Fairbrother forces the pace

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The Independent Online
reports from Taunton

Lancashire 399-7 v Somerset

Three men with England and Lancashire could still flaunt their power here, a volcanic century by Neil Fairbrother being preceded by an equally handsome 76 from Nick Speak.

It was all Lancashire up to tea. Jason Gallian was smooth, Steve Titchard solid and Wasim Akram, his first time as captain, won the toss and added a half-century. As Wasim has also led Pakistan, his credentials are gilt- edged; nothing short of commanding a Klingon starship should worry him.

The morning was ideal for swingers, sticky and overcast, but Andrew Caddick and Graham Rose are convalescing. Both spinners were operating soon after noon, Gallian's departure, (nine fours off 70 balls) the surprise, caught round the corner off an off-break. Speak began with upright driving; in this mood he plays with an almost Edwardian disdain, as if recently arrived from Repton rather than Parrs Wood.

Titchard disappeared on the stroke of lunch, his off stump flattened by an ankle-high full toss from Andre van Troost, now operating off a short run. The afternoon session had members choking on their rock cakes; Speak and Fairbrother added 159 in 39 overs. Fairbrother pulled and drove sixes, six in all, three off Harvey Trump, the off-spinner at last having him stumped after he had hit 132 off 149 balls.

Speak had preceded him, three overs earlier, chipping to cover a ball that was held back. Fairbrother is never dull; in his previous nine first- class innings he had raised 146. He might have been caught in the deep at 41 and he was missed behind on 79. The price of his audacity is an England place.

A welcome breeze lifted spirits and the spinners, Mushtaq especially, began to control a match on a pitch that was increasingly helpful to their cause.