Some talk of Shane Warne, yes, but what about Chris Schofield? The English leg-spinner, dignified at 21 with an England Cricket Board contract, took an impressive 3 for 33 in his 10 overs on a damp, slowish pitch on which the seamers should have carried all before them. The perceived wisdom has been that our pitches are neither hard enough nor quick enough to suit his style and that if Warne does succeed with Hampshire it will be because he is a genius to whom mortal rules do not apply.
Schofield might just dispute all that. He is a very risky spinner, winning turn where others are rendered harmless. Lancashire are to be commended for having the courage to play him in the current climate - it was his cup debut - and John Crawley takes credit for giving him his full stint; a spinner who concedes two fours in an over usually takes his sweater.
Lancashire made heavy weather of their qualification, as they relied on their last pair, Ian Austin and Mike Smethurst, to survive nine overs to edge them to victory with nine balls to spare. As at Headingley, Lancashire's old virtues of application and accuracy were seen fleetingly yet they began well enough, reducing Leicestershire to 56 for 3 in 17 overs before Schofield appeared.
After that only Ben Smith, 64 not out off 91 balls, played him with confidence in a disappointing team innings that was revived only by some deserved punishment of loose Lancashire bowling in the closing overs. Lancashire's batting, beginning with Atherton, Crawley and Ganguly, lifted the game by a whole class and at 69 for 1 off 17 overs the contest seemed finished.
Anil Kumble is also a leg-spinner but of a totally different type, turning mostly off strong fingers and thus exercising greater control of length and variations. Sourav Ganguly was dismissed by a dazzling gully catch, Andrew Flintoff was stumped, grotesquely, before Michael Atherton, looking on fine form, had his stumps scattered by James Ormond. Then Graham Lloyd and Warren Hegg were dispatched with successive balls in Kumble's third over and Lancashire's cruise to victory was suddenly not so comfortable.
Chris Lewis, barracked when he came in to bat and when he took the ball - a constant reminder that he will have to put up or shut up to regain pavilion favour - won significant lbw decisions and at 148 for 9 there were foxy grins. But Kumble's stint was over and Austin, who has seen it all before, and done it all before, did it again.
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- Freddie Flintoff
- Michael Atherton
- Shane Warne