Natwest: Neil Fairbrother's top ten (3 Sep 1998)

3 September 1998

Neil's Fairbrother's top ten

The Lacashire Evening Telegraph

As Lancashire prepare for Saturday's NatWest Trophy Final, one player has special reason for relishing the challenge

Neil Fairbrother goes into his record-breaking 10th Lord's final on Saturday remembering a piece of advice given to him by David Hughes in his first, way back in 1984.

Fairbrother was a fresh-faced 20-year-old when he marched out to bat in the Benson and Hedges Cup final against Warwickshire with Lancashire on the verge of victory.

"I was desperate to get the runs knocked off and get back into the pavilion," he recalled this week.

"But Yozzer, who was batting at the other end, said 'let's hang around. This is fantastic, we're winning, let's savour the atmosphere.'

"That was great advice, and something I have never forgotten. Every time we go back, I make sure I make the most of it. Lord's is a special place and with a lot of Lancashire people in we create our own atmosphere. Win or lose it's a fantastic day."

Ironically Hughes is one of the players whose record Fairbrother will break - assuming, of course, he comes through the Championship game against Derbyshire.

Hughes, Jack Simmons and Mike Watkinson have all played in nine Lord's finals, but Watkinson looks unlikely to be selected for a 10th.

But for Fairbrother, facing Derbyshire at Lord's will bring back memories of one of his darkest days since making his Lancashire debut in 1982 - the Benson and Hedges Cup Final of 1993. "That was possibly my worst ever day in a Lancashire shirt," he says. "I was absolutely distraught that night. We had a young team and had done well to get to the final. I was captain and desperate to win something. But it didn't work out."

That was no fault of Fairbrother, who led Lancashire's bid for a victory target of 253 with a battling unbeaten 87 - a classic captain's innings. But it wasn't quite enough, as Lancashire went down to a heartbreaking defeat by six runs.

They had gone into the match as strong favourites because of their wealth of Lord's experience, and with six survivors from that match - Fairbrother, Atherton, Wasim Akram, Hegg, Austin and Lloyd - compared to Derbyshire's three - Kim Barnett, Dominic Cork and Karl Krikken - it will be the same again on Saturday.

"People say that we're big favourites, but they have done bloody well to get to the final by beating Surrey and Leicestershire," adds Fairbrother.

"It's a one off and the toss of the coin can sometimes be important in September. But even though this is my 10th final, the will to win and pride is just as big in 1998 as it was in '84."

And one thing can be guaranteed, thanks to David Hughes: Fairbrother will enjoy the day.

Meanwhile Derbyshire veteran Kim Barnett geared up for the NatWest Trophy final admitting: "Something like this seemed a million miles away 12 months ago." All eyes will be on 38-year-old Barnett when he walks out into cricket's most famous arena after playing in the first NatWest final 17 years ago against Northamptonshire as an uncapped player.

But last season the former England batsman hit the headlines for different reasons after becoming embroiled in a bitter dispute which threatened to rip Derbyshire apart at the seams.

Skipper Dean Jones quit the club after criticising the attitude of senior players, and then Barnett defied a media ban to answer these claims - and ended up being fined.

Coach Les Stillman was relieved of his duties, chairman Mike Horton resigned, and then at the end of the season Chris Adams and Devon Malcolm left .

The future looked bleak, but Derbyshire put their faith in Dominic Cork as skipper to help them climb out of a deep hole, and now a showpiece occasion awaits with the Red Rose county.

Barnett admitted: "Last season was a harrowing time and particularly difficult for me, because I had been at the county for such a long time.

"Whether you like it or not, you are seem as the thread running through it all, and accusations were being made about who and what was involved.

"Twelve months ago, a Lord's final seemed a million miles away, but now we are trying to get back to the fact that Derbyshire is more important than the individual. "We have all come through that turmoil, and hopefully, Derbyshire will never experience it again. It wasn't the most pleasant of times.

"Dominic has tried to put across the importance of being a team, that we all club together and stick together, and I think that has showed in our performances in reaching the final.

"At the start of the season, people were saying we had no chance of achieving anything, but no-one can say that we haven't deserved to get to the final.

"We won away to Scotland, which was difficult because they had beaten Worcestershire in the previous round and were looking to claim another scalp.

"Then we defeated Surrey at The Oval - again, you can't get much more difficult than that - and away at Leicestershire who have been challenging in all competitions this season.

"Youngsters like Ben Spendlove, Kevin Dean and Ian Blackwell are coming through, and you start to think that the future is looking a bit more decent. "We've still got experienced players like myself, Phil DeFreitas, Corky, Karl Krikken and, with Michael Slater playing well, we've got a nice blend now and are looking to grow as a club."

Fairbrother's finals

1984: Warwickshire, B&H - 36 not out, won six wickets
1986: Sussex, NatWest - 63, 3-0-16-0, lost seven wickets
1990: Worcestershire, B&H - 11, won 69 runs
Northamptonshire, NatWest - 81, won seven wickets
1992: Worcestershire, B&H - 1, lost 65 runs
1993: Derbyshire, B&H - 87 not out, lost six runs
1995: Kent, B&H - 16, won 35 runs
1996: Northamptonshire, B&H - 63, won 31 runs; Essex, NatWest - 9, won 125 runs
1998: Derbyshire, NatWest

Source :: Lancashire Evening Telegraph (