Test duty and injuries deplete Lancashire

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Lancashire, the pre-season favourites for the County Championship, have their resources stretched by the absence of four players for the First Division match against Kent which begins today in Tunbridge Wells.

Lancashire, the pre-season favourites for the County Championship, have their resources stretched by the absence of four players for the First Division match against Kent which begins today in Tunbridge Wells.

The West Indies all-rounder Carl Hooper is absent with a thumb injury, while the paceman Peter Martin continues his rehabilitation from knee surgery.

Andrew Flintoff will be with the England squad for the second Test against New Zealand at Headingley. Lancashire are in second place, five points behind Warwickshire, who meet Middlesex at Lord's today.

Kent welcome back the Australian all-rounder Andrew Symonds following the one-day series in Zimbabwe, while the left-arm pace bowler Alamgir Sheriyar has recovered from a side strain. The slow left-armer Rob Ferley will play no part due to a fractured knuckle sustained in last week's defeat by Surrey. Niall O'Brien continues behind the stumps in the absence of the England wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones.

Also in the First Division, Gloucestershire host third-placed Surrey, and Northamptonshire, who are looking for their first victory following their promotion to the top flight, face Worcestershire.

There are also four Second Division games starting today including the leaders, Nottinghamshire, against third-placed Hampshire, for whom Shane Warne returns to four-day action, at the Rose Bowl.

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