Ganguly suffers a baptism of drizzle

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The Independent Online

Cricket is quite vulnerable enough to the weather without the uniquely British farce that was staged here yesterday. After Wednesday's fretful drizzle the morning was sunny and dry. But it seems the technology available to protect a Kent cricket pitch and its surroundings is no match for April dampness.

The same wicket had been used on Monday for a Benson and Hedges match against Middlesex, and Angus Fraser's giant footmarks were like tiny garden ponds. The drainage here is ineffective, and inevitably the day's first spots of rain fell just before the rescheduled 2.30pm start. Another Championship season was launched cautiously under threatening skies, a day and a half late, and the home captain, Matthew Fleming, chose to bowl in the green conditions.

Lancashire have been forced to rejig their batting order for this game. John Crawley has an injured hand, stubbed into the ground while fielding, and Neil Fairbrother has a groin strain. Warren Hegg leads the visitors in Crawley's absence.

In the single session of play that the weather allowed before conclusive rain set in at tea-time, both sides had their reasons to be cheerful. For Kent, Mark Ealham was on a hat-trick before Mark Chilton and Andrew Flintoff led a Lancashire recovery, closing on 95 for 3.

Sourav Ganguly, Lancashire's Indian Test batsman, has not taken to a moist April in England. He began his county career with a six-ball duck in the Benson and Hedges competition and yesterday's innings was five balls shorter. Ealham caught Joe Scuderi in no-man's land off the previous ball and Ganguly padded up to a delivery that cut in from outside off-stump, his bat periscope high.

The hat-trick ball whistled past Flintoff while he was still framing his response, but he survived to build a run-a-ball partnership with Chilton. Fleming's four overs cost him 27 runs, the ball skidding across the soggy outfield. So, what cricket the Kent faithful were allowed was entertaining indeed, but how we regret that bright, wasted morning.

Lancashire First Innings

M A Atherton c Hockley b McCague 17 M J Chilton not out 33 J C Scuderi lbw b Ealham 9 S C Ganguly lbw b Ealham 0 A Flintoff not out 34 Extras lb2 2 Total 3 wkts (27 overs) 95 Fall: 1-29 2-38 3-38 To Bat: C P Schofield, M P Smethurst, G D Lloyd, W K Hegg, P J Martin, G Chapple.

Bowling Ealham 9 3 22 2 Saggers 9 1 29 0 McCague 5 1 15 1 Fleming 4 0 27 0

Umpires: B Leadbeater and R A White