Lancashire in danger of losing runners-up prize as Bicknell and Gallian set the pace

Nottinghamshire 376-9 dec Lancashire 3-0
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The Independent Online

The Manchester weather always has been a sensitive subject for Lancastrians and never more so than this year. For want of a little kindness from the elements, they would be celebrating their first County Championship for 69 years rather than reflecting miserably on winning opportunities washed away by early-summer rains. They will have noted the irony of the glorious weather here yesterday.

Depriving Sussex of the cheque for £105,000 that comes with the title pennant was always a forlorn hope and there is a real danger now that the consolation of the £50,000 prize for finishing second might also elude them after Nottinghamshire, who are relegated, enjoyed rare prosperity.

Some perceived dampness in the pitch was the theory behind Warren Hegg's surprise decision to bowl but it backfired badly as Nottinghamshire gathered an unfamiliar clutch of batting points. It took Lancashire's bowlers two-and-a-half hours to claim their first wicket and while they did claim the full return as the home side's ninth wicket fell in the 100th over, it was at a cost in runs which is likely to turn the winning of this contest into a major feat.

Given the work they have put in throughout the year, Lancashire's toiling seamers, particularly the loyally reliable Peter Martin and Glen Chapple, do not deserve to be criticised. It was just unfortunate that they should choose yesterday to misfire.

Encouraged by an invitingly short boundary on the Fox Road side, Darren Bicknell and Jason Gallian made the morning their own. England may feel they were serving the national interest by insisting, after the Oval Test, that James Anderson and Andrew Flintoff took no further part in the Championship, but Lancashire must surely question why they pay the pair if even matches as consequential as this do not deserve their participation.

When the breakthrough did come, as Bicknell was bowled in expansive driving mode after scoring 64 of his 75 runs in boundaries, Gallian - spectacularly caught in the gully - and Chris Read soon followed.

But an 87-run partnership between Kevin Pietersen and Russell Warren restored Nottinghamshire's position of strength before the former thin-edged Carl Hooper. Warren's 75 became the bedrock as the home side consolidated their gains.

After the seam bowler Andrew Harris had to leave the ground because of a family illness, the home side declared at nine wickets down.

Lancashire survived two overs without loss but will need something spectacular from the likes of Hooper and Stuart Law today if Surrey's bid to pip them for second spot is to be repelled.