Cricket: Small stalls Lancashire

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Lancashire 65-2; Warwickshire

AFTER a winter that hardly eased the drought in certain parts of the country, the gods of the weather are giving the thumbs down to four-day cricket.

Indeed, those who preside at Liverpool are none too keen on the old-fashioned three-day game either, and after two days lost to rain the outfield was still spongy and weeping water yesterday morning. This is particularly unfortunate for a substantial and well-appointed club rationed to a first-class game every two years.

Ironically, the morning sky was blue and the air warm, but rain had crept beneath the covers overnight, and with the lack of any drying breeze a cautious start to the match could not be made until 2.15, with 65 overs to be bowled before stumps. Neil Fairbrother won the toss and entrusted greasy run-ups to the opposition's Allan Donald and Gladstone Small.

As Gehan Mendis and Mike Atherton made a careful opening to Lancashire's innings a fly-past of planes marking the Battle of Atlantic rumbled over the distant Mersey. They could not inspire Atherton, very reluctantly leg before to one from Small that kept viciously low, immediately after a nose-tweaking bouncer.

Nick Speak clipped Small's next ball for four but then lost his off stump to a snaking leg-cutter.

Fairbrother emerged at 12 for 2 to justify his decision to bat on a tricky wicket and his immediate answers were two precise offside fours to complete an over yielding two wickets and three boundaries. But tea-time rain left Liverpool with just 30 overs' cricket in three days, quite enough for those weather gods.