Cricket: Resolute Wasim

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Lancashire 521; Somerset 273 & 136-5

THERE was a plastic bucket filled with water at the back of the Southport ground and next to it an explanatory note saying: 'Gents' handwashing'. This proved to be a charmingly makeshift affair which happened not to be terribly good at the job and was therefore not entirely dissimilar to some of Somerset's cricket.

They were in desperate trouble throughout the third day which they began 418 runs behind Lancashire and ended with no hope of making the opposition bat again. It was certain that Somerset would fail to avoid following on but they resisted this inevitability with an odd, pleasant assortment of carefree stroke play and responsible vigilance. Like the bucket it was never at risk of being effective for long.

The most prominent batting of the day came from Mark Lathwell. He completed one 50 in the morning and in the afternoon he swiftly assembled another in 64 balls, attrition clearly not being in his nature. A year ago Lathwell was being hailed as the brightest young man in English cricket, a veritable saviour with a refreshing style. Two nervous Test matches, an indifferent A tour and he was a batsman who did not know the meaning of caution or the essence of sound technique.

Some of his strokes second time around yesterday were dismissive but when he had made 61 he played a false drive against a turning ball and perished at point. It had been a joy to watch but maybe Somerset could have done with less joy and more patience.

In finishing 248 adrift on the first innings they had also shown that they were not predisposed solely to defend. Both Mushtaq Ahmed and Graham Rose had played breezily as though their only worries concerned the state of the motorway back to the West Country. Mushtaq struck a six in his 37, Rose hit 14 fours in his 79.

Wasim Akram, as ever, was the difference between resistance and collapse. He had sent the first innings into a state of complete disarray with three wickets in an over, finishing with five in all. He returned again yesterday evening to do likewise in the second. He had Andy Hayhurst caught off bat and pad and then Parsons was leg before to a full-length ball.

In between some sharp chances went begging, though the PM was not around to object. The bucket and Somerset both just about lasted the day.