Cricket: Early start causes unfair contest

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The Independent Online
It may be the desire of the sponsors to keep the NatWest Trophy as a 60-over competition in order to market it as something different from the other competitions, but the evidence of recent finals, including this one, is against them and suggests they must find some other way.

Each year, at the start, there is too much moisture in the pitch which gives the side bowling first an unfair advantage. If the Essex new-ball bowlers had been more accurate in the first hour yesterday Warwickshire would have been hard pressed to reach 120.

It was different in last year's final, when Essex put Lancashire into bat and bowled them out for 187. At this point it was more or less identical, but then an extraordinarily inept batting display by Essex caused them to be bowled out for 57 even though the sun had largely taken away the surface moisture.

This situation is not the fault of the head groundsman, Mick Hunt, but of the early starting time of 10.30 so late in the season when the summer is already giving way to autumn. Anyone who has a lawn to mow will know how heavy the dew is at half past ten at this time of the year.

It is this that makes batting such a problem in the morning, especially in the first hour of the day and if it is a cloudy morning too. The result is that yet again we have had to suffer a poor final which was over far too early. It was a match which was won by the toss, which is a farce on such an important occasion.

In ideal circumstances, one would like to see a pitch for a one-day showpiece final which is the same for both sides - and for any other limited-over match as well. With the final played so late in the season this may never be quite possible but, if the NatWest Trophy was cut to 50 overs a side, which would save an hour and a half, the final could start at 11.30 when the side bowling first would not receive such a decisive advantage.

This is one solution. The other would be for those who schedule the fixtures each year to arrange for this final to be played at least a week earlier or maybe even on the Saturday between the fifth and six Test matches.

This way, it could be kept as a 60-over competition although it would not, of course, allow the NatWest final to come as the big end-of-season jamboree.

My own feelings, for what they are worth, is that the first of these two suggestions would be the best solution and the sponsors would then have to look for another way of singling their competition out.

NatWest Trophy final scoreboard

Essex won toss

WARWICKSHIRE

N V Knight lbw b Cowan 0

(2 min, 3 balls)

*N M K Smith c S Law b Cowan 5

(26 min, 18 balls, 1 four)

D L Hemp run out (Grayson) 21

(85 min, 68 balls, 3 fours)

D P Ostler c D Law b Irani 34

(127 min, 108 balls, 3 fours)

T L Penney c Rollins b Cowan 5

(45 min, 35 balls)

D R Brown c D Law b Ilott 37

(85 min, 65 balls, 1 four)

G Welch c and b Such 2

(12 min, 12 balls)

A F Giles run out (Grayson-Rollins) 21

(43 min, 28 balls, 2 fours)

K J Piper not out 15

(22 min, 17 balls, 1 four)

A A Donald not out 3

(12 min, 7 balls)

Extras (b5, lb15, w5, nb2) 27

Total (for 8, 234 min, 60 overs) 170

Fall: 1-1 (Knight), 2-12 (Smith), 3-45 (Hemp), 4-75 (Penney), 5-90 (Ostler), 6-96 (Welch), 7-147 (Giles), 8-156 (Brown).

Did not bat: G C Small.

Bowling: Cowan 12-3-29-3 (w2) (7-2-13-2, 3-1-4-1, 2-0-12-0); Ilott 12- 3-29-1 (w2) (7-3-7-0, 2-0-7-0, 1-0-8-0, 2-0-7-1); Irani 12-4-22-1 (nb1) (9-3-15-0, 3-1-7-1); S Law 12-4-38-0 (w1) (7-4-19-0, 5-0-19-0); Such 12- 1-32-1 (10-1-25-1, 2-0-7-0).

Progress: 50: 98 min, 148 balls. Lunch: 75 for 4 (Ostler 28, Brown 0), 35 overs. 100: 174 min, 273 balls. 150: 215 min, 337 balls.

ESSEX

*P J Prichard lbw b Donald 57

(60 min, 45 balls, 7 fours, 1 six)

S G Law not out 80

(109 min, 71 balls, 10 fours, 1 six)

N Hussain not out 25

(48 min, 43 balls, 4 fours, 1 six)

Extras (b1, lb4, w4) 9

Total (for 1, 109 min, 26.3 overs) 171

Fall: 1-109 (Prichard).

Did not bat: R C Irani, A P Grayson, D D J Robinson, D R Law, R J Rollins, A P Cowan, M C Ilott, P M Such.

Progress: 50: 25 min, 31 balls. 100: 57 min, 78 balls. 150: 99 min, 142 balls. Tea: 152 for 1 (S G Law 65, Hussain 25) 25 overs. Essex won at 5.19pm.

Prichard's 50: 55 min, 40 balls, 7 fours.

S G Law's 50: 68 min, 39 balls, 7 fours.

Bowling: Welch 5-0-34-0 (2-0-20-0, 3-0-14-0); Brown 4-0-29-0 (w3) (2- 0-14-0, 2-0-15-0); Small 7-0-43-0 (4-0-29-0, 3-0-14-0; Donald 6-0-36-1; Giles 4-1-20-0; Penney 0.3-0-4-0 (one spell each).

Man of the match: S G Law

Umpires: M J Kitchen and P Willey.

TV Replay Umpire: J H Hampshire.

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