Wasim makes himself at home

Leicestershire 235 and 282 Lancashire 303 and 218-6 Lancashire won by 4 wickets
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WASIM AKRAM, captaining a buoyant side within fingertip distance of the top of the table, had several reasons for motivation yesterday morning. Lancashire were determined to maintain momentum with a third successive win, and Wasim's four second-innings wickets had set them on course on Friday evening. Indeed, when he reduced Leicestershire to 45 for three, still short of setting a target, a two-day finish was a possibility.

Furthermore, beyond the lure of a Monday's rest may have been the knowledge that Lancashire are now mulling over future overseas options. Wasim's contract ends next year, when Pakistan are touring, and on recent evidence he would like the chance to return to Old Trafford.

Yesterday he achieved his sixth 10-wicket haul for his county and steamed on, down the Grace Road slope, to return match figures of 12 for 165, making him one of the most productive wicket-takers this season.

From an economical run and on a flat, dusty track, Wasim found enough spite to prevent anyone feeling too comfortable. His mission was slightly impeded by an early-morning glut of no-balls and then by some unexpected Leicestershire defiance.

Unexpected because James Whitaker was batting with a broken toe, crushed by a Wasim yorker, and Gordon Parsons had a split finger. Whitaker, with his foot suitably reinforced, hopped around for over 90 minutes until Martin scored a direct hit on the toe and then yorked him, while Parsons was his usual belligerent self. Adrian Pierson, the nightwatchman, was commendably adhesive, while Vince Wells added a further 15 runs to his solid Friday effort.

The result was that Leicestershire resisted until after lunch, and instead of having a few afternoon runs to knock off, Lancashire faced a possibly testing target of 215. At 101 for one, with Jason Gallian and Nick Speak motoring steadily, it seemed a simple test. But the game had a delightful twist in the early evening when the lanky spinner Pierson, who had taken an awful spanking in the first innings, reduced Lancashire to 162 for six with a triple whammy.

Wasim, however, was back in the middle by this time. He loosened up with six successive fours and added five more in a clean-hitting 35-ball cameo of huge power. Lancashire had indeed won, but cricket is richer than that - Leicestershire's plucky batting and persistent bowling had kept the day alive.