Amid some fanfare a few years ago, it was decreed that cricket's oldest and best knock-out competition would become like football's equivalent. It worked as well. Both now have a couple of initials to identify them. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned ploy by the marketing mandarins at Lord's, determined to appease the shires and sex up the county game, coincided more or less with that period when the FA Cup was losing its allure. Even then, the letters C & G Trophy, which it has been since 2001, could hardly compete.
Sussex appeared in the last final thriller, in 1993, when Warwickshire somehow overhauled their total of 323. They will not be involved in one this year, having been defeated by Lancashire. The margin was 12 runs, a country mile in modern one-day cricket, and for much of the Sussex innings it would have taken an extraordinary effort to engineer victory.
Sussex are the County Champions but they needed a decent run in the C & G after a stuttering start to their Championship defence. The theory was that long-suffering supporters who have waited a lifetime for a Championship - and their parents a lifetime before that - could rest in peace without further success. The practice is they want more, immediately. They could perhaps have done without Lancashire, who look as well-rounded as they have done for years. Their performance exuded efficiency, though like the Hove pitch, it was not flawless.
The surface was sporting from the off - it helped in severely bruising three fingers - and the Sussex captain, Chris Adams, sensing, or hoping, it would only improve, decided to field. There were four important innings for Lancashire, but none seemed to have put daylight between the teams. Mal Loye's well-crafted half-century came to an end in the 28th over just when it looked as though the innings would revolve round him. Mark Chilton took over the anchor role with Andrew Flintoff primed for the big late hit.
Both were out at a stage when Lancashire would have preferred otherwise. Flintoff, whose eyes perform the unlikely trick of both lighting up and glazing over when confronted by class spin, was leg before, hitting across the line against Mushtaq Ahmed. Mushtaq bowled shrewdly but controversially. He was carrying a thigh injury and as soon as he finished his quota of overs he set off to leave the field. Lancashire understandably queried this, but Mushtaq's limp won the day and the umpires' hearts.
Chilton, with a well-crafted 62 in 78 balls, provided solidity until the 46th over, Carl Hooper supplied some late, lovely impetus. A powerful six over midwicket was followed by the daintiest of late cuts for four. He was the first to be struck, had to bat largely with one hand and did not take the field.
Soon Sussex had their own casualty and it gave them a terrible start. The in-form Ian Ward was struck on the hand by James Anderson's lifting second ball and went off for ice treatment. They then lost three quick wickets with the ball lifting ostentatiously. Richard Montgomerie was held at slip, Murray Goodwin, trying to turn to leg, was remarkably caught by Chilton at short midwicket aided by a telescopic left arm atop a height of 6ft 3ins. That put him in the frame for Man of the Match, which he did get. Matt Prior, with bat away from body, also nicked to slip.
The rebuilding job was effected by Adams and Matthew Yardy, though not without good fortune. Adams was dropped on eight by Flintoff and on 36 by Law, both in the slips and both eminently catchable.
Flintoff deserved his wicket, another lifter accounting for Yardy, again in the the slips. While Adams and Robin Martin-Jenkins were together Sussex were not without hope but Lancashire, especially Flintoff and Anderson, bowled straight and with movement at lively pace. Adams went for 51, attempting something a mite extravagant.
Martin-Jenkins lost partners regularly, two to run-outs, first the returning Ward first ball and then Mohammad Akram to a splendid piece of Flintoff acrobatics, following through in his run-up and then twisting, leaping and throwing in what looked like one movement. He was left unbeaten on 62.
In the splendid account of Sussex's historic Championship, The Longest Journey, the authors, Bruce Talbot and Paul Weaver, record that more romance was given to their triumph because they had overcome Surrey and Lancashire, two giants of the game. "But having taken up squatter's rights on the big boys' stage how long will it be before we can celebrate again?" Could be quite a wait.
Quarter-final draw: Lancashire v Yorkshire (Old Trafford); Warwickshire v Ireland or Northamptonshire (Edgbaston); Worcestershire v Essex (Worcester); Gloucestershire v Middlesex (Bristol). To be played Tue 15 June and Wed 16 June.Reuse content