Dominic Cork's first appearance in a Lord's final is so far back in cricket history that the match-winning innings of the then 21-year-old was probably recorded on Betamax.
And if the T-shirt has survived, then it almost certainly has holes in it by now. He has been there and done a great deal more at Lord's since his first county, Derbyshire, beat Lancashire in the Benson & Hedges Cup final.
On that occasion, in 1993, Cork thumped an impressive, unbeaten 92 off an extremely potent Lancashire attack. Today [Saturday], 16 years, an England debut, a Test comeback and two counties later, Cork is back on his favourite stage – Lord's – ready as ever to contest for silverware. This time though, he will be trying to help Hampshire overcome a powerful-looking Sussex side in the Friends Provident Trophy final.
And while there are those who may regard this match as an irrelevance in the middle of an Ashes summer, Cork does not accept that. "This is a massive occasion," he says. "It's a South Coast derby. The atmosphere will be good, Lord's is a historical ground. I think it will be a good final. We are two form sides, who play good cricket, and who deserve to be in the final."
This is Sussex's 10th final in this competition, the most recent being in 2006 when they triumphed over a Lancashire side that contained Cork. It is a sixth Lord's final for Hampshire – their most recent appearances saw them beat Warwickshire in 2005 and lose to Durham two years later. And the two sides bristle with exciting players. Ed Joyce is the outstanding batsman with three hundreds in 531 runs in this competition for Sussex, but Hampshire's Michael Lumb is not far off, having scored almost 400 for Hampshire.
"Sussex have a lot of dangermen," Cork says. "For a start they have two bowlers James Kirtley and Yasir Arafat, who bowl well at the front and at the death." Cork is eager to take them all on, even though, just a fortnight away from his 38th birthday, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the motivation for yet more glory has diminished. But Cork dismisses the suggestion. "I keep going because I still enjoy it," says the irrepressible all-rounder, who took seven West Indies second-innings wickets on his England debut at Lord's in 1995. "I have one more year on my contract, but I have already told the chairman, Rod Bransgrove, that I am playing on until I am 49.
"Seriously, I want to play as long as I can still make a difference. If I feel that is not the case then I will walk."
Today Cork could just as easily have been walking out on to his favourite ground determined to help Sussex beat Hampshire, because when he left Lancashire last winter he spoke to Durham, Nottinghamshire, Surrey, Hampshire and Sussex, before settling on the Rose Bowl. "When I weighed it all up Sussex was very close," he explains. In the end, though, Hampshire had that something extra, an indefinable pull that Cork could not resist.
As a result of that decision, today's match also has something extra, because Cork has twice experienced defeat in a final, once with Derbyshire against Lancashire in 1998, and more pertinently, that one in 2006 when he was with Lancashire.
"It will be sweet for me if we win because I tasted defeat in a Lord's final against Sussex three years ago and I don't want a repeat."Reuse content