St George's Day: Lancashire flew the flag and batted. The morning sun was so warm the umpires appeared in short sleeves and the best opening day's crowd for years sat back expectantly. But April, we are told, is the cruellest month. Light cloud appeared, the umpires returned in their coats and the cricket, played on a dry but slow pitch, never caught fire.
Nottinghamshire, the current leaders, ran the whole gamut of bowling from medium-fast to fast-medium and were tedious. Lancashire's batsmen, with honourable exceptions, promised far more than they achieved. The air of rehearsal about the proceedings was enhanced by the knowledge that two of the principal stars have yet to appear, Harbhajan Singh here and Stuart McGill with Nottinghamshire.
Iain Sutcliffe was drilling holes in the covers and Lancashire were past 50 when Steve Elworthy, a South African who once wore the red rose, began an inspired spell of nine overs as first change that brought him 2 for 20, finding the edge of Alec Swann's bat and causing Sutcliffe to attempt an off-balance pull that brought a top-edged return catch. Stuart Law marched in all aglitter, struck two boundaries and then slashed to cover.
Mal Loye, after his century at The Oval, went to 50 off 57 balls, in view of the selector Geoff Miller, and then seized up. It was not until just after 3pm when Andrew Flintoff appeared, and, an hour later when the first spinner (Kevin Pieterson) showed, that the game became more than one- dimensional. Yet Flintoff was at his most statesmanlike,the old imp appearing only once before tea when he suddenly hit Andrew Harris with such force that he endangered the hotel roof.
Even a celebration was denied. Both were on the verge of a century when Flintoff was ambushed by Chris Read's leg-side catch. Loye, however, went on to make history as the first Lancashire batsman to hit successive Championship centuries in the first two matches of a debut season; his second 50, taking 132 balls, was gritty rather than great. Elworthy fully deserved his five wickets.
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