Cricket: Cork blazes path to Lord's

NatWest Trophy semi-final: Simmons dismissal hands Derbyshire final against Lancashire
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The Independent Online
Derbyshire 298-7

Leicestershire 295-6

Derbyshire win by three runs

IN A scrambling, tumbling and sometimes ill-tempered climax, Derbyshire snatched a win yesterday in a tense game that until the last few overs had seemed beyond them. Phil Simmons took Leicestershire to the brink of victory, but perished when his clear eye was needed for the final charge.

When NatWest took over sponsorship of this competition in 1981 Derbyshire reached the final against Northamptonshire and won their only 60-over title to date on the last ball. Kim Barnett, then 21, was playing, as he was yesterday.

But if Leicestershire were looking for omens as to which side would meet Lancashire on 5 September, they could have pointed not only to bookmaker confidence, but also to the fact they have never before lost to Derbyshire in this competition.

Many of the spectators were soon as personally full as was the Grace Road ground. Unfortunately they only knew the words to two songs, one of which went "Leicestershire, la la la," and the other "Derbyshire la la la." It made it seem as if, by comparison, the Millwall crowd is stuffed with Cole Porters and Noel Cowards.

What is so grindingly irritating about this toneless chanting is that, unlike the noisy West Indian participation of years past that was so superciliously stamped out, it contains no wit, no tune and no evidence of any cricketing intelligence whatsoever.

Chris Lewis, skippering Leicester in spite of a troublesome back that ruled out his bowling, chose to field first, and at 58 for 3 in the 17th over Derbyshire were looking a little tentative. One of the three was Matt Cassar, for a duck - the same fate as was simultaneously suffered by his wife, Jane, in the second women's Test against Australia.

But a sprightly stand of 120 by two of the visitors' less celebrated names, Robin Weston and Ben Spendlove, brought matters back to parity, and some inspired hitting by Dominic Cork and Phil DeFreitas late in the afternoon enabled Derby to ask Leicester to score at five an over.

Cork, omitted from the England squad for the triangular competition with South Africa and Sri Lanka, went to 50 in 55 balls while DeFreitas's two big sixes were the first of the day. They put on 75 entertaining runs in 12 overs.

Simmons, however, knows a thing or two about entertainment - the booming off drive and the arrogant loft over midwicket for a start. While he remained in charge, Leicester were pacing their challenge with precision.

Matters were delayed for a time while the footholds at Cork's end received surgery with a shovel and a tub of dirt, but Derbyshire's hopes remained on slippery ground as Simmons, in partnership first with Ben Smith and then with the stocky Aftab Habib, motored briskly beyond 200.

Simmons, who came into the match averaging 127 in this season's NatWest competition, was always looking for a single while waiting for the next half-volley, and stands of 93 with Smith and a tempo-building effort of 97 with Habib seemed to have secured the game. But Cork, who had brought himself back on to complete his quota early in a calculated last throw, persuaded the West Indian to play across his pads to a straight one.

When Lewis proved unable to maintain the pace, Derbyshire were suddenly back in the game, even more so when Lewis and Habib perished in desperation.

This set up a finish that while Simmons was at the crease had seemed impossible, and for his cool generalship Cork was named man of the match.

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