Croft at perfect pitch

Cricket: Lancashire 417 and 140-1 Glamorgan 475
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The Independent Online
THE unchallenging Old Trafford wicket is going to have to become a lot less benign on the final day if either side is to snatch a victory from this high-scoring match.

A first-innings lead of 58 put Glamorgan in the stronger position here yesterday, but the relaxed way in which Lancashire set about their reply suggests that a thrash tomorrow morning could produce enough runs for a declaration.

The main question then will be whether there is much turn in the pitch. A feature of the first three days has been some degree of deviation, but usually too slow to trouble the batsmen of either team.

Glamorgan yesterday saw off the spin of Gary Keedy and Mike Watkinson before the second new ball started them on a slide that restricted their lead to something manageable. It was Ian Austin's medium-pace wobblers that made the breakthrough, an excellent second over giving Matthew Maynard all manner of worries before the Lancashire-born batsman was finally caught at first slip by John Crawley.

Maynard's departure for 138 ended a partnership which had established a third-wicket record for Glamorgan against Lancashire, and he and Tony Cottey had taken it beyond 200 in the morning. Cottey soon followed his long-standing partner Maynard into the pavilion, caught behind by Warren Hegg off Wasim Akram four runs later. When Wasim also had the West Indian, Hamesh Anthony, lbw without scoring, Lancashire could even imagine themselves emerging from the first innings with a small but potentially valuable advantage.

But Glamorgan's lengthy tail proved difficult to dislodge, with Robert Croft, Neil Kendrick, Colin Metson and even an out-and-out rabbit such as Steve Watkin amassing extremely useful runs. No doubt had they been told that they would match and exceed Lancashire's 417, they would happily have settled for that.

Lancashire's new opening partnership of Jason Gallian and Nick Speak made a steady rather than spectacular start to the task of wiping out the arrears, reaching 67 between intermittent showers without undue alarm before Speak attempted an ill-judged reverse sweep at a ball from Croft that was too straight for that kind of treatment and fell leg before.

Croft had embarked on a marathon unchanged spell that kept Lancashire's batsmen a little quieter than they needed to be in the interests of pursuing a win. Gallian moved smoothly enough to his second half-century of the Championship and Crawley, who had been the architect of a majestic 182 in the first innings, was within a run of his fifty when the rain forced an early finish.