LANCASHIRE's plan to fly Wasim Akram back to Manchester in time for Sunday's AXA League game against Middlesex has been complicated by rain in South Africa, writes ANDY WILSON.

The new Red Rose skipper was due to play for Pakistan in a one-day final against South Africa in Cape Town yesterday, then get on a flight for Manchester today.

But the final was postponed by 24 hours, and Lancashire secretary Dave Edmundson was trying to sort out a new flight for Wasim.

"He's desperate to get back as soon as he can and take over the captaincy," said Edmundson today. "We're trying our best, but at the moment it is in doubt because of the postponement."

Meanwhile, Lancashire suffered a double injury blow today when Mike Atherton and Neil Fairbrother were ruled out of the rain-delayed championship match against Middlesex at Old Trafford. Atherton failed to recover from a back spasm he sustained at Sussex and Fairbrother misses out with the split finger he suffered taking a slip catch at Hove at the weekend.

Lancashire were already without Ian Austin with his gashed knee, handing Richard Green a chance in the team.

The game featured a captaincy showdown between John Crawley, again leading Lancashire in Wasim's absence, and Mark Ramprakash, who succeeded him in the England team this winter.

Middlesex have a new-look team this season with former Yorkshire batsman Richard Kettleborough opening with Aussie tourist Justin Langer, and a new, highly-rated Australian coach in John Buchanan.

On their last two visits to Old Trafford, Lancashire have landed in trouble with Lord's for the state of the pitch. In 1994, the umpires upheld Mike Gatting's complaint that the pitch was wet on the first morning and Lancashire were fined 25 points, despite a double century from Fairbrother. And two years ago they were handed an official warning after Phil Tufnell exploited a turning pitch to take 13 wickets in the match.

But Lancashire gained revenge last summer when a superb performance from Peter Martin inspired a rare Championship victory at Uxbridge.

Lancashire youngster Mark Chilton has been named vice-captain of the British Universities team for the forthcoming Benson & Hedges Cup campaign.

Chilton, from Manchester Grammar School, is in his last year at Durham University and won A B&H Gold Award for a five-wicket performance last summer.

He will be vice-captain to Warwickshire's Anurag Singh, with the team also including Sussex's Robin Martin-Jenkins and David Leather, of Widnes, Cheshire and now Loughborough University.

Today Chilton was due to lead Durham University against Lancashire's second team in the first of two limited overs matches. Lancashire were due to play a four day friendly but their trip to the North East has not been wasted as Durham's coach Graeme Fowler has allowed them to use the University's excellent practice facilities.

Converted for the new archive on 14 July 2000. Some images and formatting may have been lost in the conversion.