It was inevitable in this contest between two sides in crisis that in coming to praise one we would inevitably bury the other. That 66-1 outsiders Sussex would be the ones to wield the shovel and quietly lay the NatWest Trophy holders' season to rest, was perhaps the unlikeliest outcome, but one that was achieved with determination and panache.
Amazing though it may seem, this was only Sussex's second victory since 25 May. Chasing 284 to win, they were indebted to Keith Greenfield, whose superb 129 was full of powerful strokes, particularly off the spinner Gary Yates, who conceded 73 from 10 overs.
Taken on by Sussex as a YTS boy over 10 years ago, it has taken Greenfield nine years to gain his Sussex cap and until yesterday to score his first hundred in either knockout competition. Who said that all Tory policies were all about short-term gain?
Sharing an opening stand of 85 with Bill Athey, and another of 131 with Mark Newell, Sussex were fortunate when Greenfield was dropped at extra cover by John Crawley at 134 for 2. It was hard cheese on Crawley who, in league with Ian Austin, had pulled Lancashire from 38 for 4 to a competitive total.
Having started without Wasim Akram or Neil Fairbrother, the Lancashire effort suffered further when Glenn Chapple left the field after pulling up injured in his fifth over. They have rarely been at full strength this season, although Mike Watkinson has now returned to captain the side.
Lancashire fans, already brimful of criticism for their struggling team, did not have their mood improved when, after winning the toss, they found their side four wickets down inside 15 overs. Most glaring of the early wickets was another failure by Mike Atherton, caught at first slip by Greenfield off Vasbert Drakes for two. In 12 one-day innings for Lancashire this season, Atherton has failed to pass 25 runs 11 times.
With Graham Lloyd following, bowled padding up to Mark Robinson's loosener, and Andrew Flintoff becoming Drakes' second victim of an impressive opening spell, Lancashire looked destined for a shortened day.
That was until Crawley, fortified by his 83 for England, alleviated the symptoms that have dogged his side all season. Adding 67 with Watkinson, Crawley rarely looked troubled, flicking the seamers effortlessly off his legs. When Watkinson fell for 36, he reigned back as Austin complemented the Crawley touch with his own brand of thumping drives, including a huge six over the sightscreen off leg-spinner Amer Khan.
But if the pair could not look more different in appearance, their batting gelled to produce 177 runs for the sixth wicket, the highest ever in the competition. But although it would have been fitting for Austin to join Crawley in getting to his century, it would not have changed the outcome of this match, which was Sussex's by some distance.
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