Rhodeslends a hand

Lancashire 206 and 231-9 Worcestershire 487-9 dec Worcs won by inn and 50 runs
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AFTER a frustratingly damp morning that allowed just seven balls to be bowled, Worcestershire, under their new captain, Tom Moody, continued their winning run, thrashing Lancashire by an innings and 50 runs. This was Worcestershire's third successive Championship win, and it doubtless made up for the disappointments following last week's thrilling one-day encounter between the two sides.

Since their amazing victory in that game, Lancashire have looked less perky, no doubt blighted by Michael Atherton's inability to open. In the first innings he appeared at No 8 and was promptly dismissed by Richard Illingworth for nought. Yesterday he spent much of the day watching his colleagues from behind the bowler's arm with an injured back.

In an attempt to ease this latest bout of congenital back pain - problems last winter caused him to miss a one-day international in Melbourne - Atherton had two cortisone injections on Friday. This is usually a last resort and normally requires 48 hours' rest. Atherton, however, hopes to be able to play in today's Sunday League game and prove his fitness for the forthcoming Test.

One player who did show the assembled selectors an improving bill of health was Steve Rhodes, who took five catches as the bowlers shared the wickets around. Rhodes had lost much of his punchy confidence since a chastening tour of Australia. This performance, followed as it might be by selection for the Test, will go a long way to restoring his self-belief and ensuring his full recovery as a pugnacious batsman and sure-gloved wicketkeeper.

Only seven balls were possible in the morning as rain and bad light hovered over New Road. Of those, Paul Thomas bowled only one, though his second - which came immediately play restarted after lunch - was sufficiently probing to remove the Lancashire nightwatchman, Gary Yates, as the batsman edged the ball to Hick at second slip.

Thomas, in his second Championship game, tested Lancashire with his slippery pace. Neither Jason Gallian nor John Crawley looked convincing against him (something Ray Illingworth may have noticed between courses), and it was only when he began to tire and overpitch that they took more than the odd single.

Crawley struggled when the ball was directed towards his off-stump, and his downfall was the result of successive misjudgements in this area; the first, a close lbw shout, came after he padded up to a ball that nipped back at him; the second came a ball later, when a hesitant leave was held by Rhodes.

Lost causes are nothing new to Neil Fairbrother, whose strokeplay has turned many a dire situation. Consolidation is not a method he often employs, and his 14 was constructed entirely out of boundaries, the last a towering six off Illingworth, which when attempted four balls later brought his downfall as the ball skewed off to Lampitt at cover.

Gallian sailed on, lashing successive short balls from Lampitt to the cover fence. He approached his innings with none of the "I'll get another knock in two days' time" attitude that dilutes the fighting qualities of most county cricketers. His fifty took 105 balls, and he struck five fours before edging a hesitant cut to Rhodes off Thomas.

After tea, in belated sunshine, Phil Newport returned to dismiss Mike Watkinson, caught behind by Rhodes, who then accounted for Graham Lloyd after the batsman got the thinnest of edges pulling at Thomas. The rout was complete when Warren Hegg, top-edging a hook, gave Rhodes the last of his catches, and Wasim Akram holed out to give Lampitt his third wicket of the innings.