Smith shows liking for the short stuff

Lancashire 114-8 Somerset 118-3 Somerset win by 7 wickets
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The Independent Online

That Somerset won the Twenty20 final to leave The Oval on Saturday night £42,000 better off after defeating Lancashire (£21,000) was as much down to their collective stamina as it was to the brilliance of their captain Graeme Smith.

Lancashire's big guns did not quite fire in the day's climactic match, although Stuart Law scored a fine 59, but before Smith's unbeaten 64 Richard Johnson claimed his second three-wicket haul of the day to set things up nicely.

It was apposite that Smith should lead from the front and help Somerset to win their first trophy in four years with an unbeaten half-century - in a match reduced eventually to 16 overs a side with time lost due to rain - because it was his last appearance for the county.

Tomorrow he returns to South Africa on the instructions of the United Cricket Board to prepare for the forthcoming schedule of Tests and one-day internationals in a gruelling programme of five and a half months which winds up next February.

"Winning this means a lot to me," said Smith, who amassed 93 runs in his two innings on Saturday, four behind the top-scorer Law. "It is just fantastic to see the guys perform so well on the last day that I am here. To be a part of that is special."

But the jubilant Somerset fans, who last raised a glass of celebratory cider four years ago after watching their heroes lift the C&G Trophy, had to wait a long time for their moment.

The first game between the hosts, Surrey and the one-time one-day kings Lancashire, began at 11.30am. The best part of 11 hours later James Hildreth had the honour of hitting the winning run, by which time last trains to all parts north and west had long since departed.

But at least, during a season which has been more troubled than triumphant for them, Somerset's cricketers were able to lift a trophy and their heads.

They had beaten the holders, Leicestershire, in the second semi-final by four runs thanks to some wonderful fielding and exemplary bowling by the left-arm spinner Ian Blackwell (3 for 25) and the paceman Johnson who claimed 3 for 21. Darren Maddy, whose 56 took his season's tally in the tournament to 224 and his career total to 756, kept Leicestershire in the game after the Foxes had dazzled in the field, restricting Somerset to what appeared to be an inadequate 157.

Earlier came the match everyone wanted to see, between the big shots of Surrey and a Lancashire line-up boasting the England all-rounder Andrew Flintoff and the Australian one-day wonder Andrew Symonds. The 20,110 crowd were not disappointed, although they had to wait until Mal Loye and Law, who opened proceedings with a 93-run stand, had departed. Then Flintoff thumped three monster sixes - although he was outdistanced by Loye, who launched one off a sweep into the street on the gas-holder side of the ground - in a blistering 28-ball innings.

Symonds matched him with an unbeaten 52 from 30 balls, having hit one of Lancashire's seven sixes as they amassed the fourth-highest team total (217) this season and the seventh-best since the competition began.

Rain briefly interrupted the Surrey chase but did not stop them smashing eight sixes, with Alistair Brown and James Benning recording the only century partnership of the day. Sadly, after further telling contributions from Azhar Mahmood and the captain Mark Ramprakash, the Surrey reply tailed away and they were left as the losing semi-finalists with £10,000 to share among themselves.

A further interruption followed, this time by the pop group Girls Aloud. Unfortunately, while the vision part of the Twenty20 looks near flawless - the Leicestershire captain Hylton "H D" Ackerman said: "We have Pro20 in South Africa and I think we could learn from the English version, which puts more importance on timings" - other elements, sound and light, were found wanting. Girls Aloud, who braved the rain and cold before the final, were actually mute, it turned out, merely miming their songs, to the displeasure of the crowd.

Smith was critical of the floodlighting. He agreed with Ackerman about the intensity of the tournament - "It was awesome, and 20,000 people got their money's worth today" - but he added: "England need to work on their lights for day-night cricket. I think South Africa could teach England a few things about floodlights. That is something we are good at."