Cricket: Lancashire see off limp threat

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The Independent Online
Lancashire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .218-6

Leicestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .108

Lancashire win by 110 runs

WINNING the toss and batting was the key to Lancashire reaching their fourth Lord's final in as many years. Leicestershire, having beaten Warwickshire by the default of fewer wickets lost and then Worcestershire, ultimately found home advantage something of a misnomer.

Lancashire's score was the highest winning total in the three Benson and Hedges Cup games at the ground this season, but was still meagre, embellished only by Neil Fairbrother.

The press box, by a margin of eight votes to six, granted him the gold award for an innings of 64 not out from 80 balls. Wasim Akram's startling spell of 5 for 2 in nine balls, on what was a bowler's pitch, came when Leicestershire were down, if not exactly out, at 86 for 5.

Fairbrother could also have been nominated for the award for winning the toss for only the second time in 11 competitive games. Putting in the opposition has been Lancashire's tried and trusted policy in limited overs matches, but a pitch that reduced the art of timing to a lottery prompted the view that the surface would not last the distance.

It did become slower and lower, but Wasim's yorkers whistled through with unerring accuracy, much to the delight of the true Lancashire supporters - and their zoo element carried along on a wave of lager in the wake of their success. Remarkably, Wasim's wickets were taken without the assistance of a fielder - three were clean bowled and two leg-before.

For Fairbrother, the possibility of playing for England as the left-hander needed to combat the leg-spin of Shane Warne became more probable. However, all his three half-centuries this summer have been in limited- overs games.

He was adjudged not out on 43, and later admitted that he was 'a bit jittery' about the decision by the third umpire, Chris Balderstone, who watched the television replays. The chances are that he would have been given the benefit of the doubt as Alan Mullally's throw from long leg zipped into Paul Nixon's gloves as a second run was being completed.

Tony Brown, the TCCB administration secretary, who watched the game, said that he is to consult the board about the possibility of introducing a third umpire for the remaining Test matches this summer after this trial and those at The Oval and Southampton earlier in the season.

The pitch itself was a distinct trial to stroke players until 17 runs emerged from the final over, delivered by Vince Wells. All Lancashire's leading batsmen, apart from Fairbrother, were unseated by playing too early and lofting catches.

Leicestershire fared far worse, their last six wickets tumbling for 22 runs as, at last, they were found out in one- day cricket, just as they have been in the Championship. Alex Barnett, Lancashire's slow left-arm bowler, took three of the first five wickets to confirm his considerable promise and his county's winning intent.

(Photograph omitted)