Hooper and Flintoff lead Lancashire's record charge

Lancashire 503-6 dec Leicestershire 117-4

A match struggling for rhythm and under mostly grey skies was lit up by an explosive afternoon from two of the most exciting contemporary hitters: Carl Hooper and Andrew Flintoff.

Early spectators were greeted by Max Bygraves, over the PA, singing "White Christmas'' not, it was hoped, a manifestation of Liverpool's new cultural status, extolled at lunchtime by the Lord Major.

By then Lancashire's basic building had been completed, 283-3 off 91 overs before Hooper and Flintoff, aided by Stuart Law, were able to hammer a mundane attack for 220 runs in the session and complete Lancashire's best score on this ground, overtaking the 502-9 declared, also against Leicestershire, in 1929. Lancashire's batting has become a juggernaut. This season they average 450 in their first innings.

Law's 82 came mainly from crisp driving, leaning into his inside foot; his dismissal, a leg-side catch by Paul Nixon standing up. Hooper reached 50 off 72 balls hitting the pavilion balcony, his last 71 coming off 55 balls. As Flintoff strode in, the PA announced that England, for whom Flintoff is unable to bowl were 170-5. It seemed that Anthony McGrath, who is also unable to bowl, was expected to restore national fortunes.

Flintoff had no time for tangled logic. He now enjoys his entrance - few spare seats again today - and inspects the opposition. Leicestershire spread the field. He put sixes into the ring and a third ball took off as though aimed for the Mersey but landed in the tennis courts beyond the River End.

Warren Hegg declared leaving Leicestershire to face 36 overs on a quickening pitch but under a clearer sky. They had made a comfortable start when Lancashire's newest fast bowler, Sajid Mahmood, Bolton-born and already being tipped for England, found the edge of left-hander John Maunders. Lancashire went on to capture three more wickets before the close, Hooper, at second slip, achieving a dazzling fast low catch to dismiss Virender Sehwag, an unexpected bonus.

Mark Chilton's earlier century was his third this summer and the seventh of his career. To complete a day for beaming Lancashire Chris Schofield hit a double century for the second XI against Warwickshire.

* Mike Hussey hit the highest County score of the season as Northamptonshire scored 622 for 8 before declaring against Gloucester. The 28-year-old Australian made 264, while Gloucester closed on 109 for 4.

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