Flintoff ignites but fireworks fizzle out

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Lancashire supporters tend to go rather red in the face when they are reminded that they have not won the Champion-ship since 1934. With their White Rose rivals on course to take the title, the Red Rose was starting to blanch at the prospect of relegation.

Having lost their last three matches, they went to Colwyn Bay to take on a Glamorgan side who had lost twice in a row and were even more desperate to win. The hosts resumed in disarray on 86 for 5 after Lancashire declared with a first-innings deficit of 77.

But an unbeaten 73 by Keith Newell, who replaced Robert Croft, and support from Darren Thomas allowed them to call a halt on 220 for 7, setting a target of 298 off 49 overs.

It was a tough ask, but with Andrew Flintoff registering his first half-century of the season, 68 off just 52 balls, anything was possible. He blasted 118 in 18 overs with Mark Chilton, who made 83, but wickets fell regularly afterwards and at 225 for 7, with 73 needed from eight overs, rain had the last word.

On day three of the battle between the top sides in Division Two, Middlesex were all out for 208 in reply to Sussex's 351 for 8 at Hove. Only Paul Weekes put up resistance with 64 as the left-arm seamer Jason Lewry took 4 for 64.

It was left to Phil Tufnell to help Weekes avoid the follow-on. For all his form with the ball, the prospect of relying on his batting must have had his team-mates biting their nails.

Sussex then lost their prolific openers with just six runs on the board but reached 140 for 2 for a lead of 283, with Mike Yardy unbeaten on 69.

The other main contenders for promotion are Hampshire and Warwickshire, both with a game in hand. At Chelten-ham, Hampshire's theoretical target, 350 in 65 overs, became immaterial as the rains came at 40 for 1. Gloucestershire had declared on 245 for 6, veteran Kim Barnett making 93.

Ian Bell is touted as England's great batting prospect, but his chances at Warwickshire have been few. He was pulled out of the Under-19s' Test series against their West Indian counterparts to take on Nottinghamshire at Edgbaston and duly recorded his maiden Championship century, 103 off 252 balls with 15 fours.

From their overnight 270 for 5, the hosts were all out for 373, with one of Clive Rice's South African Englishmen, left-arm quickie Greg Smith, taking 4 for 48. The visitors replied with 164 for 1, Australian Greg Blewett scoring 89 not out.

Worcestershire might have hoped that Kidderminster would give them some respite from the dubious pitches of New Road, but yesterday they were bundled out for 147 with Durham's Danny Law picking up 5 for 52 to add to his first-innings 64. Only Anurag Singh made an impression with 57. Durham have only 115 to make for their second win this year.