Title goes west as Somerset falter

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The Independent Online

Lancashire had to win to have a faint hope of avoiding relegation; Somerset had to win to keep alive their National League title ambitions. Lancashire's win also means that, ironically, they have passed on their crown as one-day kings to the new stars in the West, Gloucestershire, who are the new champions. Lancashire have one more home game, against Sussex on Sunday week, but their fellow strugglers must lose in the meantime.

Lancashire had to win to have a faint hope of avoiding relegation; Somerset had to win to keep alive their National League title ambitions. Lancashire's win also means that, ironically, they have passed on their crown as one-day kings to the new stars in the West, Gloucestershire, who are the new champions. Lancashire have one more home game, against Sussex on Sunday week, but their fellow strugglers must lose in the meantime.

The fixture was without such names as Mike Atherton, John Crawley, Andy Flintoff, Andy Caddick and Marcus Trescothick. As the match drew another good crowd, 3,000 plus after a very wet morning, the conclusion must be that they are drawn by the lights and spectacle rather than the contest.

In fact there was some cracking cricket, including an admirable demonstration of faith in spin from Lancashire's acting captain Warren Hegg, and notably a stand of 125 in 19 overs between the two left-handers Sourav Ganguly and Neil Fairbrother. Ganguly romped to his second National League century, while Fairbrother was even better value, smashing a six off the first ball from a returning Steffan Jones.

Somerset's fielding was sharp and their bowling tidy but they were never in control. Mark Chilton, who usually bats in the shadow of Atherton or Crawley, showed a refreshing range of shots.

Mark Lathwell kept Somerset up with the rate despite losing Peter Bowler to a leg-side catch. Lathwell was the first victim of spin, beaten by the turn when driving. Mike Burns then fell to a slick return catch.

Ian Blackwell's lusty hitting, with Jamie Cox's support, threatened to turn the match until Blackwell failed to clear long on and after that Somerset were never able to bring the rate below seven an over.

Keith Parsons was run out by Schofield from square and captain Cox completed a valiant century before being run out by Glen Chapple's throw. Fifteen were needed off the last over, from Ian Austin, but Rob Turner was caught off the penultimate ball and Graham Rose off the last.

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