no injuries.

"I'm starting off from scratch this season and all I can do is try and play to my full potential.

"Everything went for us with the ball. On another day they could have played and missed rather than nick catches to the slips."

The Minors, who made Lancashire sweat for victory at Walsall last season, were inserted for the third successive game, and were always up against it on a hard, green wicket offering pace and bounce.

They folded from 24 for 1, with Michael Atherton and Andrew Flintoff sharing five slip catches between them, and Peter Martin also cooly clutching a skier at long-leg to remove the adventurous David Pennett.

Wasim Akram, Martin and Ian Austin also exploited conditions tailor-made for the seamers, and only the Norfolk opener Carl Rogers got into double figures for the Minors with 11.

Left with only 53 to win, Lancashire eased to their second victory in three Benson and Hedges Cup games for the loss of three wickets.

Flintoff went without scoring when he top-edged pulling at Paul Newman, and the former Lancashire player Marcus Sharp, now of Cumberland, removed both John Crawley and Neil Fairbrother.

Sharp, who is the new professional at Blackpool this year, saw Crawley get off the mark by lifting him for a second-ball six, but got his revenge by having him snared at slip by Rogers for 17.

But Atherton, the former England captain, stuck in to finish on 28 not out as Lancashire secured a seven-wicket victory in the 14th over.