FOR Warwickshire, this was a case of here we go again; for Somerset, of what might have been. Interviewed a week before the game, Somerset's groundsman, Phil Frost, said he had told his captain, Andy Hayhurst, that he would need in excess of 300 to win.
In the event, they made 124 yesterday and, not surprisingly, lost by eight wickets with 35.5 overs to spare. But they, and Frost, were undone by overnight and morning rain followed by humid, overcast skies. With the pitch moist and atmosphere heavy, the toss was as vital as it had been in the Benson and Hedges final.
But Warwickshire won with such a professional performance one felt they would have beaten Somerset even if they had batted first. They are now a game away from returning to Lord's to defend their NatWest title and the bookmakers last night cut the odds on them gaining an unprecedented four trophies to 3-1.
As before in one-day matches, Brian Lara's contribution was incidental, a catch and nine runs. Coming in at 93 for 1, he hit his first ball, off Harvey Trump, for six and was then leg before to a fast yorker from the returning Andre van Troost.
Gladstone Small had exposed Somerset's batting with an incisive opening spell of 2 for 14 in seven overs. With Tim Munton also tight, Somerset failed to score in five overs at one stage and though the pitch eased, the mental pressure did not, several batsmen playing poor shots. Only Andy Hayhurst stuck around, but he batted so slowly he ran out of partners to be left unbeaten on 29 in 32 overs.
Somerset's only chance was to take early wickets and Van Troost, bowling with extreme pace, went close to dismissing and disabling Dominic Ostler when he thumped him on the pad in the second over.
But his accuracy disappeared - one over included four wides - and with Andy Caddick fading similarly, Ostler striking him for a series of fours, Andy Moles guided the holders to victory.
The only disquieting notes were Small's exit immediately after his opening spell - the seamer, suffering from injury all summer, never returned - and a bit of needle which manifested itself in occasional verbals, notably from Roger Twose and Dermot Reeve when they felt Hayhurst should have walked.