Warwickshire ride to Lord's on Chopra's ton
Warwickshire 250 for 6 (Chopra 110, Porterfield 67, Shahzad 3-52) beat Lancashire 227 (Horton 78, Carter 4-38, Wright 3-48) by 23 runs
At the mid-innings break in this CB40 semi-final it was, to borrow a phrase from the pilot episode of The West Wing, six to five and pick 'em which county would be playing at Lord's in a fortnight's time. Warwickshire's tally of 250 had featured an anchoring century by the eventual Man of the Match Varun Chopra but his team's total seemed not much better than par on a good pitch. Moreover, the home side's record in CB40 matches this summer was impressive.
After 11 overs of Lancashire's reply, though, they were 50 for 3 and their recent annals of failure in semi-finals were returning to haunt them. Despite Paul Horton's immensely resourceful 63-ball 78, Jim Troughton's bowlers and fielders kept their boots on the throats of Lancashire's batsmen in effective fashion and if anything, the 23-run margin of victory flattered Lancashire rather. If there is one thing which Red Rose cricketers are used to saying to their opponents it is: "Well played mate, good luck in the final." The words have now turned to ash in their mouths on eleven occasions since 1999.
There was not a fragment of good fortune about Warwickshire's win. Their bowlers had clear plans and stuck to them, most notably that of peppering Ashwell Prince with short balls. On occasions Lancashire's batsmen proved co-operative opponents. Opener Tom Smith, for example, drove Neil Carter loosely in only the fifth over of the innings to give Troughton the first of his four catches. Twelve balls later Stephen Moore's wild drive off the same bowler edged a catch to substitute wicketkeeper Richard Johnson and Lancashire were 29 for 2.
That really set the tone for Chapple's top order. Plan A seemed to be to attempt big shots; there often appeared to be no Plan B - at least, not until Horton and Gareth Cross put on 35 in 36 balls for the sixth wicket. And by the time that pair came together the home side were 90 for 5 in the 21st over, with Steven Croft, Karl Brown and Prince all back in the hutch, none of them attempting to work the ball around in the manner of men who had shrewdly assessed the task before them.
The latter stages of the Lancashire innings made frustrating watching for home fans. In company with Cross, Ajmal Shazad and Chapple, Horton played much as the top four in the order should have done, but by then the asking rate was too steep. Carter profited from the batsmen's increasing desperation to finish with 4 for 38 while Wright ended the game with the wicket of Parry to take 3 for 48. Warwickshire's bowlers could look back on a job well done and look forward to the finale of a season in which they may match their predecessors of 1994 and 1995 by carrying off a one-day trophy in addition to the title. The agony of Southampton last September must now seem the most distant of memories.
Warwickshire's batting was pragmatic and canny too. Their innings was dominated by the early aggression of Will Porterfield, the patience of Chopra and also the collective resilience of a Lancashire attack which never allowed the batsmen to run amok on a flat Old Trafford wicket.
Early in the piece it seemed that Warwickshire were heading for a truly imposing total. Plainly unfussed by Chapple's reputation for bowling mean spells in this competition, Porterfield went on one knee in the fifth over not as a gesture of respect but in order to scoop him over fine leg for six; the next ball was creamed through the covers for four and Warwickshire were on their way.
After 20 overs the score was 110 without loss, but Porterfield's dismissal, caught by Moore at deep midwicket off Gary Keedy prompted a reassessment. It then became Chopra's job to bat through the innings and for the other batsmen to employ calculated aggression around him. For the most part it worked as Troughton, Darren Maddy and Rikki Clarke all reached double figures in fairly short order.
Although Shahzad finished with 3 for 52, Keedy was probably the pick of the Lancashire attack, adding the wicket of Troughton to that of Porterfield to come off the field with 2 for 44. Having reached his fifty off 66 balls with six fours, Chopra struck only three more boundaries and faced 53 more deliveries in getting to a century. The former Essex batsman departed for 110 only when there was a single over to be bowled, knowing that he had done his job and that he had only enhanced his chance of further representative honours.
Indeed, the only real downside for Warwickshire was that Tim Ambrose hurt a thigh muscle when sitting in the dressing room and took no part in the game. Chapple allowed second-team keeper Johnson to take the gloves and Johnson was summoned from Knowle and Dorridge's Birmingham League game to race up the M6 to Manchester. That was a good gesture by Chapple and one entirely in keeping with the spirit of cricket.
Unfortunately, though, it was where Lancashire's magnanimity should have ended. Instead, as far as the Red Rose marquee batsmen were concerned, it was merely where the generosity began.