Wasim still a master

Lancashire 375 Middlesex 88 and 112 Lancs won by inn and 175 runs
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The Independent Online
WATCHING Peter Martin and Glen Chapple take part in the humiliation of Middlesex at Lord's yesterday, it looked as though England's selectors might have chosen the wrong promising Lancashire fast-medium bowler for the Texaco Trophy squad. Both took three wickets in Middlesex's mournful second innings of 112 after they had followed on 287 runs behind, but Chapple was the more hostile of the two and bowled a better line.

And neither was Lancashire's best bowler. This talented pair still have a good deal to learn from Wasim Akram, who ground down Middlesex's batsmen by the simple expedient of making them play virtually every ball. Having taken six for 35 in Middlesex's first innings of 88, Wasim also took three more wickets in the second, bringing his match figures to nine for 63. Winning by an innings and 175 runs means Lancashire have dropped only a single point in their first three Championship games. Despite having played one game fewer than most other counties, they will be in the top two tomorrow evening.

The only uncertainty about yesterday's play was whether Lancashire would finish Middlesex's second innings before the kick-off at Wembley. A stand of 40 - the highest in both Middlesex's innings - between John Emburey and Mark Feltham meant that United supporters Mike Atherton and Chapple missed the first five minutes of the game.

Don Bennett, Middlesex's coach, had no excuse for the team's dismal performance. He didn't blame the wicket; while the bounce was variable, it was swing that overwhelmed his batsmen. "There is no substitute for skill," he said ruefully.

On paper, Middlesex's bowling attack of Gus Fraser, Dion Nash and Richard Johnson looks just as capable as Lancashire's but they bowled short and allowed Lancashire to score 375. Lancashire's trio kept the ball up and made the most of a wicket that was going to help the seamers. (Middlesex didn't bother to pick Phil Tufnell.) The tail-enders had no chance in the morning against Wasim's fierce straight bowling; all three were caught off the edge at the wicket or in the slips. Wasim had taken six for 35. Martin and Chapple could only watch and admire.

Although Middlesex's batting has been fragile, with Mike Gatting failing regularly as an opening bat and only Mark Ram- prakash scoring regularly, there was no reason to suppose that Middlesex could not bat for most of the day, except that Gatting, playing back to Akram's second ball, got a leading edge and was caught by Martin at mid-off.

Ramprakash, playing a full-blooded shot off his hips, was bravely caught by John Crawley at short leg. When Jason Pooley played a casual shot and was caught in the gully, Middlesex were three for 3 and the interest was no longer in the result, but in the comparative performances of Martin and Chapple.

Martin is 6ft 5in, uses his height well, and got the ball to swing, but his direction was wayward. Chapple is three inches shorter and more compact and his season has been hindered by bursitis, but there was no evidence of it yesterday. He bowled fast and accurately, dismissing the Middlesex middle order. Martin came back to remove the tail, and each of Lancashire's fast men had three wickets for only a few runs to their name. But the figures were misleading: Wasim was magnificent; Chapple full of promise; and Martin a little disappointing.

So far this season Lancashire have shown impressive consistency (Don Bennett equates consistency with confidence). The question now is whether they can keep it up. Next week they lose Atherton, Neil Fairbrother and Martin to the England squad.

Chapple looks like a good bet to join the squad when the Test series against the West Indies gets under way, and Wasim leaves to play for Pakistan against Sri Lanka later in the summer.

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