Schofield makes strides down long road

Those county players whose best efforts were recorded against the Universities were often held in low regard by their peers, mainly for the act of what William Blake mockingly referred to as "murdering infants in their cradles," and then allowing the record to persist.

Such a view will not worry 21-year old Chris Schofield, whose 5 for 48, his best figures for Lancashire, helped secure his team's 170-run victory over Cambridge University. For one thing, he is virtually an infant himself, if not in years, then certainly in the art of wrist-spin and greater deeds surely lie ahead.

Bowling leggies successfully, is a skill full of wile, guile and knowing looks. Bobby Simpson, Lancashire's coach reckons it takes five years to become an "overnight sensation" as a leggie and he should know, having overseen the early part of Shane Warne's Test career. Schofield, despite an England contract, is about 10 minutes down that particular road.

Happily, the early signs are promising and although it is always difficult to judge performances against modest opponents, there was plenty to admire about Schofield here.

Bowling uphill and into a chilly north wind, he pegged away on a unresponsive pitch, mainly using his flipper for variation and making decisive strikes. One certainly fooled the tailender John Lowe, who was caught plumb in front and the spinner was unlucky not to get one or two more lbws with it.

Fairly flat through the air, Schofield does have a tendency to drop short and short leg often had to take evasive action. Simpson reckons consistency will come when he sorts out his run-up, which at present lacks rhythm and is rushed. All his variation comes from the arm, which is no bad thing, but it is unlikely to generate the amount fizz and dip that Warne gets from using his body as well.

Lancashire, who batted for 50 minutes after Michael Atherton dragged the sixth ball of the morning for on to his stumps for 19, set the University 303 to win in four hours plus 20 overs. Despite a fine batting pitch, the visitors did not need the last hour, although until postgraduate Richard Howitt edged a wild slash off Schofield, the draw looked favourite.

Instead, his dismissal opened the floodgates and neither freshman nor Blue could prevent the home side sliding from 70 for 2 to 132 all out.

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