Cricket: Waqar hits fiery form

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 392 and 266

Surrey 260 and 114-0

THE OVAL is hardly a stop for the Velvet Underground, but down Kennington way yesterday there's no doubt they were waiting for their man. It took him some time to deliver, but when Waqar Younis found a rich vein in mid- afternoon there was no mistaking the excitement that ran around the ground. The sultan of swing had found his sting.

For 50 overs, Lancashire had been cruising along at four runs an over, helped by several dropped catches and some rather ordinary bowling. They were 323 ahead and general interest centred on the timing of Neil Fairbrother's declaration. Then Waqar struck.

Nick Speak's feet weren't going anywhere when Waqar hit his pads with a quick delivery that skidded through. Next ball, Fairbrother's leg stump was plucked out by a snorter, and the adrenalin was pumping. Waqar had made the connection with the man he was meant to be. Gehan Mendis' middle stump went flying three balls later, and if Graham Lloyd never knew where he was at he certainly looked mightily relieved to be headed where he was going. The thunderball that thumped into his pads was Waqar's fourth strike in 12 balls.

Things were never the same again for Lancashire. Wasim Akram and Mike Watkinson, both first-innings heroes, looked to be getting them back on the road, only for Joey Benjamin to cut down Wasim and Warren Hegg with consecutive deliveries. It took a spirited last-wicket stand of 28 between Glen Chapple and Alex Barnett to get Lancashire close to the 400 lead they must have expected earlier in the day.

If Surrey's target of 399 from 143 overs - less than three an over - was not unduly formidable on an easy-paced pitch and quickening outfield, an unbeaten opening partnership of 114 in 41 overs between Darren Bicknell and their skipper, Monte Lynch, made it less so. It might need something special from Wasim on Monday to stop them.

Pre-Waqar, the day belonged to Mendis, the nightwatchman Peter Martin and Speak, the last two both outscoring the opener during his three-and-a-half hour stay. Speak's 69 off 76 balls was a lovely flowing innings and he was probably looking forward to a fun afternoon until Waqar decided to step up a gear.