Cricket: Tradition fighting a losing battle: The Lord's finale was not a sell-out for the first time in the competition's history. Derek Hodgson sees changes ahead

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MICHAEL MELLHUISH, the president of MCC, expressed a heartfelt wish to the Cricket Writers Club on Friday. He hoped that the next World Cup would be in England and 'that the players in that World Cup will all be wearing white shirts'. The likelihood is to the contrary.

Yesterday's NatWest Trophy final was not a sell-out for the first time in the history of the 60-over competition. The recession, the cost of tickets, the meeting of two small counties as the contestants, have all taken a share of the blame, but underneath lies an uneasy hint that the traditional game, and the 60-over competition is now as traditional as the Championship, is fading into history. Rather than the next World Cup being played in white, it now seems possible that by 1995 the County Championship will not only be played in colour but that the limited overs' formula will have been introduced: matches of 110 overs per team played over two days.

There are two emerging trends: the reaction from the counties on the introduction of four-day cricket on covered pitches is one of deep suspicion that these will be even more boring than the first two days of the present three-day schedules. Secondly, the unveiling of the new Sunday League, with its coloured clothing, white balls, black sightscreens and any amount of hype in 1993 will confirm the drift away from 'white' cricket of all but the middle-aged and elderly. Even Test-match cricket is under threat. The discrepancy between the attendances for Tests and one-day internationals around the world is now so large it must be only a matter of time before one country, probably Australia, suggests a Test series of one-day matches . . . in colour.

There were many gaps in the Edrich and Compton Stand at Lord's yesterday. The prestigious top tier of the Mound Stand was a third full, yet as finals go this was better than expected. Leicestershire, the underdogs, did much better than expected; sent in, the side batting first is expected to endure a day-long struggle to avoid defeat.

This Leicestershire proved to be as resilient and evasive as their own running fox. James Whitaker and Phil Robinson shared a stand of 130 in 34 overs after both openers had been run out. Whitaker is class with a little hustle; Robinson is a hustler with a touch of class.

In the other dressing room the summer's most contentious topic rumbled on: Sarfraz Nawaz, once a prodigious seamer for Pakistan and Northamptonshire, is suing the current county captain, Allan Lamb, for libel after the ball-tampering allegations.

So having heard that he might be served with a writ as he went into bat, the county's cricket director Mike Procter and the coach Bob Carter escorted him down the steps.

In fact, it later turned out, a legal representative of Sarfraz had indeed handed Lamb a writ an hour before play started. Lamb at first denied all knowledge of the affair, saying, 'Where is the writ? You seem to know more than me.' He later admitted, however, that he had been handed something in the morning. He threw it away.