Watkinson thrives on Lancashire success

Cricket: ROUND-UP
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The Independent Online

Mike Watkinson has every right to sit back and contemplate a remarkable season on a personal and a club front after leading Lancashire to victory in the Benson and Hedges Cup and masterminding their Championship challenge, as well as winning three England caps as he reaches his cricketing dotage, writes David Llewellyn.

But after watching Jason Gallian, his England colleague, smack the winning boundary in a nine-wicket win against Surrey at The Oval yesterday, Watkinson, 34, had his mind on what remained to be done. Quiet he may be, self-effacing certainly, but there is a hard place at the core of the man.

"We have slipped up in a couple of matches," he said, "against sides we were expected to beat. That's why we are now off the pace in the Championship. The pressure is on us to keep winning and get maximum points from our last two games against Kent and Derbyshire."

Then he reckons the Red Rose county could well finish as runners-up, unless the others slip-up, in which case... but he does not want to dwell on that. Instead, Watkinson is particularly proud of the fact that there is strength in depth at Old Trafford.

"Last season [when they would have been third had they not been deducted 25 points for producing a poor wicket] we were building a side," he explained. "We had no Wasim Akram for three-quarters of the season and yet we finished third effectively. It was a good effort. This season has seen an improvement."

They were without Wasim for the Surrey match - and now will be without him for the rest of the season - but their debutant, Richard Green, and the inexperienced Darren Shadford did them proud, providing perfect back- up for strike bowlers, Peter Martin and Glen Chapple. Lancashire are going to remain a thorn in the side of the rest of the title challengers.

The spinners John Childs and Peter Such took four wickets each as Essex completed their fourth successive Championship success with a 256-run victory over Derbyshire at Chelmsford. Childs conceded only 39 runs in 30 overs, with Such going for 93 as Derbyshire were bowled out for 166, having started the day on 38 for 3. Chris Adams made 61 from 59 deliveries to complete 1,000 runs for the season.

n Durham will lose Championship points if they are found guilty of preparing a "poor" pitch in the next 12 months. They were put on "trial" following an adverse umpires' report on the pitch used for their match against Somerset at Chester-le-Street last month.