YORKSHIRE, WHO contest the final of the Benson and Hedges Super Cup at Lord's on Sunday, are on course to return to headquarters for a tilt at the NatWest Trophy after a victory laced with revenge here yesterday. Old Trafford was abuzz, the atmosphere as charged as it ever is for English domestic cricket, but Yorkshire, who had lost three close semi-finals on this ground in the last three seasons, faced no test of nerve this time, winning by 55 runs with 26 balls to spare.
This was the consequence of a shattering collapse by Lancashire, who lost their last eight wickets for 44 runs. At 164 for 2 in the 35th over of their reply Yorkshire's total of 263 for 7 seemed within their scope, but the departure of Neil Fairbrother and Michael Atherton to consecutive deliveries turned the contest on its head, giving the visitors the impetus to punish Lancashire's poor performance in the field and earn a semi-final against Gloucestershire.
Craig White, Yorkshire's pinch-hitter yesterday, was named man of the match after taking two wickets in addition to hitting a rapid 43, but almost equally deserving was the Australian Greg Blewett. Lancashire's demise was set in motion by a ghastly passage in which they lost four wickets in the space of 12 deliveries, and Blewett was the key figure in three of the dismissals.
After Fairbrother, who played the kind of innings we have come almost to take for granted, had been bowled by Chris Silverwood with the last ball of the 35th over, Blewett, bowling his medium pace in wrap-around sunglasses, clipped Atherton's off-stump with the first delivery of the 36th and had Andrew Flintoff lbw with the fifth ball of the same over.
In the next Blewett struck again, running out Warren Hegg from point with a direct hit to the bowler's end. And it was he who wrapped up Yorkshire's victory, holding a superb return catch to dismiss Graham Lloyd and bowling Muttiah Muralitharan first ball. Had he not failed again with the bat, the South Australian would have been a sure candidate for the match award. In any case he finished with 4 for 18 from 5.4 overs, his best bowling for Yorkshire.
Muralitharan will continue as Lancashire's overseas player for the next two seasons, the club announced yesterday. This, however, was not a day he will remember. On a slow, low pitch that became slower and lower - a critical factor after Yorkshire won the toss and batted first - the Sri Lankan wrist spinner was an ineffective weapon and had a humbling return of 0 for 50.
White's 43 (out of 47 for 1) from 39 deliveries set the tone. Blewett struggled but David Byas was splendid, reaching 72 in a partnership of 109 with Anthony McGrath (60) which spanned 20 overs for the fourth wicket. Atherton again endorsed his claims for an England recall, but Lancashire batted and bowled with little distinction.Reuse content