Austin drives out Yorkshire

NATWEST TROPHY SEMI-FINALS: Lancashire bowler proves a thorn to White Rose as Australian ends Surrey's treble dream
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reports from Old Trafford

Lancashire 293-9 Yorkshire 274-8 Lancashire win by 19 runs

A helicopter may have been waiting to take Michael Bevan to Heathrow, but it was the Australian's whirring bat which held Yorkshire's flight plans to Lord's. Had it prevailed, it would have been the White Rose county's second visit there in a decade. Instead, Lancashire make it their second of the season, a fitting testament to a well-drilled side not afraid to improvise when the moment dictates.

Once again it was the crucial accuracy and verve of that unsung hero Ian Austin, whose three wickets in nine balls - including that of Bevan, earned him the man of the match award from the adjudicator, John Lever. His spell, at a crucial stage of the innings, effectively snuffed out Yorkshire's mounting challenge despite a late rally from Darren Gough and Richard Blakey, who added 75 to give renewed but false hope to the wearying legions of Yorkshire fans.

Not that Bevan need feel the slightest pang of remorse at leaving his county for a training camp in Australia. His 85 was a noble offering to a cause that fell under the pressure Lancashire were able to exert with home advantage on a dusty, turning pitch behind them.

It has been a vintage year for Roses one-day encounters. With the earlier Benson and Hedges semi-final here going to the wire, yesterday's win by the sizeable margin of 19 runs no doubt prevented another outbreak of kittens from the home supporters, whose team have not been beaten at Old Trafford in knockout competition since 1987.

After winning the toss and scoring 293 in their 60 overs, the home side were always likely to be early favourites on a used pitch which dusted up as the game progressed. Lancashire, whose much-vaunted length of their batting line-up is a constant source of comfort to their gung-ho approach to one-day cricket, faltered at the start of their innings.

Indeed, had the Yorkshire captain, David Byas, been able to catch, the home side would have been in some bother, and he twice reprieved Atherton at second slip before the batsman had made three. The England captain, who eventually made 18, struggled throughout his 60-ball stay, and his scratchy form yesterday was due more to mental fatigue than any searching brilliance on the part of Yorkshire's new ball attack, though Darren Gough bowled more than one useful delivery, hurrying both openers with his customary bustle.

Atherton's mental fatigue, highlights the fact that county cricket must be the only sport daft enough to compromise its leading players by having the semi-finals of its longest established knock-out competition the day after a gruelling Test match: a point the Acfield report has already made in its review of English cricket. Yet, if remedial action is to be taken in order to maintain standards and levels of intrigue among Test players in games such as this, then the counties - who get to vote on the report's findings next Tuesday - must dismiss the self-interest of a crammed fixture list.

Mind you, with their side sliding to 52 for 3, nobody would have minded had the Lancashire batsmen indulged in a period of self-interest, particularly after Neil Fairbrother's departure for a second-ball nought. Having seen Richard Stemp turn several balls quite sharply, including the one that dismissed Atherton, Fairbrother was determined to dictate terms from the outset. Unfortunately, his attempted loft over long-on had to be dragged wider as the left-arm spinner spotted his advance and Tony McGrath took the first of three successful catches in the deep.

But if Fairbrother's departure left the majority contingent in an 18,000- strong crowd gasping in disbelief, the muteness did not last long. With an aggressive Graham Lloyd joining an already fluent John Crawley - brimming with a crisp confidence after his prosperous return to the England side at Headingley - shouts of "Oh Lancy Lancy" soon returned.

Lloyd, in particular, refused to be cowed by the situation, several times employing what can only be described as a reverse cow shot to combat Stemp's forays from over the wicket. However, he, too, benefitted from a dropped catch - one of two easy chances McGrath put down - when he was 35; a miss McGrath's own fine innings of 34 could not quite compensate for. With Crawley not slouching either, the pair put on 145 in 17 overs before Crawley, trying to launch a long-hop from Bevan into the crowd at square leg, perished to the best of McGrath's catches.

Lloyd's departure two overs later, for 81, would have seen most teams' momentum slow. Not Lancashire, though, whose last four wickets added 81 runs over the last 10 overs. Truly a team effort from a team ready for all one-day occasions.

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