Lancashire limp out of contention

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The Independent Online
MARTIN JOHNSON

reports from Old Trafford

Yorkshire 505 & 96-1 Lancashire 238 & 362 Yorkshire win by 9 wickets

Michael Atherton is contemplating taking the rest of the season off after the Oval Test match although, on the evidence of his team's performance in this match, Lancashire have already beaten him to it.

The England captain was pulled out of his bed to play here after Neil Fairbrother withdrew with a hamstring strain, but even though he roused himself with a half-century and a century, Lancashire's collective response to the alarm call was to roll over and pull the duvet up over their ears.

Lancashire took only four points from this match and, barring something unusual, the Championship run-in has now been whittled down from four teams to three. Yorkshire still had some work to do when play resumed on the final morning, but with their opponents obligingly downing tools, they cantered up by nine wickets 10 minutes before lunch.

Leading by only 79 runs with three second-innings wickets in hand, Lancashire's resistance encompassed no more than 20 minutes and 25 balls. Seven of the 16 runs they added were scored by Atherton, which was precisely the number he required to move from his overnight 93 to 100.

During his innings, which equalled Clive Lloyd's Lancashire record of six first-class centuries in Roses matches, Atherton witnessed a much livelier performance with the ball from Craig White, and might have found it hard to shake off a nagging feeling that he had seen him somewhere before. However, there was no serious chance of White retaining his Test place, and the best he can hope for is a winter with the A team in Pakistan.

Atherton was out to the next delivery after completing his fourth century of the summer in four and a half hours, top edging a sweep off Richard Stemp to slip. This left Yorkshire to make 96, which would not have been too taxing even if Wasim Akram had not been off the field with a side strain.

There was never much danger of Lancashire's attack risking much in the way of strains, and the feeling that they were not much interested in re-appearing after lunch manifested itself in some profligate new-ball bowling from Glen Chapple, and a pedestrian deportment in the field.

Martyn Moxon offered a difficult leg-side chance to the wicketkeeper, Warren Hegg, when he had made 27, and although Jason Gallian dismissed Michael Vaughan with his first ball - Vaughan miscuing an attempted leg- side pick-up to mid on - the introduction of Gallian's gentle off-twiddlers at 62 for 0 was more of a towel throwing operation than a hurling down of gauntlets.

Meanwhile, as Atherton thinks of winding down, Yorkshire are now planning to wind up Raymond Illingworth a touch further by playing Darren Gough against Middlesex on Thursday.

Raymond's interest in keeping Yorkshire players fresh for England was slightly less obvious when he was their manager.

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