Cricket: Reeve's tale takes final twist in return to Lord's: Glenn Moore on Sussex v Warwickshire on Saturday

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IT WAS supposed to be Viv Richards' last hurrah, a Lord's final against his old club, Somerset, for his new one, Glamorgan. But Warwickshire and Sussex spoilt the plot in the semi-finals and, with the Ashes series holding the attention to its last day, next Saturday's NatWest Trophy final has crept quietly upon us.

It looks like a final without stars, without a single current Test player, but it is not without interest or quality. For both sides, their appearance represents something of a gamble justified. At the beginning of the season Sussex, to the unease of many members, signed Bill Athey, 35, and Eddie Hemmings, 44. Warwickshire, meanwhile, appointed the enigmatic Dermot Reeve as captain.

Warwickshire's reward, despite injuries and the loss of their strike bowler, Allan Donald, to South Africa's tour of Sri Lanka, is a final reached partly through Reeve's semi-final heroics, when he was laid out in a collision with Somerset's Neil Burns but returned to play a key role with bat and ball.

'I had a bad neck from the whiplash and was groggy all day - I saw the game on video later and could not remember facing some of the balls,' Reeve said.

For Reeve the game has added poignancy. He spent seven seasons at Sussex and was man-of- the-match when they last went to Lord's, for the 1986 NatWest Trophy, which they won. He left Hove the following year in search of more opportunities with the bat and to develop his swing bowling in more conducive conditions, and ended up with another NatWest award, in Warwickshire's win over Middlesex in 1989.

Three team-mates from 1986 will face him on Saturday, Alan and Colin Wells and Tony Pigott. Alan Wells, who neither batted nor bowled in that final, is now captain, and led Sussex to Lord's with a match-winning unbeaten 106 against Glamorgan.

Both sides have beaten more fancied opposition to get to Lord's, Sussex knocking out the holders, Hampshire, at home, and winning at Northampton before defeating Glamorgan.

Warwickshire beat Kent at Edgbaston and then won at Headingley and Taunton. Their batting has been poor for much of the year but Dominic Ostler and Trevor Penney are capable of fine innings, the fielding is excellent and the bowling resurgent.

'We have been inconsistent and we'll miss Donald. But we have Gladstone Small back and Tim Munton is fit enough to play one-day games,' said Reeve.

Sussex's key man is the West Indian all-rounder, Franklyn Stephenson, with Ian Salisbury's leg- spin likely to be closely watched. The time is also right for the batsman, Martin Speight, to underline his ability and prove he can perform on the big day. 'An immensely talented cricketer, he is just starting to sort his game out and has a very good future,' said the Sussex coach, Norman Gifford.

But the result may hinge on the captains, Reeve and Wells, not least because the toss, on a dewy September morning, can be crucial.