Yorkshire tighten their grip

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The Independent Online
reports from Old Trafford

Yorkshire 505 Lancashire 238 & 3-0

There are various exhortational messages pinned to the home dressing room wall at Old Trafford - "fitness", "desire", that sort of mumbo jumbo - although a newspaper cutting of the championship table might qualify as a more pertinent notice.

There are four teams competing for the 1995 pennant, but on the evidence of the past couple of days, word has yet to filter through to Lancashire that they happen to be one of them. A good barometer at this stage of proceedings is body language, and in linguistic terms, Lancashire are about as live as ancient Greek.

Yorkshire's last four wickets produced another 112 runs yesterday morning to take their final score to 505 (unusually, without an individual century) and their highest total in a Roses match since the war. If Lancashire were keen to make their deadliest rivals work hard for their runs, they kept it cunningly hidden.

In four-day cricket there is still scope to win facing this sort of total, but if Lancashire thought that this was a realistic possibility when they went out to bat, that did not show either.

The pitch is taking spin, and Richard Stemp would have enjoyed bowling on it, but if England pick him for The Oval on the strength of yesterday's three wickets it would be on evidence not sound enough for conviction.

Lancashire have lost only two Championship matches this season, curiously enough when all their Test players were available, and this might well prove to be a third. Michael Atherton had planned to take this match off until Neil Fairbrother pulled out with a hamstring injury, but if the England captain is in need of a rest, he may not be the only one who could do with a long lie down.

John Crawley made a decent enough 83 from 133 balls, but old doubts about his technique resurfaced when a middle- stump ball from Stemp straightened to hit off with Crawley's bat in mid whip through square leg. Stemp then dismissed Mike Watkinson, who missed, for no discernable reason, a straight ball.

Jason Gallian, who will probably not figure too heavily in England's selection meeting this evening, at least got his head down, although 34 runs in 35 overs suggests that he has swatted up a little too avidly on his Roses history. Gallian was Stemp's first victim, stumped while wandering vaguely out of his crease rather than with any aggressive intent.

Apart from Stemp, there was nothing in the rest of Yorkshire's bowling to frighten the batsmen. Craig White bowled his Test match quota of overs (five), came on fourth change and generally had the air of a player who is going through a mildly depressed period.

Lancashire slipped from 104 for 1 to 238 all out, well short of the follow- on target of 356, and although Atherton's mental reserves looked reasonably high as he battled away down the order at No 5, his 61 was heavily assisted by some grade A filth from Michael Bevan. Still, if the West Indies' strategy for next week's Test involves slow left-arm long hops and full tosses, it will have been invaluable practice.

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