Atherton bonds a side in full bloom

BENSON AND HEDGES CUP FINAL: Lancashire's unsung bowlers overcome De Silva's brilliance
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reports from Lord's

Lancashire 274-7 Kent 239 Lancashire win by 35 runs

So the Red Rose continues to bloom, while the garden of England is again in need of a hoe. Lancashire still have designs on all four competitions, while the only evidence of fertiliser since Kent's last weed-free season in 1978 has been the sort that hits the fan.

As another barren year slips by, it remains to be seen whether Kent's capacity for internecine bickering has a bit more mileage in it yet. Without the brilliance of Aravinda de Silva, they would have been annihilated on Saturday, and yet it was the diminutive Sri Lankan whose signing resulted in a sackful of un-complimentary mail for their captain, Mark Benson, early in the season.

It is a rare event for a member of the losing side to come away with the Man of the Match medal, but without De Silva, there would not have been a match. In theory, the absence of the injured Benson meant that Kent were a batsman short, but in the end, all they had was one short batsman.

Steve Marsh, Benson's deputy, became the 14th captain in the past 15 Benson and Hedges Cup finals to ask the opposition to bat first, despite Kent's oft-stated preference for defending rather than chasing. It might have been a cloudy morning, but the only swing was a heavy pyschological one to Lancashire when they posted the second highest total ever made in the 55-over final.

The architects of this score were Jason Gallian, who played despite his broken finger, John Crawley, who had a keen interest in impressing the man batting at the other end, and that very man, the England captain, Michael Atherton.

Atherton is too much of a pro for his cultured 93 to have been fuelled by anger, but it is fair to say that he arrived at Lord's in an even darker mood than the one which prompted last summer's flight to the Lake District to contemplate not only his future as England captain, but whether he could afford the hotel bill after being docked pounds 3,500 in fines.

It was not so much the fact that his team had been so badly trounced in the Test match, nor rumours that his feet are about to generate further wear and tear on the ICC's disciplinary carpet for less than flattering comments about the Edgbaston pitch.

No, the bottom line was, in fact, er, his bottom. There are many things that a professional cricketer needs to do in order to prepare himself for a match, and although it is not specifically referred to in the MCC coaching manual, one of the most basic is the removal of his trousers.

Atherton was thus engaged during a practice session at Old Trafford on Monday (ironically, when his availability was entirely the result of England's failure to propel the Test match beyond two and a bit days) and had no reason to suspect that this fairly routine, not to mention private activity, was busily being recorded by a long-lensed camera.

The England captain has been known to let out the occasional splutter over the breakfast table when reading the newspapers, but the sight of several pictures of his naked posterior last week would have resulted in his kitchen wall being pebbledashed with cornflakes. Atherton's public pronouncement on the Edgbaston pitch was a good deal more complimentary than his current opinion of The Sun newspaper.

Wherever Atherton chose to remove his strides on Saturday morning (either locked away in a cubicle or giving a fair impersonation of a self-conscious bather contorting underneath a towel on Southport beach) inside the back pocket was a betting slip offering 250-1 against Lancashire completing a one-day treble this summer.

He would not reveal either his bottom or the amount of stake money, but should the bet come up it is believed that last summer's fines would be more than covered. However, Atherton's bond with Lancashire is such that his tea-time frown on Saturday went much deeper than any possible effect on his bank account.

De Silva, like many small men, is a tough man for a bowler not to bowl too short to, and it was only when Graham Lloyd was perfectly positioned to intercept what would have been a fourth six into the Mound Stand that Lancashire finally began to breathe more easily.

The 5ft 3in Sri Lankan had played quite breathtakingly for his 112, but not only were the other Kent batsmen able to function under pressure, they were also unable to give him a decent share of the strike. Aravinda faced 95 balls, and watched 127 from the non- business end.

It was another man with a distinctive figure, the sightscreen-wide Ian Austin, who finally got him, and with Gary Yates taking 3 for 42, it is often the case in this type of cricket that the comparatively unheralded bowlers do the damage.

Wasim Akram (0 for 57 off 10 overs) had apparently been hypnotised by his wife, in which case any plans in Raymond Illingworth's next Test match dossier for Mrs Hick to oscillate a watch in front of the old man's eyes ("now then Graeme, you will hook that nasty Curtly Ambrose out of the ground...") might have to be re-appraised.

SCOREBOARD

(Kent won toss)

LANCASHIRE

M A Atherton c Fulton b Headley 93

(162 min, 141 balls, 9 fours)

J E R Gallian b Ealham 36

(76 min, 64 balls, 2 fours)

J P Crawley c Taylor b McCague 83

(116 min, 89 balls, 5 fours, 1 six)

N H Fairbrother c McCague b Headley 16

(16 min, 13 balls, 1 four)

G D Lloyd run out (McCague) 12

(15 min, 12 balls)

Wasim Akram run out (Ward-McCague) 10

(12 min, 7 balls, 1 four)

*M Watkinson c McCague b Fleming 0

(3 min, 1 ball)

I D Austin not out 5

(5 min, 6 balls)

Extras (lb2 w10 nb7) 19

Total (for 7, 206 min, 55 overs) 274

Fall: 1-80 (Gallian) 2-201 (Atherton) 3-236 (Fairbrother) 4-258 (Crawley) 5-259 (Lloyd) 6-266 (Watkinson) 7-274 (Wasim Akram).

Did not bat: W K Hegg, G Chapple, G Yates.

Bowling: Wren 5-0-21-0 (w5) (one spell); Headley 11-0-57-2 (nb3) (6-0- 18-0, 5-0-39-2); McCague 11-0-65-1 (w1) (5-0-26-0, 3-0-19-0, 3-0-20-1); Ealham 11-0-33-1; De Silva 8-0-36-0 (w2) (one spell each); Fleming 9-0-60-1 (w2) (3-0-18-0, 4-0-29-0, 2-0-13-1).

Atherton's 50: 100 min, 78 balls, 6 fours. Crawley's 50: 78 min, 63 balls, 4 fours.

KENT

D P Fulton lbw b Chapple 25

(43 min, 49 balls, 4 fours)

T R Ward c Hegg b Chapple 7

(26 mins, 11 balls, 1 four)

N R Taylor b Yates 14

(49 min, 38 balls, 2 fours)

P A de Silva c Lloyd b Austin 112

(140 min, 95 balls, 11 fours, 3 sixes)

G R Cowdrey lbw b Yates 25

(50 min, 48 balls, 1 four)

M V Fleming b Yates 11

(24 min, 24 balls, 1 four)

M A Ealham lbw b Watkinson 3

(12 min, 11 balls)

*S A Marsh c Crawley b Austin 4

(19 min, 16 balls)

M J McCague not out 11

(19 min, 10 balls, 1 four)

D W Headley c Chapple b Watkinson 5

(5 min, 6 balls, 1 four)

T N Wren c Austin b Watkinson 7

(11 min, 8 balls, 1 four)

Extras (lb7 w2 nb6) 15

Total (205 min, 52.1 overs) 239

Fall: 1-28 (Ward) 2-37 (Fulton) 3-81 (Taylor) 4-142 (Cowdrey) 5-162 (Fleming) 6-180 (Ealham) 7-214 (De Silva) 8-214 (Marsh) 9-219 (Headley).

Bowling: Wasim Akram 10-0-57-0 (nb2 w2) (3-0-14-0, 2-0-12-0, 2-0-12-0, 2-0-9-0, 1-0-10-0); Chapple 10-1-55-2 (8-1-30-2, 2-0-25-0); Austin 11- 4-36-2 (6-3-22-0, 3-1-8-0, 2-0-6-2); Watkinson 10.1-0-42-3 (nb1) (8-0- 32-0, 1-0-1-1, 1.1-0-9-2); Yates 11-0-42-3 (4-0-15-1, 7-0-27-2).

De Silva's 50: 60 min, 50 balls, 3 fours, 2 sixes. 100: 134 min, 88 balls, 10 fours, 3 sixes.

Lancashire won by 35 runs

Man of the match: P A de Silva.

Umpires: D R Shepherd and N T Plews.

TV Replay Umpire: J H Hampshire.

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