Cricket: Smith to the rescue

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 392 and 194

Warwickshire 407 and 32-0

A SECOND career-best performance in successive home Championship games saw Neil Smith put Warwickshire back on top on a day of fluctuating fortunes and bowlers' revenge.

Smith, the off-spinning offspring of M J K, took seven for 133 here against Kent last month. Yesterday, his seven for 42 dug Warwickshire out of the hole into which their own batting had put them earlier.

With only 180 needed to continue their 18-match unbeaten run in all competitions this season, Warwickshire were restored to favouritism by Smith's efforts, but the story of yesterday's play would warn against any rash predictions.

Warwickshire began well, Jason Ratcliffe completing a half-century in his first Championship innings of the season. Once Glen Chapple removed him, however, Warwickshire collapsed quickly.

Chapple and Wasim Akram, in his last Championship match before leaving for Pakistan's tour of Sri Lanka, took six wickets for 17 runs at one stage, with Chapple's phase yielding four for seven.

Richard Davis took Warwickshire past 400, but when he was out fending at Wasim, his side had a lead of just 15.

Although Graham Lloyd was out before a run was scored, that lead looked inadequate when Gladstone Small went off with a hamstring injury and John Crawley scored 50 to add to his first-innings century.

When Tim Munton bowled him, however, it was disintegration time again on a wicket which had been the batsmen's friend on the first two days.

Smith got rid of Neil Fairbrother and Mike Watkinson before they could recover their missing touch and the last real obstacle to Warwickshire being left with a manageable fourth- innings target was dismantled when Wasim holed out with a lofted straight drive.