Cricket: Austin remains cool in crisis

Lancashire 208-8 Warwickshire 208 Lancashire win because they lost fewer wickets: CRICKET: Both Yorkshire and Lancashire leave it late while Universities succumb at The Oval
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The Independent Online
The Tories may have been wiped out, but Lancashire, for the moment at least, were clearly out to prove that not all dynasties have had their day. Having lost their two previous matches, the doyens of one-day cricket and the Benson and Hedges Cup holders were in danger of reliinquishing their title without even entering the knock-out stage.

It may still happen, but after beating Warwickshire by losing fewer wickets in a thrilling last-ball finish with the kind of team performance the Conservative party clearly lacked, they at least have given themselves a chance of further glory.

In a nail-biting game that swung far more unpredictably than the swingometer operated by Peter Snow, Warwickshire fell at the last having been well placed after Allan Donald's 5 for 25, his competition best, kept the Lancashire total to 208.

To that end they owe much to Ian Austin, so often their unsung hero, but the coolest man to bowl at the death. It was his straight as a dye yorkers as much as Richard Green's return from deep point to run out Gladstone Small off the final ball that won the game for Lancashire.

Lancashire's approach to one-day cricket is one of opposites: they attack with their gung-ho batting and retrieve unpromising situations by bowling and fielding tightly. But if the former let them down at Edgbaston, the latter was beautifully delivered with Peter Martin a shining example of the old-fashioned virtues of line and length.

Poor Warwickshire, the ghost of Dermot Reeve still lingers as the performances of Trevor Penney and Graeme Welch both indicate. Having turned the game around, they lost four wickets in four overs, and, despite Donald's fiery burst, the knock-out blow they possessed under Reeve now seems to elude them. Donald, despite the relentless workload now heaped upon him by country and county, retains an incredible appetite for bowling. One-day cricket is not his forte, but when he bowls as quickly and as straight as he did yesterday, even a strong batting line-up like Lancashire's is powerless to respond.

Lithe yet coiled, he surged in from the Pavilion End after Graeme Welch's ineffective opening burst had allowed the Lancashire openers to settle. By spending last summer playing for Rishton in the Lancashire League, Donald - having identified that he would be bowling a lot of overs - shortened his run.

The change has helped to hone an already lethal action without compromising on pace, a combination Lancashire were to become acutely aware of. But if Jason Gallian was guilty of carelessness as he nonchalantly chipped the fast bowler to cover, John Crawley was scuttled by a rocket two balls later for nought, as he left a yawning gap between bat and pad.

Having returned from England's winter tours with reputation enhanced, Crawley is not having the best of starts to the season, and this was his second duck out of three games in this competition.

His form is not the only concern, however, and with Australia due to arrive in 10 days time, Atherton could have done with some runs as well. Instead, having plodded his way to 24 off 47 balls, he edged a loose drive at Donald to slip.

When Donald rested, Lancashire did manage to prosper. Wasim Akram, the Gold Award winner, with an unbeaten 52 and Ian Austin with 35, both scored valuable runs in unpromising circumstances to ensure that they had something to bowl at. In the event it proved just enough.

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