Atherton reveals his one-day ability

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The Independent Online

Lancashire had the right idea, letting spectators in without charging to view their new signing, Sourav Ganguly. There was always the chance that they would attract some customers before the rival attraction kicked off down the road.

The problem was that the football fans had gone by the time Ganguly came out to bat. Not that it mattered. The new man was out without scoring after just six balls, gloving Andrew Harris to the Nottinghamshire captain, Jason Gallian, at slip. It was just as well that Lancashire had another five one-day international batsmen in their top six.

Once they had got over Ganguly's dismissal, a target of 165 proved easy pickings. As man of the match Michael Atherton, with an unbeaten 81, and John Crawley found their touch to post a century partnership, runs came more freely than we had seen all day.

As Ganguly might agree, it was not a great day for batting. More one for anoraks - not to mention scarves and woolly hats before they went to the football. Lancashire sported their new fleeces - in Ganguly's case two fleeces and a traditional sweater. The man did not get here until Thursday. Given the chance to bowl 10 overs on the trot, he accepted it with the alacrity of someone unaccustomed to standing around in the Arctic Circle.

It might be stretching a point to say that Nottinghamshire were fleeced in this opening round of Benson and Hedges games. But choosing to bat first, their batsmen certainly caught a cold. The Lancashire bowlers made the ball dart about early on and timing was anything but easy. Nottinghamshire's run rate of two to three an over throughout their innings reflects that, as does extras' role as third-highest scorer.

Or maybe it's just that Lancashire bowled and fielded like National League champions and Nottinghamshire batted like a middle of the table second division side. It took their top scorer, Usman Afzaal, 108 balls for his 45, and he might have been caught and bowled by Ganguly when 36. Debut day was obviously not meant to be auspicious for the Indian Test player. Of Afzaal's three boundaries, the first, and the first of Nottinghamshire's innings, did not come until the 17th over. Notts at that stage had on 25 runs on the board for the loss of Darren Bicknell. The former Surrey man was lbw to Peter Martin in the fifth over for two, and another Trent Bridge newcomer, John Morris, had an even briefer stay at the crease. In his second over, he drove Ian Austin innocuously to cover.

Austin has a benefit this year. A popular player, he is sure to enjoy a good one, and he remains too good a bowler not to extract every advantage from conditions like those here yesterday. Just for a moment (five balls, actually) it looked as if the left-handed Afzaal and Paul Johnson might get after him, taking seven runs at the start of his second spell. Instead, Austin removed Afzaal and Morris in the space of six balls.

Andrew Flintoff, although without a wicket, also had a good bowl. Early season pitches like these often require little more than steadiness and Flintoff managed that, while at the same time getting sufficient movement to unsettle the batsmen. He also took a fine sweeper's catch, runningto extra cover to dismiss Chris Tolley.

When it comes to England players Atherton, with his ability to work the ball, remains a better one-day player than international non-appearances suggest. And Crawley played like a man with a message. If the England selectors see the bottle...