CUTTING a swath through the counties would have been a straightforward exercise for the Australians on this tour, apart from umbrellas obstructing the way. They proved it again yesterday.
Needing 10 wins from 14 matches to scoop the pounds 50,000 on offer in the Tetley Bitter Challenge, they fell foul of the weather together with the three-day match tour format, ironically at their own request. They wanted to slip in two county games between each Test.
The Australians played several four-day games in the United Kingdom eight years ago, the experimental thin end of the wedge which led to a fully fledged Championship of that duration this summer. The game becomes curiouser and curiouser.
Not to Mark Taylor, though, who scored his third tour hundred, including two in Tests. Throw him a willow and the length of matches means little. He made 122 from 191 balls and his dismissal, caught off a top-edged sweep could have been entered in the book, or rather on the computer, as 'retired bored'.
The stroke, albeit mistimed, was a sacrifice made to get in someone else, Michael Slater. Playing for each other now involves getting out - something beyond the comprehension of England's incumbents when on tour.
With Michael Atherton absent on press conference duties, Neil Fairbrother suffering from hamstring trouble and Wasim Akram also injured, Lancashire had the debilitated look which bedevils home teams whenever tourists visit, despite the financial incentives.
The polish belonged to the Australians, whose supporting cast, the four beyond the 13 appearing in the Test series, includes Damien Martyn. Perhaps if England's selectors could have found his family connection in Coggeshall, or Colston Bassett, he might have been 'ours'. An innings of 70 not out increased his tour aggregate to 642.
Matthew Hayden, another yet to play in the present series, flourished with a half-century before being the first of two leg-before victims, playing across the line to Peter Martin.
Despite a delayed start for 90 minutes, the Australians moved remorselessly towards 300, with a couple of spin aces, Shane Warne and Tim May, up their sleeves. Jason Gallian, Sydney born and Oxford educated but qualified for Lancashire next summer, bowled with enthusiasm - but perseverance was his side's bottom line. Martin dismissed Slater with a full-length ball in the penultimate over, but the shape of Australian supremacy remained unchanged.Reuse content