Contrast of styles spices up final feast

AFTER TWENTY years of sponsorship, the last NatWest Trophy of its kind takes place at Lord's today and a sumptuous farewell feast between Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, two of the best one-day sides of the past 10 years, should take place. Like its first incarnation as the Gillette Cup, the oldest of the one-day competitions will retain its place in the calendar, just that it will have another name.

AFTER TWENTY years of sponsorship, the last NatWest Trophy of its kind takes place at Lord's today and a sumptuous farewell feast between Gloucestershire and Warwickshire, two of the best one-day sides of the past 10 years, should take place. Like its first incarnation as the Gillette Cup, the oldest of the one-day competitions will retain its place in the calendar, just that it will have another name.

Judging by the way they have got here, the teams differ markedly in approach, which adds to the appeal. Gloucestershire, in their fourth successive Lord's final, have form on their side, but it is Warwickshire, coached again by Bob Woolmer, who possess the trump cards.

Allan Donald, Nick Knight and Ed Giddins can all swing matches in a matter of overs, though Donald (sore ankle), Knight (torn knee cartilage), and Ashley Giles (Achilles tendon), are carrying niggles. Injections have apparently been administered and all are expected to be fit this morning.

With question marks hanging over such key players, Warwickshire supporters will be on edge, but they should not be too downcast. Providing the occasion does not carry him away on a tide of adrenalin, Anurag Singh could catch the eye as Knight's opening partner.

An abundance of all-rounders, such as Neil Smith, Dougie Brown and Graeme Welch, means there is strength in depth, and, with over half the side having sampled the atmosphere of a Lord's final more than once, experience too.

One-day cricket has a knack for setting new trends. Not long ago, it was thought that the inclusion of one or two superstars was all that was required to turn matches. This was generally the case until Warwickshire began to win things in the early Nineties. Yet what the "Bears" began, the "Glorsters" have since taken to extremes.

By modern standards, Gloucestershire are vertically challenged, but what they lack in height, opening bowler Jon Lewis excepted, they more than make up in work-rate and nous. Preferring to bat first and defend their total, chasing runs against them is difficult with their mixture of accurate bowling and showboat fielding.

They owe their methods to their coach, John Bracewell, who emphasised the need for athletes in the field. A New Zealander, Bracewell also brought in the Australian Ian Harvey to replace Courtney Walsh as the overseas player. In his 10 years at the club, Walsh was a superb servant, though his dominance atrophied the improvement of team-mates. Harvey, a clever one-day bowler and batsman, is not in the same class as Walsh as a match-winner, but that has forced others to advance their own game.

The opening partnership of Kim Barnett and Tim Hancock has been a major factor in the team's success, as has the stand-up wicket-keeping of Jack Russell and the leadership of Mark Alleyne. And yet these stand-outs apart, they are arguably the most egalitarian side in the country.

But perhaps the real secret of their success comes from having no obvious figureheads for the opposition bowlers to target. When you have no one specific to gun for, how do you know you are winning?

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