Cricket: Lancashire's failure gives the lie to bookies' art

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The Independent Online
THERE are moments in history, such as Goliath's fall before the boy David, when it seems the supernatural intervenes to ensure that the underdog has to win. Derbyshire v Lancashire was not in that class of confrontation but at no point could those acid-dry realists, the bookmakers, see a Derbyshire victory.

Lancashire began at 4-11, were 2-11 at lunch and 8-11 by the close of Derbyshire's innings, at which point the Peakites had all but come in from the cold, at evens. So how did it happen?

There had to be a conspiracy of circumstances. Lancashire's players had expressed their anger over incidents in the previous Championship match, won by Lancashire through a brilliant bowling spell by Wasim Akram. Derbsyhire sent the ball to Lord's but were told that there was nothing wrong with it.

Come Saturday morning, in their St John's Wood hotel, Lancashire could have been described as tense but determined. Derbyshire were so unfancied they could almost joke about it. 'Win the toss,' Kim Barnett was ordered. He lost.

He had to bat first, and it was a disaster. 'Our top four have usually got the runs this season. When we lost them all, for 66, there seemed no way out,' Barnett conceded. Even that small score was helped by nervous Lancashire fielding, another indication of a side trying too hard.

By lunch, 133 for 4, Derbyshire men were congratulating themslves on passing the miserable 117 made against Hampshire in the 1988 final. By then the rally, initiated by Tim O'Gorman, supported by Karl Krikken and led gloriously by Dominic Cork, was under way. Cork, at 21 the youngest player on the field, thought to be a bowler who could bat, produced one of the great one-day innings.

Barnett said of him: 'Next to Chris Lewis he is potentially the best all- rounder in England. He is all heart. He has not filled out yet and I would like to see him strengthening up but he has the ability England needs.'

Cork's performance contrasted with that of Wasim, ranked the world's No 1 all-rounder. The pitch was too slow for the Pakistani's bowling - as Ray Illingworth pointed out, two spinners might have been match-winners - and he had no choice but to blaze away when he batted.

By then the weather had intervened. Lancashire knew, in batting second, they would have to contend with fading light. Two interruptions for rain meant also that they had to force runs across a wet outfield. 'The rain came at the right time (6.05) for us,' Barnett said.

At that point Lancashire were 141 for 2, well placed for the final assault, 17 overs remaining and 112 wanted. But the innings had reached that critical point when the required run rate had risen to 6.03 an over, a run a ball. Despite Neil Fairbrother's superb effort, the run rate increased inexorably to the end.

Even Barnett's last gamble paid off. 'Neil was in super form and the only way I hoped to restrain him was with Devon's (Malcolm) pace, otherwise he would have destroyed us. So I had to bring Malcolm back early and leave two of the last three overs to young Frankie Griffith; the lad put six in the blockhole. I couldn't ask for more.'

He went on: 'This has to be the greatest day of my life. We got here without an overseas professional and had to play against one of the best. We looked to be beaten out of sight yet we came back and we won, some of the best contributions coming from the team's unsung heroes, like Jack Warner.'

Lancashire were still uptight afterwards but their chairman Bob Bennett was chivalrous: 'It was a sensational finish to a great one-day match and I'm pleased for Derbyshire. It will do them a lot of good.' Chris Middleton, the Derbyshire chairman, contemplating a huge overdraft, added: 'The prize-money (pounds 30,000) may be only a drop in the ocean but for us it is a considerable drop.'