The dream seamer

Stephen Fay sees a young bowler take a day of history in his stride
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The Independent Online
Mike Watkinson is a dour man. His team had denied history, conquered fate, and very nearly got Essex out for the lowest score in the history of the Trophy. But, when he talked about Lancashire's unforgettable victory, it took some time to get him to admit that when Essex were 38 for eight it was not what he would have expected: "That was a dream come true," he said eventually, and that was Watkinson at his most excitable.

It had been a strange day, he reported. Lancashire are used to winning by one run in the final over, and since this final had ended with more than 30 overs to spare, he said he was not sure what to do with his time; it seemed indecently early to start to celebrate.

Glen Chapple, whose six wickets for 18 runs is the best bowling performance ever at a Lord's final, was a bit more forthcoming: "It's the best pleased I've been," he said, speaking broad Lancashire.

Though he went on an England A tour two winters ago, Chapple is still not much more than a boy. He is ginger-haired with freckles, high cheek- bones and a Roman nose. He was bedraggled because Lancashire were still at the stage of pouring champagne over each other rather than drinking it.

But even Chapple's pleasure was not entirely unqualified: "You can always bowl straighter." He will rarely bowl straighter than he did today. Nor will he find a wicket that swings and seams quite as violently as this one did in the second innings of the day. Whether it was the cloud cover or the warmer air no one was sure, but this Lord's wicket was easier to play in the morning than the afternoon, which is the reverse of its customary behaviour.

Paul Prichard, the Essex captain, was wonderfully tolerant after a humiliating defeat, but he did say that the pitch was not good enough for a one-day final. The groundsman had tested it in the morning and found it unusually dry. It had tempted Watkinson when he saw it yesterday morning. The side batting second has won the last 10 NatWest finals, but Watkinson said he would have batted first if he had won the toss. This sounds perverse, but we were reminded yesterday that history can be bunk.

Lancashire had found it difficult to score, and were out for at least 20 runs fewer than Watkinson wished. This dictated his tactics: he could not adopt a defensive field when Essex batted. He had hoped to chip out two Essex batsmen before tea, maybe three. As it was, Peter Martin and Chapple had blasted out eight Essex batsmen, and Prichard blamed none of them: "Every dismissal bar one, we were actually bowled out, and we couldn't do much about it," he said.

They bowled straight and the ball moved sideways, and although the secretary of the MCC, Roger Knight, rejected any suggestion that the pitch was unfit, he did say after the game that this wicket is to be dug up either this winter or next. They should roll it up and give it to Chapple for Christmas.