Cricket: Waqar's sign of the times

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The Independent Online
Glamorgan 272-1 dec

Lancashire 51 Glamorgan win by 221 runs

A devastating spell of fast swing bowling from Waqar Younis manufactured an improbable victory for Glamorgan at Aigburth yesterday, strengthening the feeling of believers in omens that this could be their year.

The last time a Glamorgan bowler took a hat-trick in a County Championship match - Ossie Wheatley in 1968 - was a year before the county's last title. Waqar took one in Liverpool and was close to another. If it was a sign of things to come, it could not have arrived in more spectacular style.

Charging in ominously from the murk in the general direction of the Wirral, the Pakistani paceman had Lancashire, set 273 to win in 60 overs after each side forfeited an innings, in trouble from the start.

In his first over, he dismissed Nathan Wood and Glen Chapple with successive balls to set up his first hat-trick opportunity. He also accounted for Steve Titchard and Graham Lloyd and with Steve Watkin also bowling well from the other end to claim the limping Neil Fairbrother's scalp, Lancashire were soon reduced to 27 for 5.

That was when the former Surrey bowler applied the coup de grace. The last ball of his sixth over had the Lancashire debutant Mark Chilton caught wafting down the leg side and the first two deliveries of his next removed Warren Hegg and Gary Yates, both of whom lost their off stumps to balls they scarcely seemed to see.

Waqar's admiring captain, Matthew Maynard, called it the most destructive burst of bowling he had ever seen. "He bowled some deliveries that I don't think any batsman in the world would have laid a bat on," he said. "The ball was swinging and there wasn't much the Lancashire batsmen could do. We brought Waqar here to win us matches and he has been settling down well."

It was Watkin who buried the latest body of Lancashire's increasingly moribund season, having Peter Martin leg before and Gary Keedy caught in the slips by - of all people - Waqar, who was cheered off by team-mates who almost outnumbered spectators.

"It felt good as soon as I started running in," he said. "It was swinging a bit and there was a bit of help from the wicket. I'm really pleased, because I want to do well for Glamorgan in my first year with them."

Lancashire's dismissal for 51 and the fillip it will give to Glamorgan's title aspirations completed a remarkable rehabilitation for the Welsh county, bowled out by Middlesex for 31 in their last match to show them the other side of a batting collapse.

That turnaround was almost as unexpected as the match at Liverpool reaching any sort of conclusion. Play resumed yesterday lunchtime after a slight gap of 70 hours - every minute of it spent by their opening batsman, Stephen James, sweating on 99.

He reached his century immediately and went on to 152 not out, courtesy of the friendly bowling of Wood and Lloyd.

Maynard's declaration and his forfeiture pact with Fairbrother then set Lancashire a target that seemed fair and balanced, but that was before Waqar entered the equation.