Cricket: Winning farewell for emotional Wasim

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The Independent Online
WASIM AKRAM brought the curtain down on a glorious 10-year association with Lancashire by leading them to second place in the County Championship via a 161-run victory over Hampshire at Old Trafford yesterday.

After some entertaining and uninhibited hitting from the Hampshire tailenders, the inevitable home triumph arrived 40 minutes into the final morning of the season when Gary Keedy snared Shaun Udal to confirm Wasim would leave Lancashire on an appropriate winning note.

The runners-up cheque was safely in keeping, but Wasim was more concerned with thanking the Lancashire cricketing public and his team-mates, along with a deep swell of emotion as he leaves it all behind.

"I am thrilled, happy and yet sad to be going. All of that I feel after such a great season and 10 years when we have worked so hard and achieved so much," he said.

"Over the years it has been such a wonderful place for me. I shall miss the spectators, the players and most of all the enjoyment.

"It was never the money, but knowing when I come here I am going to enjoy myself and my cricket and the people. All that was always very important for me."

Wasim is handing the captaincy over to John Crawley and the overseas player spot to the Sri Lankan off-spinner Muttiah Muralitharan as he prepares to put his own energies into clearing up bribery allegations that have been dogging him and Pakistani cricket.

He insisted the run of success for Lancashire - AXA League and NatWest Trophy winners this summer and also buoyed by this week's news that their coach Dav Whatmore has signed a new long-term contract - will continue without him.

Wasim's own involvement on the field was minimal as Hampshire's last three batsmen all sought to make it worth everyone's while coming back for a match that at one stage looked certain to end on Saturday night until low sun stopped play for the second consecutive day.

Hampshire, easily defeated but unbowed, had plenty to savour after posting a number of successes, in contrast to a 1997 that was moderate at best.

Courtney Walsh rounded off another highly successful season - and possibly his Gloucestershire career - in familiar style to help clinch his county a fourth-place finish in the tale.

The West Indian fast bowler finished with figures of 5 for 82 against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge yesterday to emerge as the country's leading wicket-taker, pipping Andy Caddick for the honour with a total of 106 victims.

It was the seventh time this season that Walsh has claimed a five-wicket haul and it set up a 189-run victory that condemned Nottinghamshire to another heavy defeat in what has been a miserable end to their season