Rain brought an early end to Lancashire's first-class friendly against Cambridge MCCU
On the day when Durham MCCU were bowled out for just 18 it was probably good for the prestige of university cricket that their Cambridge counterparts displayed stiffer resistance against Lancashire in the final sessions of the drawn first-class friendly at Fenner's.
Come to think of it, the Light Blues' determined batting didn't harm the Lancashire attack either, for when the third rain-interruption of the day brought an early end to proceedings, Steven Croft's bowlers knew they had been made to work hard rather than merely turn their arms over to achieve almost meaningless triumphs.
The scoreboard read 143 for one, which was ample testament to the skill of the batsmen in defying the bowlers in a gloomy atmosphere which itself probably contributed to Croft's decision to declare on his team's overnight total of 134 for one
No doubt Ben Ackland and Zafar Ansari were also helped by the damp conditions which made it difficult for the Lancashire seamers to find their footholds with any confidence. All the same, it would be entirely unfair to deny the Cambridge openers due praise for their 112-run opening partnership, which ensured that there would be no repeat of Saturday's afternoon's capitulation against rampant bowlers.
Instead, the pair were quick to seize on any error by a below par attack. Ackland rocked back to pull short deliveries and went down the pitch to hit Simon Kerrigan over the top; only when he attempted to repeat the trick on Gary Keedy did he perish, Kerrigan running round from mid-off to take a good, tumbling catch.
Ten overs after that solitary triumph the rain returned again. By then, Ansari, who has a summer contract with Surrey, had received 123 balls and compiled 59 not out. The left-hander's batting is possessed of that quietness which commands the crease. Less than 24 hours after he had been swept to perdition by Tom Smith he proved himself capable of responding to setbacks with resolve. It will be interesting to see where his cricket takes him.
As for Lancashire, their cricket will take them to Aigburth on Thursday when they will begin their defence of the LV= County Championship they won at Taunton last September (some of you may have read about it.) Steven Croft, Peter Moores and Glen Chapple have all praised the quality of the cricket played by Cambridge over the past three days, but now it is time for them to switch their attention to the serious business of defending the title.
Tom Smith is the only injury doubt for the game, having sustained a niggle to his lower hamstring when making 83 on Saturday evening, but Moores made it clear on Sunday that his players are prepared for the serious business of the summer to begin.
"We're ready to play," said the Lancashire coach immediately after the Cambridge game. "There comes a point when you want to play competitive cricket and we'll be at that point by Thursday. We're in good shape. We've had a good winter and we've practised hard. We'll have to play well but we know that. Ashwell Prince will be with us by then, so we'll all be practising on Tuesday and Wednesday, and ready to go on Thursday.
"Apart from Tom, we have a fully fit squad, so if there is a concern, we've got options. It'll be a very tough team to pick, which is as we want it, and we've just got to select the side which is best suited to win the game. We know we'll end up using all the players during the season but it'll still be a tough one on Thursday.
"We've had a decent build up and it'll be good to get back to the Championship."
Reports: Day 1 I Day 2
Photo (c) Stephen Pond/EMPICS
Article (c) Lancashire CCC Ltd