Lancashire look to loner star of India

Ganguly is keen to lord it in a one-day final at Lord's
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The Independent Online

Lancashire could not have timed their return to winning ways better. Friday's10-wicket victory over Glouc- estershire will be fresh in both teams' memories, and though it will not give the Lancastrians a decisive psychological edge in today's NatWest semi-final, it will give their confidence a much-needed boost.

Lancashire could not have timed their return to winning ways better. Friday's10-wicket victory over Glouc- estershire will be fresh in both teams' memories, and though it will not give the Lancastrians a decisive psychological edge in today's NatWest semi-final, it will give their confidence a much-needed boost.

They had lost their three previous games, and lost them comprehensively. None more so than Wednesday's drubbing by the arch enemy, Yorkshire.

"That was very poor," said Sourav Ganguly, Lancashire's overseas star from India. "We didn't bat well, that much is obvious, but sometimes a team have a day when everything goes wrong. But that doesn't mean it will on Sunday. That game is completely different, just like today's."

The "today's" he referred to was Friday's National League match against Gloucestershire. The West Countrymen were reduced to 17 for 3 as Ian Austin and Glen Chapple bowled a disciplined line and length, and then, chasing only 138, Ganguly destroyed their attack with a stylish century.

A marked contrast to the sorry affair against Yorkshire, but the prospect of a Lord's final is a great incentive, particularly for Ganguly. "Lord's is a special place, and I am desperate to win this semi so I can enjoy the atmosphere of a Lord's final," he explained. "I made my Test debut there in 1996 and scored a century, so the place is even more special to me. Beating Gloucestershire will be hard. They are an excellent one-day team, but I just hope a couple of us canperform."

Like Andrew Flintoff did in the quarter-final against Surrey with a belligerent hundred, or of course like Ganguly himself, who scored 183 against Sri Lanka during last year's World Cup. However, Ganguly added: "I don't believe in this match-winning stuff. Each member of the team has an important part to play.

"If one player is doing well he must try to continue, and it may turn out to be a match-winning effort, but we should not get fixated on that. Most matches are won by the whole team contributing. Occasionally one man may win a game, but cricket is a team game, and we must play like a team."

Nevertheless, Lancashire are a team of stars, and Gang-uly is undoubtedly a match-winner. Although he stresses the team ethic, it is in that individ-ualistic role that he is needed.

It is often difficult for overseas players to fit straight into an English county side. It helps if they have a laddish attitude and like a beer, but Ganguly is a more aloof individual. The general feeling among his team-mates is that they don't really know him, but they certainly know he can play. And that is the main thing that interests them.

In contrast, Gloucestershire lack big stars, but have developed a unity that wins them games. And it is the resultant confidence that success has given them which won them the Benson & Hedges Cup semi-final against Lancashire earlier this season, again at Bristol.

It was a game that Ganguly missed, because he was back in India playing in the Asia Cup. "It was disappointing that we lost," he said, "but it is important that we forget that and concentrate only on the day. "We have no special ideas on playing Gloucestershire. We must perform, that is all, and if we do we will win."

But being close to relegation from National League Division One has added to the pressure on the players at a county where success has come to be expected. "There is pressure, yes," agreed Ganguly, "but no team can keep winning for ever. That counts for Glouc-estershire as much as us. Expectation is part of playing cricket, but the people with the most demanding expectations are the players themselves. I've enjoyed my season in England, done very well in one-day cricket and OK in the Championship, but I expect more of myself, particularly as I am playing well."

Which on Friday's evidence is an understatement. "Awesome, absolutely awesome" are not words one expects to hear from a diehard Lancastrian, yet that is how one fan described that innings. If Ganguly can repeat the feat on Sunday, the team will win the game but there will be no doubt as to who is the match-winner.

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