Worcestershire win by eight wickets
IF Worcestershire sprayed champagne over their Lord's balcony yesterday afternoon with all the profligacy of a motor racing driver, it probably had something to do with a grateful bookmaker sending round a few extra crates. Worcestershire's pounds 31,000 cheque for winning the NatWest Cup final might represent a decent amount of swag for a county cricketer, but is pretty small beer next to the pounds 500,000 Ladbrokes stood to lose had Warwickshire gone on to complete the grand slam.
Batting of the highest class from Tom Moody and Graeme Hick (Moody's bowling stint of 1 for 17 from 12 overs before Saturday's rain stoppage clinched what would otherwise have been a photo finish between them for the man of the match award) ultimately turned a game which might have gone either way at teatime into an embarrassing rout.
In the end, with Hick and Moody thrashing 198 runs off 212 deliveries, Worcestershire cantered home by eight wickets with 65 balls to spare, and their position in the Sunday league is such that they may yet finish the season with as many trophies as their Midland rivals.
Warwickshire's total of 223 for 9 was a good deal less modest than it looked on yet another September final pitch which made the ball wobble around so drunkenly that Nigel Plews, former policeman turned umpire, probably thought about breathalising it. This was the 18th time in the last 21 end-of-term Cup finals that the side batting second has won, although conditions this time were not much more batsman-friendly when Worcestershire went in.
When tea was taken halfway through the innings, Worcestershire were 84 for 2, and Hick had just survived a raucous appeal for a catch behind off Gladstone Small. However, when he and Moody re-emerged, they launched into Warwickshire's bowlers with such venom that Paul Smith, whose first three overs cost five runs, disappeared for 49 in his next four.
Smith failed to rid himself of the brainless conviction that the ideal place to bowl to Moody was halfway down the pitch, despite a five-minute interval for re-appraisal while the umpires selected a fresh ball. The old one is in somebody's garden the other side of the Grand Stand roof, and very nearly took Old Father Time's statue with it.
Warwickshire had made the apparent mistake of using up Tim Munton's 12-over allocation at the start of the innings, although had he dismissed either Hick or Moody while the ball was new, it would have been interpreted rather differently. In fact, Warwickshire's biggest mistake was probably getting Tim Curtis and Damian D'Oliveira out early enough for Hick and Moody to play themselves gently in.
Hick batted in his England helmet yesterday, and no-one now disputes his right to wear one. He has changed to an orthodox stance, but the most radical change is in his attitude. Not so long ago, anything short was in danger of clanging off his helmet, but these days it is more likely to result in injury to spectators in the seats over square leg.
Hick played beautifully yesterday, and while Moody was initially an admiring observer, he finally caught the mood from his partner. Their unbroken liaison of 198 was the second highest partnership for any wicket in 32 years of Gillette/NatWest finals.
Warwickshire's total might have been one of the lowest had Brian Lara not survived two loud appeals during Saturday's 26-ball search for his first run, and Stephen Rhodes' reaction was sufficiently bolshy to earn him a yellow card from umpire
David Shepherd. Rhodes is a fierce competitor, but sails so close to the boundaries of etiquette that the wonder of the Test match summer is that he somehow got through it without Peter Burge dipping into his wallet.
Lara, 36 overnight, went on to make 81 yesterday before getting out at a crucial time, clipping a catch to Hick moving in from the midwicket boundary. This was Lara's highest one-day score for Warwickshire (420 runs less than his highest in the championship) and only the fourth time in one-day cricket that he has passed 50, but after he was out, Warwickshire managed no more than 52 off their remaining 15 overs.
Worcestershire thus won for only the second time in nine Lord's finals, while Warwickshire were finally reduced to looking like the modest team reflected by the England selectors.
The team of the season usually provides more crucial cogs than the tour manager and the scorer, but if they can pick themselves up to win their two remaining Sunday league games, they will be able to raise three trophies and two fingers.
Sunday league cricket,
Scoreboard, page 28