If England intend to battle for the Ashes on slow, seaming wickets, Martin made the most of his opportunities here to remind the England selectors that he is in his element on such surfaces. One of them, Mike Gatting, was twice treated to first-hand experience of Martin's ability.
Dav Whatmore, the Lancashire coach, was particularly pleased with the way Martin and all his bowlers performed. "We've had conditions in the past that have helped our bowlers," he said, "but they haven't always capitalised on them. This time they really broke the game open early and created a chance for us to win it." Whatmore was also pleased with the way Nathan Wood grasped his opportunity "to provide the sort of batting we need at the top of the order."
That Lancashire would improve their four-day standing was apparent once yesterday dawned clear and dry. For the neutral observer, however, some interest lay in seeing how the Middlesex teenager Owais Shah would apply himself to the situation. An England A tour and his A Levels behind him, the youngster began the day 20 not out with Middlesex, six wickets down, needing a further 101 to avoid an innings defeat. It was a challenge, if nothing else, but in the event temptation, in the form of Yates's flighted off-breaks, got the better of him. The gate during an ungainly drive was wide enough to admit a Hunt Ball, let alone a cricket ball.
Soon afterwards Shah's overnight partner, Richard Johnson, provided Martin with his first wicket towards a morning's return of 3 for 16 from 7.2 overs. Graham Lloyd at second slip knocked up his edged drive and Neil Fairbrother, darting behind Lloyd from first slip, flung himself a long way to grab the ball inches from the ground. There's a line in a song which goes something like, "if you don't take your chance, the angels won't dance". They'll be dancing their clogs off if Lancashire keep taking chances like that.
Warren Hegg, dived to his left to dismiss Jamie Hewitt, who drove airily at Martin. And just when it looked as if Angus Fraser and Phil Tufnell might amuse us with a last-throw comic cameo, Martin made an awful mess of Tufnell's stumps.
It was all he required to improve on Kevan James's 13 for 93 for Hampshire against Somerset as the season's best match performance to date.Reuse content