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Fairbrother the guiding light

By D J Rutnagur at Old Trafford

8 July 1998

Lancashire (179-7) bt Yorkshire (178-9) by 3 wkts

PLAYED on the same slow pitch as England's epic draw of two days' earlier and in much the same setting under a brooding sky, this low-scoring contest for a quarter-final place, concluded with three overs to spare, epitomised the rivalry between traditional foes.

Neil Fairbrother, so often a match-winner for Lancashire, once more played the decisive innings, one of 76 not out from 165 balls.

He had taken up cudgels after Chris Silverwood had induced a snick from Mike Atherton with a superb outswinger and a brilliant one-handed catch at slip by David Byas off Darren Gough had removed the threat posed by the belligerent Andrew Flintoff.

At 32, John Crawley fell victim to a ball that stopped. Fairbrother and Graham Lloyd, though, steadied the innings with a partnership of a hundred which left 67 needed from 25 overs. The gap was not easily bridged, however, and Yorkshire might yet have prevailed had Richard Blakey fastened on to a low snick by Fairbrother off Silverwood with 31 wanted.

Fairbrother was rightly voted man of the match but his heroism was matched by Gough. Without his 42 off 67 balls, Yorkshire's total would have been utterly vulnerable and he was as stout in defending it, taking four for 50.

Byas, who won the toss, weighed up the possible advantage of bowling first under a cloudy sky against the hazards of chasing on a pitch seven days old and decided to bat first. The ball indeed swung, but the haemorrhage was started by two self-inflicted wounds rather than from blows dealt by the bowlers.

In the fifth over of the innings, Michael Vaughan played a nondescript off-side shot at Wasim Akram and chopped the ball on to his stumps. In the next, Darren Lehmann set out on an adventurous single for a push to extra cover and was beaten by Lloyd's rolled strike at the bowler's end.

Wasim repeatedly overstepped but breathed fire all the same and after coming close to bowling Byas off the inside edge, spreadeagled his stumps with a yorker. Yorkshire were 32 for three and could have lost Anthony McGrath soon after had Atherton not put him down at gully from a square cut off Peter Martin.

McGrath batted steadfastly thereafter but the swing and accuracy of Ian Austin, bowling from the Stretford End, brought the scoring rate to a near standstill. The tubby all-rounder bowled a remarkable first spell of seven overs which included five maidens and took the wicket of Bradley Parker, who shouldered arms. Blakey looked desperately out of sorts and invited his doom by playing back when he should have been forward to Mike Watkinson.

Gavin Hamilton thrived on a second lease of life provided by Wasim at slip and, with McGrath, formed the longest partnership hitherto. Having battled for 28 overs, McGrath was undone by a ball which kept cruelly low. With the aid of Hamilton and Silverwood, however, Gough then breathed life into a sinking innings and only three overs remained when he played across the line at Martin.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 09 Jul1998 - 06:15