Cricket: Cobbledick may hold the key to intriguing final: Norman Harris looks forward to tomorrow's National Village Cup final at Lord's between Elvaston and Werrington

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The Independent Online
----------------------------------------------------------------------- FROM STINCHCOMBE TO LORD'S ----------------------------------------------------------------------- Stinchcombe (152-2) beat Sheepscombe (148-8) by 8 wkts Stinchcombe (108-0) beat Frampton-on-Severn (107) by 10 wkts Stinchcombe (103-3) beat Down Hatherley (102) by 7 wkts Stinchcombe (198-5) beat Dumbleton (196-8) by 5 wkts Stinchcombe (117) lost to Frocester (169-8) by 52 runs. Frocester (222-4) beat Sparsholt, Hants (213) by 9 runs. Frocester (157-6) beat Usk, Gwent (156) by 4 wkts. Frocester (198-4) lost to Werrington, Cornwall (202-3) by 7 wkts. Werrington (208-6) beat Botany Bay, Middx (205-7) by 4 wkts. -----------------------------------------------------------------------

A NAME like Roy Cobbledick - a Cornishman, naturally - can bring a smile. It can cause fear, too. The reputation of the veteran off-spinner prompted Werrington's last opponents, Botany Bay, to invite the best off-spinners in their league to come and give them practice.

Tomorrow, the side meeting Werrington in the final of the Village Cup is Elvaston, of Derbyshire, who will not allow themselves to get in such a spin. But they will know - as will Werrington - that the game could hinge on the 49-year-old who bowls with immense accuracy and subtle flight.

Elvaston's batsmen could swing it were they to 'blast' Cobbledick - which no one has yet managed to do - or they could blow it. For Werrington, there is also an intriguing question of whether this 'containing' bowler could be given the same strategic rationing with which penetrating seam bowlers are usually employed.

There are many questions to which neither side knows the answer. What, for example, is a decent target score? In their three previous rounds - all of them many miles from home - Werrington have successfully chased totals of about 200, twice winning by seven wickets and once by four. But in many years of these Village finals at Lord's, totals have tended to be nearer 160. The reason is said to be not only nerves but a faster wicket which allows a bit of seam movement. Batsmen have often struggled.

There is also the question of whether to bat or bowl. Can a side who succeed in the chase maintain that confidence in a venue which is akin to playing on another planet?

Or would they do they better to field first and shake loose their nerves? And will an 11 o'clock start give the bowlers the sort of assistance for which 'big' Lord's finals are famous?

So many questions, and the teams know so little about each other beyond the name of Cobbledick - and that both are said to bat aggressively and to have comparatively modest attacks. One could say that the outstanding batsman on the Derbyshire side is Steve Chester, who is reckoned by their semi-final opponents to have batted like Robin Smith in a blazing 92.

For Werrington, it could be big David Taylor, if they risk him. Run out for nought by his captain in the quarter-finals, he got big league scores on the next two Saturdays, then suffered a calf injury.

Yet these are teams for whom the old cliche about having no stars really does hold good. No batsman's loss is a huge blow. All can make big scores, and in an attacking vein.

There are other similarities. Both captains open the batting: for Elvaston, the 32-year-old BT engineer, Simon Thompson, who is a natural motivator; for Werrington, a 31-year-old builder, Nigel Dennis, who leads by example.

Both teams are slightly stunned to be at Lord's. They have sometimes played above themselves, and things have gone their way. Along the way, former finalists - some of them powerful sides with highly talented players - have disappeared almost miraculously. What it leaves is two teams who are, perhaps, truer to the village image than in any previous final.

And, for all the questions raised above, I suspect that both captains will follow the game plan that has served them on the village grounds of Cornwall and Derbyshire. The winners may well need to do no more than remain true to themselves and play to their ability. It could lurch one way or the other quite rapidly. Or it could be a classic.

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