Cricket / NatWest Trophy Final: Three C's enough to make grade: Northamptonshire dominate with batting brilliance despite strong stand from Whitaker and Robinson: Scyld Berry reports from Lord's

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Leicestershire208-7; Northamptonshire211-2. Northants win by eight wickets

TWO of our least glamorous counties went to yesterday's ball at Lord's, and an embarrassing scene ensued between the two Cinderellas. Northamptonshire, dressed up to the nines for the big occasion, turned on Leicestershire, accused her neighbour of being an imposter Cinderella, and slapped her in the face.

The NatWest Trophy final was thus turned into one of the most lop-sided there has been in 30 years of 60-over finals: a reflection in some ways of the Midlands themselves in being for the most part flat. Northamptonshire were so proficient in every phase, except perhaps their ground-fielding, that it seems amazing that this was only their third-ever title, all of them in limited-over knock-outs.

Northamptonshire were so consistent in their bowling, and brilliant at times in their batting, that yesterday they would have won even if they had batted first. As it was, this was the seventh September final in a row to have been won by the side batting second; but perhaps the first not to have been determined by the conditions.

From the scorecard, it might seem as though the pitch was even damper than this squib of a match, and batting first was impossible, as it has too often been here in the first week of September. Instead, Leicestershire were pegged back by the quality of Northamptonshire's bowling, and by their own limitations and initial nervousness.

Whereas this was Northamptonshire's fifth 60-over final, it was their opponents' first, and they showed early jitters. Three times in the first two overs from Curtly Ambrose Nigel Briers and Tim Boon embarked on quick, or rather hasty singles: two were aborted, before Boon was run out by Kevin Curran, already on red alert, diving in from square-leg.

If Briers had won the toss - and he has been calling like a soothsayer all season - Leicestershire, by bowling first, could have allayed those nerves which Northamptonshire played upon by simply bowling straight. Having not done so, Briers was also run out from square-leg, when Robert Bailey picked up with his left hand and threw down with his right, so that the score was no more than 45 in the 20th over when James Whitaker and Phil Robinson began their partnership of 130 in 34 overs.

The ground fielding of both sides was poor, but those two accurate throws by Northamptonshire made a lot of the difference. The rest was the work of their bowlers: Leicestershire found the three C's - Capel, Curran and Cook - as hard to master as a backward child finds the three R's; and Paul Taylor swung the ball into the right- handers as it grew older, without being at his most rhythmical.

This game was a good example of the delusion that limited-overs cricket is all about big hittting and pyrotechnics. In the first 50 overs Leicestershire hit 12 boundaries. In their last 10, when Ambrose and Curran permitted only 46 runs, three more fours were added.

Leicestershire, it should be advanced in their defence, were luckless. On Friday evening they had lost Vince Wells, when the all-rounder had to be rushed to hospital and examined by a cardiologist. He has been detained for further tests on what is now thought to be a viral infection.

In his place, David Millns had to play, although manifestly not fully recovered. He spared his left knee and back by not putting everything into his body action and follow-through. He was not helped either by unadventurous field-setting or by his side's slip-catching.

Leicestershire's only hope of defending their moderate total lay in their pace bowlers taking wickets. Yet Winston Benjamin and Millns bowled from the Nursery end, often moving the ball down the slope, to only one slip in Justin Benson. He missed two chances, the first when Alan Fordham was only 18 and Benjamin cut a ball away. The second chance was offered by Bailey when he had made two.

Thus reprieved, Fordham and Bailey put on 144 together from only 35 overs, in which span Fordham was a revelation to those who did not know him, and made himself an indisputable man of the match. At the crease he raises his bat more flourishingly than Lancelot in carefree mood with Excalibur. But he brings it down straight.

Fordham is strong in the front-foot cover-drive; but he also missed little or nothing off his legs. It would have been a blessing to England if the previous Northamptonshire opening pair of Geoff Cook and Wayne Larkins had combined their qualities - Cook's savvy and Larkins' talent - and to a large extent they have been in Fordham.

Whereas everyone else, even Whitaker, had found too little pace in the pitch for strokeplay, Fordham happily put away 13 fours off his own bat as Leicestershire's quick bowlers over-strained. He might be a little too free for an international opener, and technically more suited to No 3 or No 4. But whatever Fordham's position should be, this was one of those rare occasions when a tour de force in a September final should lead to a tour of another kind.

In 1982 Surrey defeated Warwickshire by nine wickets in the most crushing victory of its kind in 60-over finals. But Northamptonshire's victory by eight wickets, with 10.2 overs to spare, came close. Yesterday it was the only thing that did.

LORD'S SCOREBOARD

(Northamptonshire won toss)

LEICESTERSHIRE

T J Boon run out (Curran). . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3

(9 min, 6 balls)

*N E Briers run out (Bailey). . . . . . . . . . . . 25

(68 min, 59 balls, 3 fours)

J J Whitaker c Taylor b Curran. . . . . . . . . . . 84

(171 min, 160 balls, 7 fours)

P E Robinson c Felton b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . .62

(134 min, 106 balls, 3 fours)

J D R Benson b Ambrose. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .0

(4 min, 4 balls)

L Potter c Capel b Curran. . . . . . . . . . . . . .12

(11 min, 15 balls, 1 four)

W K M Benjamin b Curran. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0

(1 min, 1 ball)

P A Nixon not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7

(8 min, 7 balls, 1 four)

G J Parsons not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1

(5 min, 3 balls)

Extras (b1,lb8,w3,nb2). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

Total (for 7, 210 min, 60 overs). . . . . . . . . .208

Fall: 1-3 (Boon), 2-45 (Briers), 3-175 (Whitaker), 4-178 (Benson), 5-197 (Potter), 6-198 (Benjamin), 7-200 (Robinson).

Did not bat: A D Mullally, D J Millns.

Bowling: Ambrose 12-0-35-2 (nb1,w1) (5-0-6-0) (2-0-4-0) (5-0-25-2), Taylor 7-1-19-0 (5-1-8-0)

(2-0-11-0), Capel 11-3-39-0 (6-3-15-0) (5-0-24-0), Curran 12-1-41-3 (w1) (7-1-22-0) (5-0-19-3), Cook 12-0-43-0 (w1) (7-0-21-0) (5-0-22-0), Penberthy

6-0-22-0 (one spell).

Progress: 50: 71 min, 19.3 overs. 100: 118 min, 35 overs. Lunch: 116 for 2 (Whitaker 50, Robinson 29) in 40 overs. 150: 159 min, 47.1 overs. 200: 203 min, 58.2 overs. Innings closed: 2.40pm.

Whitaker 50: 123 min, 114 balls,6 fours.

Robinson 50: 102 min, 90 balls, 2 fours.

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

A Fordham c Potter b Mullally. . . . . . . . . . . . .91

(158 min, 140 balls, 13 fours)

N A Felton b Mullally. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6

(31 min, 21 balls)

R J Bailey not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 72

(145 min, 115 balls, 5 fours)

*A J Lamb not out. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .24

(25 min, 22 balls, 4 fours)

Extras (lb9, w9). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 18

Total (for 2, 185 min, 49.4 overs). . . . . . . . . .211

Fall: 1-29 (Felton), 2-173 (Fordham).

Did not bat: D J Capel, K M Curran, A L Penberthy, D Ripley, C E L Ambrose, J P Taylor, N G B Cook.

Bowling: Benjamin 12-0-65-0 (5-0-20-0) (4-0-24-0) (3-0-21-0); Mullally 10-2-22-2 (w3) (6-2-11-1)

4-0-11-1); Millns 10-0-43-0 (w3) (5-0-18-0) 5-0-25- 0); Parsons 9-1-31-0 (3-0-11-0) (4-0-15-0) (2-1-5-0); Potter 4-0-18-0 (w2); Benson 4.4-1-23-0 (4-1-14-0) (0-4-0-9-0).

Progress: 50: 60 min, 14.4 overs. 100: 100 min, 27 overs - score at tea. 150: 139 min, 36.5 overs. 200: 183 min, 49 overs. Innings closed: 6.15pm.

Fordham 50: 92 min, 81 balls, 6 fours.

Bailey 50: 115 min, 87 balls, 2 fours.

Umpires: D J Constant and D R Shepherd.

Man of the match: A Fordham.

Adjudicator: R Illingworth.

Northamptonshire won by eight wickets.

(Photograph omitted)

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