Wasim keeps calm to the last

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The Independent Online
reports from Old Trafford

Worcestershire 271-6 Lancashire 275-6 Lancashire win by four wickets

After a fine opening stand of 167, a Lancashire record, in 40 overs between Mike Atherton and Steve Titchard, Lancashire carelessly threw away wickets and almost allowed Worcestershire, the NatWest holders, back into the tie at the very end. Earlier, a most commanding innings of 87 by Graeme Hick had threatened to take the match out of Lancashire's reach.

While Atherton and Titchard were together it looked as if Lancashire would win with plenty to Atherton made most of the early running with the 50 coming up in the 16th over and the 100 in the 26th. By then Titchard had overtaken his partner.

When Atherton drove Philip Newport to mid-off, 20 overs were left and 105 were needed. John Crawley was soon striking the ball well until at 210 he slashed Newport to deep cover. In the next over Titchard came down the pitch to drive Hick and was stumped.

Lancashire now had two new batsmen at the crease and were suddenly under pressure. Nick Speak and Graham Lloyd took the score to 236 in the 54th over when Lloyd was run out. Speak played Vikram Solanki to midwicket and refused the run Lloyd had already started and he was left stranded.

Mike Watkinson then played across Parvaz Mirza and was bowled. This brought in Wasim Akram, the hero of their victory at Worcester in the Benson and Hedges semi-final. He and Speak took the score to 260 when they set off for a suicidal short run and Speak was run out. But Wasim and Ian Austin kept their heads and saw Lancashire home with one over to spare.

Hick, who had come in during the first over, played a grand innings. His 50 came in 48 balls with eight fours and one six and when he drove Austin to mid-on his 87 had come in 78 balls. Although Tim Curtis went on to a thoroughly worthy hundred no other Worcestershire batsman could find Hick's command.