TO THE 6,000 or so mink unleashed on Hampshire this week could be added 11 more following the first of the NatWest Trophy semi-finals. If the mink is the most efficient and voracious predator in Britain, Lancashire must be their equivalent in the 60-over competition. This is the 10th time they have reached the Nat West Trophy final, having won the 36-year- old competition six times before.
When they scent blood they sink their teeth in deeper and do not let go until victory is assured. That is what happened yesterday. Hampshire hardly had a chance. Even the big-hitting Dimitri Mascarenhas, Hamsphire's new hero and man of the match, found the stranglehold of the Lancashire bowlers too difficult to break. While he and Kevan James were cobbling together a brave 104 runs - a Hampshire record for the sixth wicket in this competition - there was a faint flicker of hope, although as others have discovered, once it is rolling very little can halt the Lancashire one day machine.
James at least had the satisfaction of scoring his maiden NatWest fifty - an 82-ball effort. Mascarenhas, too, passed fifty for the first time in the competition. He did not open up until the game had slipped out of Hampshire's grasp, when he smacked a couple of sixes, one an incredible one-handed shot over cover point on his way to a thrilling 73 off 125 balls. And the West Indies' Nixon McLean slashed and bashed before falling to a brilliant one-handed catch in the deep by Andrew Flintoff at the death.
It had all ended for Hampshire in the space of five cruel overs early on in their innings, when they lost John Stephenson, Jason Laney and their captain, Robin Smith, for a handful of runs. They slipped still further into trouble at 28 for 5 and suddenly all the careful stitching-up of the Lancashire innings, courtesy of the Hampshire seamers, was unpicked.
After all the hard work that they had put in, it was particularly harsh for the home side. Their bowlers had done wonders on a wickedly hot morning after Smith won the toss and decided to subject the Lancashire batsmen to the heat of the sun. His bowlers made it even hotter for Michael Atherton and John Crawley, acting captain in the absence of the injured Wasim Akram. The first-wicket partnership of 48 was constructed from 16 wooden overs as Cardigan Connor, Nixon McLean, Peter Hartley and James made run-making difficult.
Indeed it was James, with the last ball of his first over, who broke through when he induced a push shot from Atherton and Adrian Aymes snapped up the catch behind. By then, Connor had sent down his first spell, eight overs of accurate seam bowling for a miserly 13 runs. Yet it was remarkable that Connor was able to move without any artificial aid, let alone bowl so well. On Monday he was on crutches after suffering a sudden seizure of his hips.
He had been stricken with it on Sunday night when, for half an hour he was immobilised in the toilet. If he moved a little awkwardly yesterday, it did not stop him from inflicting damage. When he returned for a second stint he turned in a telling spell of 3 for 16 in 22 balls.
If it had not been for a resilient partnership of 116 in 23 overs between Crawley and Neil Fairbrother, there is no knowing where Lancashire would have finished. As it was the England men, still good and young enough to avoid the label "former", were content to accumulate as and when they could. Crawley's 79, punctuated with seven boundaries and crafted over 141 balls proved invaluable.
Fairbrother is the acknowledged master of limited overs cricket and his fifth consecutive one-day half-century was a delight, crammed with imaginative, sophisticated shots. He had a little luck as well, edging Nixon McLean to Aymes, who failed to hang on to the ball. He was 19 at the time, thumped a huge six over long off next over and the miss eventually cost Hampshire a total of 39 runs.
Mascarenhas underlined his exciting all-round potential by picking up three wickets in a spell of 26 balls during which he conceded just seven runs.
NatWest Trophy - Semi Final
Hampshire v Lancashire
Lancashire beat Hampshire by 43 runs.
Hampshire won toss
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
M A Atherton c Aymes b James 17 0 2 49 66
*J P Crawley c Udal b Mascarenhas 79 0 7 140 176
N H Fairbrother c Stephenson b Hartley 58 1 4 65 85
A Flintoff c Aymes b Mascarenhas 8 0 1 8 6
G D Lloyd c White b McLean 10 0 0 21 24
M Watkinson c White b Mascarenhas 7 0 1 13 15
W K Hegg c James b Connor 28 0 2 37 41
I D Austin b Connor 1 0 0 4 11
G Yates b Connor 6 0 1 10 7
G Chapple run out 6 0 0 11 20
P J Martin not out 5 0 0 5 5
Extras (lb9 w12 nb6) 27
Total (60 overs) 252
Fall: 1-48, 2-164, 3-176, 4-188, 5-198, 6-200, 7-209, 8-219, 9-244.
Bowling: C A Connor 12-2-31-3; N A M McLean 12-1-50-1; P J Hartley 8- 0-35-1; K D James 7-0-24-1; J P Stephenson 5-0-30-0; S D Udal 8-0-45-0; A D Mascarenhas 8-0-28-3.
Runs 6s 4s Bls Min
J S Laney b Austin 1 0 0 19 19
J P Stephenson lbw b Martin 5 0 1 9 16
G W White c Hegg b Flintoff 8 0 0 42 42
*R A Smith c Hegg b Martin 1 0 0 10 12
A N Aymes c Hegg b Chapple 3 0 0 18 31
A D Mascarenhas c Chapple b Austin 73 2 3 125 142
K D James c & b Austin 52 0 3 82 101
N A M McLean c Flintoff b Martin 36 1 2 40 46
S D Udal not out 11 0 0 12 20
P J Hartley lbw b Chapple 0 0 0 1 0
C A Connor not out 2 0 0 3 1
Extras (lb3 w12 nb2) 17
Total (for 9, 60 overs) 209
Fall: 1-8, 2-10, 3-13, 4-23, 5-28, 6-132, 7-176, 8-203, 9-205.
Bowling: P J Martin 11-1-54-3; I D Austin 12-3-25-3; G Chapple 8-2-39- 2; A Flintoff 5-1-18-1; G Yates 12-0-31-0; M Watkinson 12-0-39-0.
Umpires: J C Balderstone and J W Holder.Reuse content