Wasim in control

MIKE CAREY reports from Leicester
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The Independent Online
The scent of missed opportunity was heavy in the air here yesterday. Half-centuries by James Whitaker, Hansie Cronje and Vince Wells, who all got themselves out when they should have been thinking of greater things, were all that Leicestershire could offer in heaven-sent batting conditions. Thus the opportunity to damage Lancashire's title aspirations was wasted.

The pitch was mild, the sun beat down like somewhere east of Suez and, having lost the toss, Lancashire's acting captain, Wasim Akram, might have settled in advance for a much worse day. But with his yorker working efficiently, he took 6 for 72, handled affairs adroitly, and now Lancashire's batsmen have the chance to dig in.

Wasim prised out both Leicestershire openers with the new ball but the way that Whitaker and Cronje added 104 for the third wicket put everything into perspective. Whitaker's footwork was a delight, Cronje's timing superb and as the ball flew over the parched outfield, Wasim's resourcefulness was tested to the full.

He moved his bowlers around thoughtfully, and even had both spinners operating before lunch. But the ball continued to flow through the gaps from the middle of both bats and Leicestershire seemed on their way to 400 or more until Cronje padded up to what must have been Gary Keedy's arm-ball on the stroke of lunch.

The game was never the same after that. Wasim returned to pin Ben Smith leg-before with the first of his yorkers, then worked over Whitaker so effectively that he hooked him into long-leg's hands with a stroke that smacked of desperation. It was a curiously down-beat ending to an innings which had produced all but six of the first 50 runs in boundaries.

Now, although Wells dropped anchor sensibly, Lancashire had an open end to attack and already Keedy illustrated that the odd ball would turn and bounce. It was Wasim who broke through, however, when Paul Nixon was lbw to yorker No 2 and Gary Yates bowled Gordon Parsons behind his legs as he swept. Fittingly, Wasim rounded things off when he yorked Alamgir Sheriyar.