LANCASHIRE continued their long and happy dalliance with 60-over cricket by beating Derbyshire in yesterday's NatWest final here. With part one of their treble ambitions in the bag they can now go home to Old Trafford, knowing that a win today against Hampshire in the AXA League will secure them their second trophy of the season.
This was their seventh title and, with just 109 runs to chase, one of their easiest. When the winning run came on the stroke of one o'clock, only 30.2 overs had been bowled, the fewest ever taken to win a September final. Small consolation for paying spectators perhaps, but a satisfying one for the Lancashire captain, Wasim Akram, now in his last season with the club he joined 10 years ago as a 21-year-old.
Apparently, Wasim, now at the end of a six-year contract has known all along that this was likely to be his last season. With the World Cup certain to affect most overseas players next summer, Lancashire have been looking for a player - allegedly an off-spinner - not involved in the contest, to take his place.
However, now that the hot tip appears to be Muttiah Muralitharan, a man whose involvement with the holders Sri Lanka is written in stone, Wasim is claiming that Lancashire have moved the goalposts. If, as looks likely, they are going to sign someone involved in next year's one-day extravaganza, then why not him. Lancashire are keeping mum, which suggests moves to sign an alternative are already to far advanced to pull the plug.
Before taking his two wickets, Wasim's most significant contribution to Lancashire's cause was to win the toss. Long regarded as the showpiece of the one-day competitions, the early start has more often than not rendered the NatWest a non-contest, the side losing the toss almost exclusively consigned to batting first in seamer-friendly conditions.
Unsurprisingly, this match proved no different, though with Derbyshire's slender resources a factor, part toss part dross would perhaps be a better assessment of the factors that lead to such a rout.
In fact, Derbyshire batsmen were unfortunate on two counts and the 4.30pm start on the first day after the pitch had spent many hours sweating under the hover cover, followed by the 10.30 start yesterday, effectively consigned them to two testing periods against the moving ball.
With Lancashire's seam and swing kings eventually settling after a jittery start, it was to prove a hurdle too large, particularly for a side barely half filled with cricketers of substance. Resuming from their overnight position of 92 for 7, Derbyshire lasted another 27 balls, a late flurry of fours from Vince Clarke the sole act of defiance as they were dismissed for 108.
So often the stage for the peacocks to strut their stuff, Lord's was treated to the unobtrusive skills of the largely unsung Ian Austin. Peter Martin, who finished with 4 for 19, may have bowled more unplayable balls, but it is Austin's unflappable way of doing the basics well which conjures up the term "a professional job well done".
Indeed, Austin, whose 3 for 14 won him the man of the match award, should really come stamped with the BSI kitemark. When Lancashire's supporters began singing "There are only two Ian Austins," they could have just as easily have been celebrating his consistency, as his substantial bulk.
A solid performer with a character to match, it was Austin's accuracy that broke the dangerous early stand between Kim Barnett and Michael Slater after the pair threatened to overturn Lancashire's advantage of winning the toss.
Slater began brightly for a man who had just spent most of previous 30 hours in the air - he was returning from Australia's training camp for the Commonwealth Games - until he played around one that nipped back down the Lord's slope. Having struck Glenn Chapple for six over extra cover, his wicket was a crucial one and it effectively stopped Derbyshire in their tracks. They collapsed from 70 for 0 to 92 for 7 in the 125 minutes of play available.
Requiring something of a minor miracle with the bat from their captain, Dominic Cork, when they resumed yesterday, Derbyshire instead fell to earth. Instead of Martin and Austin wreaking mayhem, it was Wasim and Andy Flintoff who took the three remaining wickets.
Defending a target as modest as 108 is virtually impossible without the catalysing effect of early wickets. Derbyshire should have had one, too, and they have only themselves to blame after Michael Atherton's edged dab off Cork flew at catchable height between first and second slip.
But if Cork eventually had his revenge, clean bowling Atherton with a beauty from the Pavilion End for 10, the inexperience of bowlers like Kevin Dean kept the pressure from building on Lancashire.
Dean, a left-arm swing bowler, fed John Crawley's leg-side strengths, while giving the left-handed Neil Fairbrother plenty of width to swing his bat. Still one of the best one-day batsmen in England, Fairbrother is still not averse to accepting charity and a quartet of beautifully executed drives clanged into the cover fence.
In a match in which the ball had almost total dominion over the bat, the 38 runs Dean conceded from five overs was a luxury too many and by the time Matthew Cassar came on to hasten the conclusion as well as cakewalk Crawley to his fifty the game was up. By then though, the pretenders had long stopped pretending.
SCOREBOARD FROM LORD'S
Lancashire won toss
M J Slater lbw b Austin 34
70 min, 62 balls, 3 fours, 1 six
K J Barnett b Martin 23
76 min, 55 balls, 1 four
A S Rollins c Flintoff b Martin 1
14 min, 10 balls
R M S Weston b Austin 0
5 min, 4 balls
M E Cassar c Chapple b Austin 6
27 min, 18 balls, 1 five
B L Spendlove lbw b Martin 4
17 min, 10 balls
*D G Cork c Hegg b Wasim 5
39 min, 34 balls
P A J DeFreitas lbw b Martin 0
3 min, 2 balls
K M Krikken c Hegg b Flintoff 2
33 min, 16 balls
V P Clarke b Wasim 13
10 min, 7 balls, 3 fours
K J Dean not out 0
4 min, 6 balls
Extras (lb5, w7, nb8) 20
Total (36.4 overs) 108
Fall: 1-70 (Slater), 2-70 (Barnett), 3-71 (Weston), 4-71 (Rollins), 5-81 (Spendlove), 6-81 (Cassar), 7-81 (DeFreitas), 8-94 (Cork), 9-102 (Krikken).
Bowling: Wasim Akram 8.4-1-39-2 (nb4, w5) (5-0-23-0, 3.4-1-16-2); Martin 9-2-19-4 (w2) (3-0-12-0, 6-2-7-4); Chapple 6-0-27-0; Austin 10-5-14-3; Flintoff 3-1-4-1 (one spell each).
Progress: First day: Rain delayed start until 4.30pm. 50: 50 min, 78 balls. Bad light stopped play: 6.40-7.03pm at 85-7 (Cork 3, Krikken 0) 31 overs. BLSP: 7.08pm at 92-7 (Cork 4, Krikken 1) 32.1 overs. Second day: 100: 147 min, 214 balls. Innings closed: 10.49am.
M A Atherton b Cork 10
35 min, 26 balls, 2 fours
J P Crawley not out 53
121 min, 93 balls, 11 fours
N H Fairbrother not out 38
85 min, 64 balls, 5 fours
Extras (lb2, w4, nb2) 8
Total (for 1, 30.2 overs) 109
Fall: 1-28 (Atherton).
Did not bat: G D Lloyd, A Flintoff, *Wasim Akram, I D Austin, W K Hegg, G Yates, G Chapple, P J Martin.
Bowling: Cork 10.2-4-24-1 (2-0-5-0, 4-3-4-1, 4-1-14-0, 0.2-0-1-0); Dean 5-0-38-0 (nb1, w1) (2-0-12-0, 3-0-26-0); DeFreitas 9-3-13-0 (w1) (6-2- 11-0, 3-1-2-0), Cassar 6-0-32-0 (w2).
Progress: Second day: 50: 61 min, 94 balls. 100: 111 min, 168 balls.
Crawley 50: 117 min, 90 balls, 11 fours.
Umpires: G Sharp and K E Palmer.
Man of the match: I D Austin.
Compiled by Jo KingReuse content