Cricket: Stephenson's thunder bat ready to roll: Lancashire face run storm in Benson and Hedges Cup quarter-finals

Click to follow
HIGH profile, one-day cricket returns to the domestic stage today with the quarter-finals of the Benson and Hedges Cup, and all eight remaining teams are aware that their prospects of reaching the last four depend on no one showing too much in the way of England form.

While Graham Gooch attempts to regain a bit more touch by playing tomorrow for Essex's second XI at Colchester the likes of David Gower, Phillip DeFreitas, Mark Lathwell, Ian Salisbury and Michael Atherton will know that while a one- day game is no real criterion for Test selection, a good performance would certainly do no harm when the selectors sit down over the weekend to pick their team for Old Trafford.

Sussex, the one side left never to have made it to the final of the B&H, are at Hove for the visit of Lancashire, whose progress to this stage was the result of a collapse by Surrey that made England's effort at Lord's on Sunday look third rate.

Lancashire won by six runs after taking Surrey's last nine wickets for 18, but cannot expect similar charity from Sussex, who have won all three of their one- day games this season by comfortable margins. Sussex's success has had much to do with pretending that the first 10 overs of their innings are in fact the last 10, with Franklyn Stephenson opening the innings, and adopting the same thunder-bat role as Mark Greatbatch did for New Zealand in the World Cup.

Eddie Hemmings, whose transfer to Hove this summer was not so much a case of wielding the cheque book as the pension book, is a slight doubt, having aggravated a knee injury while returning figures of 12 for 58 in the Championship win over Leicestershire. For this type of combat, however, the Whale is more likely to revert to the leg-stump harpoon delivery than old-fashioned flight and spin.

At Southampton, Mark Nicholas, who has a chipped finger bone, may have to hand over the Hampshire captaincy to Malcolm Marshall for the televised match against Northamptonshire. David Gower is also out (out for too many low scores for his own good, that is), but Hampshire will be looking for the big occasion to inspire him, and for Robin Smith to reproduce some of his Edgbaston form. Smith, who did not look half so good against Tim May's spin at Lord's, is probably the one Hampshire batsman looking forward to facing more of Curtly Ambrose than Nick Cook.

Somerset welcome back Andy Caddick and Lathwell (one tired, the other brassed off) for their game against Derbyshire at Taunton, where Mushtaq Ahmed will hopefully prove the worth of an attacking spinner in a one-day game.

Times are hard at Grace Road, where Leicestershire will be without the cutting edge of their attack, David Millns, until mid- July and Worcestershire will be further encouraged by the suspicion that their hosts would be hard pressed not to lose to England on current form.