30 June 2018

THE CUP FINAL

Today sees the 91st one-day cup final in English one-day cricket. 55 of them have been what we might call the ‘original’ cup final, the concluding match of the one-day competition that began in 1963 as the Gillette Cup. Then came Nat West, Cheltenham and Gloucester, Friends Provident, Clydesdale Bank and Yorkshire Bank, and lastly – the current sponsors – Royal London.

For 31 seasons, there was also the Benson and Hedges Cup, destined always to be the bridesmaid, and finally jilted in 2003, when a new suitor in the shape of T20 finals’ day came knocking. And for a handful of summers – 1988 to 1991 – we were treated to a third cup final, in the shape of the rarely-recalled Refuge Assurance Cup (a playoff between the top four teams in the Sunday league).

One way or another, we have racked up 90 cup finals in the ‘List A’ format. And here’s an interesting statistic: only eight of them have gone to the final ball. Here’s a better one: there has not yet been a last-ball finish in a 50-over game.

Miller’s quick single (1981)

60 overs | Highlights | Scorecard

The ‘miracle of 1981’ may have happened at Headingley, but there was another heart-stopping conclusion at Lord’s that summer. Geoff Cook’s authoritative century gave Northamptonshire a confident start, as his opening stand with Wayne Larkins yielded 99 runs. The innings faded, however, with only 31 runs being scored from the last eight overs while six wickets fell.

Derbyshire’s overseas players, John Wright and Peter Kirsten, anchored the chase but somewhat stiffly. A platform was laid, but at the halfway stage they were a long way behind the required rate. Eight an over were needed. As the light faded, Derbyshire required seven runs from the final over, bowled by Jim Griffiths, Northamptonshire’s most economical bowler. It was quickly established that six would suffice, since a tie would swing in favour of the team losing fewest wickets, and this was Derbyshire.

Geoff Miller started with a hoick over mid-wicket for two, choosing to retain the strike rather than risk a third. Then there was a cut to deep backward point for only a single. Colin Tunnicliffe failed to score off the third ball but got a thick edge and a single from the fourth. Miller clipped the fifth ball off his pads but could only collect one. One to win from the last ball, and in came the field. Griffiths bowled. Miller raced the ball to the striker’s end. The ball hit Tunnicliffe’s pads and he legged it, leaving Miller to dive for home a couple of inches ahead of the ball.

Emburey’s leg-side flick (1984)

60 overs | Highlights | Scorecard

Two home counties teams packed with eighties cricketing legends and local heroes met under the autumnal sunshine in St John’s Wood and Kent made a solid score on a slow pitch, thanks to a half-century from Chris Cowdrey. The bowling hero had been John Emburey, whose off spin conceded little more than two runs an over, and when it was the capital county’s turn to bat, they too were kept quiet by a spinner – ‘Deadly’ Derek Underwood. They had crawled to 128 for four from 43 overs and needed over a hundred more from the remaining 17 overs.

Underwood’s figures by this stage were 9–2–12–1 and he still had three overs to bowl but Chris Tavare, Kent’s captain, elected to bring back Richard Ellison. This was, to most observers, the move which decided the outcome of the match. Paul Downton drove Ellison for the first boundary in 19 overs and followed it with another.

Just as in 1981, seven runs were required off the last over, except this time both teams had lost the same number of wickets. In the event of a tie, the team with the higher score after 35 overs would win, and this was Kent. But they had bowled out their four international bowlers (Underwood, Ellison, Cowdrey and Terry Alderman) leaving the last over to Kevin Jarvis. Jarvis was an extraordinary county bowler – in a 16 year professional career he took 1018 wickets and scored just 521 runs – and he was charged with the task of restricting Middlesex to six or fewer. Emburey and Phil Edmonds scored one, one, two, one and one to leave a single needed from the final ball. There was no scrambled leg bye this year – Emburey flicked the ball off his legs for four.

Randall’s heroic failure (1985)

60 overs | Highlights | Scorecard

Rarely has there been such a county hero as Derek Randall. His disarming eccentricities, his mercurial style and his engaging idiosyncrasies at the crease must have made him the ‘favourite cricketer’ of more than most by the time his England career had come to an end. The year after his final test, he was at headquarters trying to help Nottinghamshire secure their first one-day trophy.
Essex were imperious in 1985. They had won seven first class and one-day league titles in the preceding seven years and now, when Clive Rice asked them to bat, they racked up 280 for two. Graham Gooch and Brian Hardie’s opening partnership was 202. Although Tim Robinson and Chris Broad put on 143 when their turn came, Nottinghamshire were never in touch and when Derek Randall reached his half century with a single from the last ball of the penultimate over, they needed 18 for victory – a mammoth task in those days.

Derek Pringle was not only a fine bowler, but he was a clever man and he was certainly prepared to take a risk to outsmart an opponent. He sent down a leg stump yorker but Randall stepped to leg and hit a two into the off side. Pringle reprised the delivery and this time Randall placed it better, finding the cover boundary. Two runs were scored from the third ball. Three balls left, 10 to get.

Pringle pushed each ball a little wider of the leg stump, but Randall kept moving to the on side to make room. Consecutive fours hammered the cover boundary boards and suddenly, out of nowhere, two were needed from the final ball. Nottinghamshire were on the verge of an incredible victory. Their players giggled with excitement – some even prayed – on the pavilion balcony.

Now came Pringle’s huge gamble. He brought in a short mid-wicket and bowled a massive leg side wide, hoping that Randall would move to leg again. Sure enough, Randall danced straight into the path of the ball and could only spoon it into the hands of the waiting fielder.

The analyst keeps his head (1986)

55 overs | Scorecard

In the first half of the eighties, the late-season Nat West Trophy final yielded the three aforementioned last-ball finishes. In the latter half of the decade, it was the turn of the mid-season Benson and Hedges Cup to notch up its own trio of final-ball thrillers. The first of these brought Kent and Middlesex together again and when Middlesex were inserted, Underwood bowled tightly on a slow and turgid surface. The ‘home’ team struggled to score with any freedom, adding only 10 runs between the 15th and 23rd overs. Emburey’s dogged 28 held the innings together towards the end.

If anything, Kent’s struggles were even greater. After 45 overs they had crawled to 116 for five, with Emburey returning the remarkable figures of 11–5–16–0. Surely they couldn’t possibly score 84 from the last 10 overs; it would be unprecedented in a cup final. What’s more, it was so murky that the batsmen, Graham Cowdrey and Eldine Baptiste, were offered the light – before DLS, the following day was set aside for the completion of the final – but they declined the offer and hit out so effectively that 31 runs were required from the final three overs, then 19 from two, and finally 14 from the last. Simon Hughes, despite Steve Marsh’s six, kept his head and his line, and Dilley could not hit the boundary required from the final ball.

Dot ball to win (1987)

55 overs | Highlights | Scorecard

Prudence and stoic watchfulness from the batsmen and typical parsimony from Yorkshire’s bowlers dominated the early stages of this warm summer day. Wayne Larkins, Rob Bailey and Allen Lamb all failed to convert starts as Phil Carrick’s slow turn kept Northamptonshire in check. At lunch, the skipper’s figures were 8–2–18–0 and the score was 128 for four off 36 overs. The pitch eased considerably thereafter, and David Capel hit 97 from 110 balls before being bowled by Phil Hartley in the penultimate over.

Yorkshire’s initial reply was similarly cautious. Tea was taken after 35 overs, with the chasers 119 for three. Choosing their moment, Jim Love and David Bairstow plundered 54 in seven overs from Capel and Alan Walker before the latter freakishly parried an aerial drive from Bairstow to Geoff Cook at cover. As the last over began, Yorkshire needed five to win – though four would have been enough to level the scores with fewer wickets lost. Love surrendered the strike to Arnie Sidebottom with a single, but got it back straight away after a heaved single. Two off four would do it now. A dot ball followed, and then an expansive cover drive from Love deprived him of the strike again. One from two – as long as Yorkshire didn’t lose a wicket. Northamptonshire brought the field up, and Sidebottom attempted a suicidal single to mid on. From close range and with the tail-ender a long way short, Bailey’s throw missed. The scores were now level and Love only had to dig out the final yorker; in an unorthodox finish, a dot ball had sealed victory.

Hemmings the hero (1989)

55 overs | Scorecard

Many of the 1985 cast returned four years later, except this time Hardie the centurion made a duck and although Randall made 49, he didn’t have to face the final over – and it was bowled by Franklyn Stephenson rather than Pringle. Essex owed their decent score to an unbeaten 95 from Alan Lilley. In reply, Nottinghamshire were accumulating runs tidily until Tim Robinson was run out by his partner Randall for 86.

Once again the Retford imp found himself in the position of responsibility, and his run-a-ball innings brought the target to 16 from the final two overs. Pringle bowled the penultimate over this time, and again got the better of Randall who skied him to Mark Waugh. Nine were needed from the final over, with Bruce French and Eddie Hemmings unable to do more than collect five singles. Gooch spent a long time setting the field for the final ball, and ended up with all but one fielder on the leg side. Hemmings made room to leg and sent the last delivery skimming to the backward point boundary. Nottinghamshire had their revenge.

Reeve’s reign begins (1993)

60 overs | Highlights | Scorecard

‘The 53rd one-day final at Lord’s was widely regarded as the greatest ever played.’ So spoke the big yellow book, and certainly this last-ball drama was very different from all that had gone before, in that this was a very high-scoring affair. Sussex racked up 321 for six, which was – for four hours, at any rate – the highest total in a cup final. Martin Speight’s quickfire 50 gave Sussex the impetus to score at an unprecedented rate, with David Smith providing the backbone of the innings with a measured 124. Sussex added 83 from the final ten overs, an outrageous rate of scoring in those days. ‘At half time we were 4—0 up,’ observed the captain, Alan Wells.

Warwickshire’s demoralised fielders soon became demoralised batsmen as they lost both openers for 18. Paul Smith, described in Wisden as ‘all long hair and long handle’ then smashed 60, but when he departed, his team still needed 157 from 24 overs. More than a run a ball. Almost unthinkable. Somehow, against odds and expectations, Asif and his captain made 142 from 23 overs before the wristy Ugandan spliced Ed Giddins deep into the outfield, where Speight pouched a steepler.
Successful last-over chases in cup finals had hitherto been: six by Derbyshire in 1981, seven by Middlesex in 1984, five by Yorkshire in 1987 and nine by Nottinghamshire in 1989. Nottinghamshire had failed to score 18 in 1985 and Kent hadn’t managed 14 the following year. Now Dermot Reeve needed to hit 15 to win the match for Sussex.

For the second time in five years, Franklyn Stephenson – for a new county – found himself bowling the final over. He’d failed to rein in Eddie Hemmings in 1989 and now struggled to contain Reeve, who welcomed him with lofted drives for four and two. Sussex were freaked and lost their nerve; a misfield allowed another two. Seven were needed from three. Reeve smacked a four over the covers. From the fifth, though, he could only take a sedate single. With all the fielders within 20 yards of him, Roger Twose had to hit two from the only ball he faced all day. He decided to try and hit it over them. He pulled it off – and Warwickshire’s golden era of one-day cricket had begun.

Carter’s unhappy farewell (2012)

40 overs | Highlights | Scorecard

The cup final at Lord’s celebrated its 50th birthday with its only final-ball finish of the century so far. Both finalists were bristling with experience and skill. Hampshire’s top seven contained six batsmen who had (or would go on to have) international honours: Carberry, Vince, McKenzie, Ervine, Katich and Dawson. Warwickshire boasted six in their top eight: Maddy, Bell, Ambrose, Clarke, Woakes and Blackwell.

Warwickshire needed five runs from the last four balls, and Kabir Ali was the bowler. He was surprised to be playing in the cup final at all, having only been selected at the last minute. Ian Blackwell, one of the most destructive batsmen in the professional game, decided to risk everything and try to hit a six. He missed and was bowled. Into the fray came Neil Carter, who – at 37 – had decided to make his 12th season at Edgbaston his last. This would be his curtain call. Kabir almost had him lbw first ball, but the next was a half volley which Carter managed to drive past the diving extra cover for four. One run needed. The scores were tied, but Warwickshire had lost more wickets than Hampshire, so a run it would have to be.

Hampshire had selected a specialist wicketkeeper – a rarity in any white-ball game, let alone a cup final. Michael Bates averaged just 10.09 in the format, but he hadn’t been required to bat, and now he was standing up to Kabir. This deprived the batsmen of the chance to steal a bye; Carter simply had to get ball on bat. Kabir tried to bowl a yorker, but a low full toss came out – perfect for another cover drive. Carter duly drove, but found only air and for only the second time, a dot ball had won the match.

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