Cricket: Halsall's ale and hearty performance

Matthew Slater raises a glass to Eastbourne's success at Lord's
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The Independent Online
A lusty blow away from the room where Michael Atherton was reconfirming his commitment to England's cause, Eastbourne Cricket Club were proving that there is more to the Sussex club scene then the main strip at Brighton.

Eastbourne made a confident Lord's debut yesterday when they defeated an outclassed Harrogate in the National Club Knock-out Final.

The team from Yorkshire were the marginal pre-match favourites and chose to bat after winning the toss. Eastbourne, who had won all eight qualifying rounds by batting second, accepted the invitation to field gratefully and preceded to tear into the Harrogate batting line-up.

A sparkling fielding performance dashed any Yorkshire hopes that the south-coast men would be either elderly or infirm. Eastbourne's Paul Hacker set the match on its subsequent course by trapping Harrogate's opener John Proud leg before. It was a major disappointment for Proud, who had scored 111 not out in his side's semi-final win, but he was soon joined under his dark sky by the majority of his team-mates. The only Harrogate batsman who looked at all at ease was Simon Kippax, whose rapid 41 helped the Yorkshire side reach 158 all out.

The total never looked like being enough and this was confirmed by the forthright approach of Eastbourne's openers Richard Halsall and Paul Stevens. Both players completed fine half centuries, before Stevens, who had also kept wicket with some panache, fell for 63 with the score on 135.

The remaining 24 runs required for victory were rattled off in spritely fashion with Halsall, unbeaten on 82 hitting the winning runs.

Mark Nicholas, the man of the match adjudicator and former Hampshire captain, was left the difficult task of picking one performance from a host of worthy candidates. The player who he felt best deserved his weight in Abbot Ale was Halsall, but the 13st 7lb of beer probably got no further then the jubilant dressing-room.

As for Harrogate there was only the M1 and next year to look forward to. If it is any consolation to the travelling support their occupation of the Tavern pub forced the press corps to move out to the pub across the road.

NATIONAL CLUB KNOCK-OUT FINAL (Lord's): Harrogate 158; Eastbourne 159 for 1 (R Halsall 82no, P Stevens 63). Eastbourne win by nine wickets.

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