Cricket: Hick and Lara the men for the moment: Newly-crowned county champions take on their local rivals in today's NatWest Trophy final at Lord's

Click to follow
The Independent Online
THERE may be one or two people who tuned into the BBC's live coverage of the Benson and Hedges Cup final back in July only just awaking from a deep coma, and when they see Worcestershire and Warwickshire slowly blurring into view again at Lord's today ('and it's Moody bowling to Twose . . .') the resultant wreckage may prove to be beyond the scope of the television repairman.

However, the same two combatants hopefully does not mean the same sort of contest, although contest is perhaps an inappropriate word for a match which expired shortly after 11am. Lord's on cup final day is a special occasion, not to mention an expensive one, and supporters of both sides deserve something better than they got last time.

Last summer, we were all a bit spoiled by two breathless finals. Derbyshire beat Lancashire by six runs in the B & H and, in the NatWest, Warwickshire improbably overhauled Sussex's 321 for 6 off the final ball. Both ended so late in the evening that they were the sort of photo-finishes requiring a flashgun on the camera.

The B & H even threatened to produce a lunchtime punch-up when Wasim Akram's morning beamer to Chris Adams produced a confrontation over the table that only just stopped short of short- pitched tea cups and in-swinging saucers. That sort of thing we could do without, but if this NatWest produces half the excitement of last year's, it will be well worth watching.

Whether or not the bookmakers can bear to watch is another matter, given that Warwickshire are not only on course for their third consecutive cup final victory, but also for a domestic grand slam of all four competitions. Odds of 8000-1, and the arrival of Brian Lara, tempted quite a few punters, not all of them from Warwickshire, and if they win today, it will be three down with only the Sunday League to go.

If Worcestershire, who have lost seven of their eight cup finals, had one wish today, it would not so much be for Lara to pull a hamstring in the nets (as the West Indian would not get into the Warwickshire side strictly on one-day form) as to win the toss. The coin had a decisive influence on their B & H defeat and although last year's NatWest final was played on a pitch yielding 643 runs, any seamer-friendly sap in the surface will be before lunch.

Worcestershire might have got away with it in July had Graeme Hick not been the victim of a poor lbw decision against Paul Smith, whose man of the match award for modest figures of 3 for 43 and 42 not out was a fair indication of a total non-spectacle. Smith is a key member of Warwickshire's one-day side (it was his aggressive spell of bowling which turned the Edgbaston semi-final against Kent) and his current lack of form with the bat has been Warwickshire's major concern leading up to this final.

Their success this season, and particularly winning the Championship, has cut little ice with the England selectors, and the fact that neither they (nor the likely runners-up, Leicestershire) have a single player in the Australian tour squad is an eloquent comment on the overall quality of English cricket. Warwickshire's vice-captain, Tim Munton, is among the country's leading wicket-takers, but then again Rodney Marsh, the former Australian wicketkeeper, has such a low opinion of English bowling that he refers to them as 'pie throwers'. This is a touch unfair on Munton, even though he hails from Melton Mowbray.

Warwickshire, though, remain a greater sum than their individual parts and as Kent discovered in the semi-final, and Sussex in last year's final, their great strength (apart from when Dermot Reeve is doing his stretching exercises) is in not knowing when to lie down. Hopefully, today's spectators will not feel the need to lie down either.

Comments