Flaw of the Roses

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By Neil Bramwell

at Old Trafford

Yorkshire 505

Lancashire 238 and 346-7

IF Ray Illingworth was looking to this Roses clash to alleviate last night's selection headache, he would have been a frustrated man. The combined array of possibles for a place in Thursday's final Test at the Oval were as unconvincing as their side's respective performances.

Mike Atherton alone, back in the county groove, produced an eye-catching performance of authority, Richard Stemp lacked the devil of his second- day display, Craig White was at times devilishly tame but at least Illingworth could take comfort from the state of the game.

Needing a win to maintain their Championship ambitions, the Lancashire plan of attack was to occupy the crease well into the fourth day in the hope that their own spinners could defend a tricky target. the constant trickle of wickets, many falling as much through lack of concentration as penetration, made that scenario unlikely.

The home pair of Jason Gallian and John Crawley initially showed the necessary resolve but soon succumbed to flaws that would prey on the England chairman of selector's mind.

Gallian at least proved his temperament credentials, studious to the extreme and scoring just seven runs in a little less than two hours before lunch. His comfort against pace was in contrast to his discomfort against spin and, after a brief, post-lunch flurry, this lack of conviction proved fatal. Michael Vaughan flighted an innocuous delivery and Gallian's tentative poke found a gentle edge to first slip.

Crawley had appeared the more comfortable of the two, though not in complete command. His partner's dismissal should have prompted intensified resolution. Instead, he dropped down on one knee, resembling Brian Lara, but looked more like Phil Tufnell as his ugly heave resulted in a lobbed catch to mid-on.

Only Bevan, of the Yorkshire spin attack, extracted consistent turn but he was too erratic. Stemp sacrificed the previous day's adventure for control and consequently allowed the likes of Atherton and Nick Speak the chance to settle.

However, Speak became another casualty in mid-flow when he played on to the lively Chris Silverwood, and the remainder of the middle order also carelessly contrived to instigate their own dismissals. Warren Hegg produced a gallant cameo, helping to give Lancashire a lead of 79 and providing Atherton with a slim chance of heroics.