The lords of Lancashire

B & H Cup final: De Silva makes amends for spilled catch with superb century but Kent fail to deliver
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The Independent Online
LANCASHIRE eventually overwhelmed Kent with measured efficiency here yesterday, winning the Benson and Hedges Cup final by 35 runs after a swashbuckling 112 by Aravinda de Silva threatened to take Kent past their total of 274, the second highest in a B&H final at Lord's.

It was de Silva who dropped Michael Atherton off the fourth ball of the day - the England captain went on to make the top score of 93 - but his retort with the bat came agonisingly close to passing into folklore. Kent will rue the fact that his partners contributed only 65 runs during his 95-ball stay at the crease.

It is not often that one man can be said to have lost and then won a one-day final all by himself, but de Silva almost managed it. It was only when his wicket, followed by captain Steve Marsh's, fell in two balls to Ian Austin, that Lancashire fans began to celebrate.

Apart from Atherton's let-off in the first over, it was not until the 20th over that Kent had their first success when Gallian, trying to drive on the move, was bowled by a ball that Mark Ealham brought back up the slope.

Normally any such breakthrough puts a spring in the step of the fielding side, but for Kent it seemed to affect them like ill- fitting shoes as Atherton and John Crawley set about puncturing the deep- set field with aggressive running and a fine palette of strokes, all around the wicket.

Atherton in particular seems to relish the Lord's turf, and if his 93 fell some way short of the scintillating hundred he scored here against the West Indies earlier in the summer, it was a fine innings, strewn with off-side drives and neat tucks of his legs, each as polished as pebbles on a beach.

In fact his dismissal, in the 46th over, was from just about the only ugly shot he played, his attempt to chip Dean Headley over the in-field being plucked from the air at midwicket by a diving David Fulton. The Kent fans cheered, but Essex's record total of 290, set in 1979, was looking possible.

It was not to be, and judged by their increasingly high standards, Lancashire lost momentum slightly, their last 10 overs yielding just over 70 runs as the inevitable flurry of rash strokes and suicidal singles cut away at their batting.

After a typical, albeit untypically brief, innings from Neil Fairbrother that was all flashing wrists as he threaded the ball through fine gaps and angles, the pyrotechnics were left to Crawley, who hit the ball with power throughout his 90 balls. However, no sooner had he hoiked a low full-toss from Martin McCague into the Mound Stand, than he swatted the beefy fast bowler's slower ball down long-on's throat, and the innings fizzled out.

Kent's reply did not lack for sartorial elegance as Fulton, sporting perhaps the widest brimmed hat on display, twice took leg-side boundaries off Wasim Akram after the Pakistani paceman had struck the batsman a nasty blow on the shoulder.

Then came the moment the anoraks and statisticians were waiting for, the first maiden of the day (in the seventh over of Kent's innings), bowled by Ian Austin, who then proceeded to make a pig of himself, clocking up another two before de Silva, refusing to be cowed by the human barrel's reputation for accuracy, smashed 21 from his next two overs, including two towering pulls for six over mid-wicket.

It was the least de Silva could do to get his side's impetus going after Kent had lost Trevor Ward for seven, caught behind off Chapple, and David Fulton, lbw to the same bowler. When Neil Taylor, who had been dropped by Chapple at long-on, yorked himself trying to use his feet to the off- spinner Gary Yates, Kent had lost three wickets in 13 overs.

It was Yates who also took the next two, keeping his nerve after Graham Cowdrey and de Silva had persistently swept him fine. Cowdrey was the first to go, adjudged lbw, swinging across Yates's wicket to wicket line, with Matthew Fleming, who had already survived a third umpire decision off a stumping, following 20 runs later, bowled by Yates giving himself room.

When Mark Ealham followed soon after, lbw to Mike Watkinson, all Kentish hopes lay with de Silva and their acting captain, Steve Marsh. With an asking rate hovering around eight an over, de Silva launched into Glenn Chapple, hitting him for a six and three fours as 16 runs were taken off the 47th over.

With 60 runs needed off seven overs, de Silva advanced down the pitch to Austin and whipped the ball towards he mid-wicket boundary. Kentish hearts missed a beat, kick-started once more by the ensuing Lancashire roar as Graham Lloyd settled and then safely pouched he catch.

It was a brilliant knock, full of strokes, some textbook, some invented, and Kent will be kicking themselves that they could not give him more of the strike. While de Silva was at the crease, scoring his 112, the Kent batsmen at the other end faced 127 balls to the Sri Lankan's 95.

A ball later a leading edge then gave Austin the wicket of Marsh. By then, Kent's race was run and Lancashire began what may be the first of many summer parties.