Fairbrother wins battle of the skinhead golden oldies

Lancashire 245-9 Northamptonshire 214 Lancashire win by 31 runs

The format may have changed but the approach was traditional enough to provide Lancashire with another Benson and Hedges title, their second in successive years. For the truly discerning it was a performance that possessed few frills - which consequently led to a game of even fewer thrills - with Northamptonshire never rallying convincingly enough to threaten Lancashire's total of 245.

The Red Rose county's prowess at this form of cricket remains undimmed, and despite dispensing with the services of their overseas player, Steven Elworthy, who was left out, they were always the better equipped side. Lancashire are one of the more pro-active county clubs around, and their ruthless decision was presumably a first step towards preparing for the day when all overseas players are banned.

Nevertheless, it was a tough call not only on the player, who left the ground to cool down, but on his captain, Mike Watkinson, too. Unpopular decisions are never easy, and Watkinson will remain the villain of the piece whenever Elworthys gather and talk of cricket.

Almost as perplexing, however, was Watkinson's decision to bat. Lancashire have batted second in all their previous matches in this competition, and although there is a lot of nonsense talked about the advantages of bowling first in Lord's finals at this time of year, giving Curtly Ambrose first use of it was a bold move. Stranger still, however, was that having presumably identified Ambrose as Northamptonshire's match-winning bowler, Lancashire did not try to nullify him by starting with two opening batsmen, rather than with Atherton and Watkinson himself, as a pinch hitter.

As it was, Ambrose neutralised himself by pulling his hamstring halfway through his ration of overs, and neither Watkinson, who scored seven, or David Capel, who scored nought, made it a pinch-hitting day to remember.

John Crawley gave the England captain an intimate view of some cultured strokeplay. An early cover drive off a laboured Kevin Curran remained unrivalled as the shot of the day and, with Graeme Hick currently at a low ebb, a run of Championship scores could well put him in contention for a Test place against Pakistan.

Apart from John Emburey and a hobbling Ambrose, the Northamptonshire bowling was never classy enough to penetrate, and rarely steady enough to contain. In fact the duel between John Emburey and Neil Fairbrother - the most experienced campaigners on either side - was about the only enthralling tussle of the innings.

With both sporting the kind of haircut that would make most Nasa astronauts look like hippies, a tit-for-tat match was set up as the pair renewed a longstanding acquaintance. For Emburey, sly thrift was alternated with expense as the left-handed Fairbrother countered the off-spinner's leg- stump attack with lofted drives and deft sweeps.

It was vintage Fairbrother with the 32-year-old eventually scampering his way to yet another B&H half-century before being bowled, heaving across the line.

By modern one-day standards, Lancashire's eventual total was not a particularly demanding one. But after losing two wickets in the first seven overs, their opponents were never able to cause Watkinson's men concern. Inferiority complexes in sport are not unusual, and as consistent under-achievers Northamptonshire obviously chose yesterday to wrestle with their past.

In the mellow evening sunshine their lengthy and much vaunted batting line-up never came to terms with the largely unexceptional, but nevertheless relentless, character of the Lancashire bowling and fielding.

Nobody personified this better than Ian Austin who - as he has done so often away from the high gloss of televised finals - beavered away as selfless and as straight as ever. Back in Haslingden he is known as Bully the barrel, and more than a few hogsheads will have been emptied on his account over the weekend after Graham Gooch named him as the winner of the Gold Award.

There is little doubt that Lancashire were far from being on top of their game. But as Atherton showed us in the last Test, with discipline and application the best performers still produce results even when there is grit in the petrol tank.

Benson and Hedges Cup final scoreboard

Lancashire won toss

LANCASHIRE

M A Atherton c Bailey b Emburey 48

(120 min, 93 balls, 5 fours)

*M Watkinson c Emburey b Taylor 7

(22 min, 15 balls, 1 four)

J E R Gallian run out (Penberthy) 17

(31 min, 22 balls, 3 fours)

J P Crawley c Warren b Penberthy 34

(47 min, 40 balls, 4 fours)

N H Fairbrother b Capel 63

(88 min, 70 balls, 6 fours)

G D Lloyd b Taylor 26

(32 min, 25 balls, 3 fours)

W K Hegg run out (Capel-Emburey) 11

(16 min, 15 balls)

I D Austin c and b Ambrose 14

(27 min, 18 balls, 1 four)

G Yates c Penberthy b Capel 0

(1 min, 1 ball)

G Chapple not out 6

(6 min, 4 balls)

P J Martin not out 1

(1 min, 1 ball)

Extras (w10, nb8) 18

Total (for 9, 200 min, 50 overs) 245

Fall: 1-18 (Watkinson), 2-52 (Gallian), 3-105 (Crawley), 4-131 (Atherton), 5-180 (Lloyd), 6-203 (Hegg), 7-236 (Fairbrother), 8-236 (Yates), 9-243 (Austin).

Bowling: Ambrose 10-2-35-1 (nb2, w1) (5-2-3-0, 2-0-7-0, 3-0-25-1); Taylor 9-0-55-2 (nb2,w4) (4-0-20-1, 2-0-15-0, 3-0-20-1); Curran 7-0-48-0 (5-0- 31-0, 2-0-17-0); Capel 8-1-37-2 (w3) (6-1-23-0, 2-0-14-2); Penberthy 6- 0-31-1 (w2); Emburey 10-1-39-1 (one spell each).

Progress: 50: 52 min, 79 balls. 100: 97 min, 148 balls. 150: 138 min, 215 balls. 200: 169 min, 266 balls.

NORTHAMPTONSHIRE

D J Capel c Hegg b Austin 0

(8 min, 7 balls)

A Fordham b Austin 4

(25 min, 20 balls)

*R J Bailey c Hegg b Chapple 46

(93 min, 89 balls, 2 fours)

R R Montgomerie c Hegg b Yates 42

(88 min, 56 balls, 5 fours)

K M Curran c Crawley b Chapple 35

(72 min, 47 balls, 2 fours)

R J Warren c Crawley b Watkinson 11

(16 min, 15 balls, 1 six)

T C Walton st Hegg b Watkinson 28

(38 min, 26 balls, 2 fours)

A L Penberthy b Austin 8

(29 min, 14 balls)

J E Emburey b Austin 6

(6 min, 6 balls, 1 four)

C E L Ambrose run out (Chapple-Austin) 10

(15 min, 12 balls, 1 four)

J P Taylor not out 0

(1 min, 0 balls)

Extras (lb10, w12, nb2) 24

Total (200 min, 48.3 overs) 214

Fall: 1-1 (Capel), 2-10 (Fordham), 3-97 (Bailey), 4-111 (Montgomerie), 5-132 (Warren), 6-184 (Walton), 7-186 (Curran), 8-194 (Emburey), 9-214 (Ambrose).

Bowling: Austin 9.3-2-21-4 (w1) (7-2-7-2, 2.3-0-14-2); Martin 9-2-32- 0 (w2) (6-2-18-0, 2-0-11-0, 1-0-3-0); Chapple 10-1-51-2 (w4) (3-0-19-0, 4-1-16-1, 3-0-16-1); Watkinson 10-0-66-2 (nb1, w4) (4-0-21-0, 4-0-28-1, 1-0-11-0, 1-0-6-1); Yates 10-0-34-1 (w1) (one spell).

Progress: 50: 61 min, 96 balls. 100: 108 min, 169 balls. 150: 149 min, 229 balls. 200: 187 min, 275 balls.

Umpires: M J Kitchen and G Sharp.

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