Old timer Cork turns back clock

Sussex 219-9 Hampshire 221-4
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The Independent Online

Hampshire match-winner Dominic Cork has made it a personal mission to get under the skin of all his opponents at every level of cricket; now he has targeted the English game's governing body.

Cork's superb bowling helped to steer Hampshire to a comprehensive victory over their south-coast neighbours and rivals Sussex in the Friends Provident Trophy final at Lord's on Saturday.

Afterwards, the former England all-rounder, 37, delivered some chilling news to the England and Wales Cricket Board: "I still want to carry on playing."

This flies in the face of a proposal by the ECB, which wants to introduce age quotas in county cricket in order to encourage counties to play more England-qualified youngsters.

Since Saturday's match featured 19 players aged 26 or over and the man-of-the-match award went to Cork, it cocked a snook at the ECB's proposal to reward counties who play up to two players aged under 22, three who are under 26 and four over 26 in Championship and Friends Provident Trophy matches from next season. A county complying with this would receive around £206,400 from the ECB. A non-compliant club, playing players over the age of 26 would receive only £123,800.

If that scheme had been in operation this season then Hampshire's triumph, their fifth in six Lord's finals since their maiden appearance in 1991, would at least have off-set the perceived shortfall of £82,600 by £75,000 – their prize money for victory.

But next year it is highly unlikely that there will be such a high proportion of "oldies" in the FP Trophy final. Although 95 per cent of the 296 county players are opposed to the initiative, according to a survey conducted by the Professional Cricketers' Association, it is believed that a majority of counties have indicated their support for the non-compulsory scheme, which also aims to reduce the number of Kolpak and EU-qualified players in the English domestic game.

Cork will definitely be around next year because he has a two-year contract with Hampshire, but he did accept that he might find himself sidelined if the county adopted the ECB scheme.

"The under-26 age group is apparently the future," said Cork, who will be 38 on 7 August, "and if the youngsters came in at Hampshire I could be axed, and that would be a shame. I think you need experience in teams."

The former England all-rounder certainly offered experience to Hampshire. He thrives on the big stage, and they don't come any bigger than Lord's, according to Cork, who collected his award for taking 4-41.

"Lord's is a great place to play cricket, and obviously it suits my type of bowling when I am coming in from the Nursery End," he said. "I just enjoy playing cricket here really. There's a great atmosphere."

According to Hampshire captain Dimitri Mascarenhas, Cork is a great man to have around. "In the dressing room he is a proper character," he said. "He has been absolutely brilliant. He's a 37-year-old that acts like an 18-year-old. He has just brought a new energy to the club and we needed somebody like that."

Sussex would agree with that, after a wicked spell from Cork in which he ripped out three top order batsmen in 11 balls, which effectively sealed Sussex's fate.

Only Michael Yardy with an unbeaten 92, and a useful contribution from Rory Hamilton-Brown, one of three players taking part in the game who could officially be termed "young" since he is still only 21, helped to make a game of it.

But that pair's good work was undone by some poor bowling early in the Hampshire reply which saw the two openers Jimmy Adams and Michael Lumb construct a 93-run platform and set up victory with more than nine overs remaining.