Cricket: Cork stings Lancashire with late onslaught: Atherton century unrewarded

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Lancashire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .280-5

Derbyshire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .282-6

Derbyshire win by four wickets

JUST when Lancashire thought their season was at last getting underway with a well-paced victory over Derbyshire, Dominic Cork stole it from under their noses with an incredible display of derring-do in the second round of the Benson and Hedges Cup yesterday.

Cork, sensibly partnered by Colin Wells, made a dazzling, unbeaten 63 from only 34 deliveries to give Derbyshire a four-wicket win with one ball to spare in a game in which they had hitherto looked second-best in all departments.

After winning the toss they had bowled indifferently and then the loss of three wickets in four overs immediately after tea undermined a platform that had been carefully built up by Adrian Rollins and pointed Lancashire towards victory . . . or so it seemed.

At 192 for 6 and Mohammad Azharuddin among the departed, Cork and Wells needed 89 from eight overs; moreover they needed it against bowling that had been immeasurably superior to their own, with Peter Martin regularly passing the bat. Cork, though, put bat to ball from the start, striking it vast distances and improvising insolently, if at times unnecessarily.

Lancashire had held their catches well in the more sedate, earlier part of the innings but now, with the pressure on, their efficiency deserted them and poor Gary Yates will long remember the straightforward chance he put down when Cork was only 30. That was all the luck Cork required. He struck three successive balls from Ian Austin for 4-4-6 and with Wells, whose unbeaten 47 occupied 54 balls, happy to give him the strike, the target was down to 11 from the final over from Mike Watkinson.

When Cork tried to reverse sweep the first ball, it looked as though the red mist had descended. But he composed himself and batted orthodoxly, if still powerfully, before jubilantly sweeping the penultimate ball for a match-winning six.

Lancashire, after their miserable start to the season, will not believe what happened to them. Jason Gallian and Mike Atherton got off to a flying start, once Gallian had been missed at slip off the second ball of the match, and it was hard to see a wicket coming until Atherton rejected Gallian's call for a single.

By the time Atherton was stumped, he and John Crawley had taken Lancashire beyond 200 at more than four an over and a massive onslaught had seemed inevitable before the bowling tightened up.

Atherton's century, however, earmarked him as the man-of-the- match until Cork came to the crease . . .

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