Atherton turns it in Lancashire's favour

NATWEST TROPHY QUARTER-FINALS: Home side poised to join Essex, Lancashire and Yorkshire in final four
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The Independent Online
Lancashire 289-9 Derbyshire 287-9 Lancashire win by two runs

Old Trafford marked the 40th anniversary of Jim Laker's celebrated haul of 19 Test match wickets yesterday by producing a turning pitch (what else?); and it certainly played its part as Lancashire squeezed home against Derbyshire by two runs.

The bounce became lower, as Lancashire no doubt expected when they opted to bat after winning the toss. And, on a day when the light was never good, Michael Atherton's innings of 115 from 175 balls looked like being the crucial one.

So it proved and he was Derek Randall's man of the match. But Dean Jones ran him close by making a wonderfully skillful unbeaten 100 from 106 balls, which took his side so near and yet so far to becoming the first visitors to triumph in a knockout game here in 10 years.

Jones had to rebuild the Derbyshire innings after Kim Barnett and Dominic Cork had laid a firm foundation, but got out in quick succession immediately after tea. Apart from an early lbw shout by Mike Watkinson, Jones made remarkably few errors and took Derbyshire to a point when they needed 18 from two overs and then chanced his arm for the first time and tried to lift Ian Austin for six over long on.

He middled the stroke and the ball appeared to be clearing the rope until Neil Fairbrother, all 5ft 8in of him, realising he could not catch it, leapt and somehow clawed it back inside the boundary. It was only a single and that piece of bravado probably won it for Lancashire.

But it was still mighty close for a side who had already had two last- ball victories this season. When the final delivery arrived, a boundary would have given Derbyshire victory by virtue of a faster scoring rate, but not even Jones could pierce the far flung field.