Cork stars as Hampshire take title
Hampshire 221 for 4 (Adams 55, Wright 3-50) beat Sussex 219 for 9 (Yardy 92*, Cork 4-41) by six wickets
Dominic Cork, who first shone at Lord's in 1993, spoke a good game before the Friends Provident final, as he always does, but also delivered on his words as he returned to a happy hunting ground with 4 for 41 to help Hampshire secure the silverware with a six-wicket victory against Sussex. His three-wicket new-ball burst gave Hampshire a major early advantage and their south-coast rivals were never able to wrestle it away from them despite a fine, unbeaten 92 from Michael Yardy and aggressive bowling by Luke Wright.
Hampshire performed as a well-drilled outfit who have benefited from the input of Duncan Fletcher over the last three weeks. The batsmen have been particularly glowing of Fletcher's role and they went about their work with efficiency and confidence. An opening stand of 93 between Jimmy Adams and Michael Lumb put Hampshire on course in their chase of 220 and, although they threatened a wobble at 154 for 4, victory came with 9.3 overs to spare as Chris Benham and Nic Pothas, who aggravated his groin injury and limped to the finish, added 67 in 65 balls.
The victory was finished off by the batsmen, but set-up by Cork, who moved south from Lancashire last winter. Taking advantage of some early swing he found the late movement that has always been a trait of his bowling and that has brought him plentiful success on this ground and walked away with another Man-of-the-Match award, 16 years after his first at NW8.
He claimed 7 for 43 on Test debut here in 1995, claimed another haul against South Africa in 1998 and played a match-winning hand against West Indies in 2000. And it was way back in 1993, playing for Derbyshire against Lancashire, that he hit the headlines with an unbeaten 92 in the B&H Cup. It's not always the case with English cricketers, but Lord's brings out the best in Cork.
"It's what you play cricket for," he said. "In all honesty I think I've bowled better and I had a little bit of luck, but it's always special to play here. I've got some special memories of this ground, along with a few not-so-good ones, and you just enjoy days like these when you can. I'm enjoying my cricket and hopefully it can continue for a while."
He broke through in the seventh over when Ed Joyce dragged on playing a lazy leave. That brought in Matt Prior, released by England for this match between the Ashes Tests, but it was a brief return to the scene of last week's victory over Australia. He survived a huge appeal for leg before first ball when there was doubt over the height, but it was a short-lived reprieve as Cork found Prior's outside edge next ball and celebrated in his usual laid-back manner.
But he wasn't finished there. Nine runs later Chris Nash's unconvincing innings was ended when Cork got one to hold its line and trap him in front of off stump. This time Cork held up three fingers with a wry smile on his face.
Yardy walked in to face the scoreline of 39 for 3 and he would remain there until the end of the innings for an impressive innings that at least gave his team a total to defend. The Sussex cause wasn't helped when leading batsman Murray Goodwin was run out for 1 by Chris Tremlett's direct hit from mid-on and Wright never got going as he scratched 7 off 26 balls before playing on to Tremlett.
Dwayne Smith briefly threatened as is his style - providing the first six with a mighty heave over midwicket - but perished trying to clear the boundary off Imran Tahir. Yardy turned his back as Smith departed and the captain was running out of partners. Rory Hamilton-Brown helped him had 60, but Yardy's innings stood apart from his team-mates.
He reached fifty from 76 balls, playing fine reverse sweeps off the spinners that twice went between Nic Pothas' legs, and showing impressive placement through the off side. His 127-ball innings including just seven boundaries, but he couldn't afford to attack until the very end. Without him this final would have been done and dusted by mid-afternoon.
However, Hampshire's opening stand quelled much of the hope Yardy's innings provided. Lumb was the one 'new' face in England's Champions Trophy squad - prior to the final he'd made 393 runs in this tournament for the season - but he was overshadowed in the partnership by Jimmy Adams.
In the semi-final against Lancashire the pair added 159 to set up victory and Adams' early aggression made significant dents into the target as he comfortable outscored Lumb. He has an extravagantly high backlift, but it's a game that works for him and he has averaged over 90 since coming into the tournament mid-way through the group stages.
The fifty was up inside ten overs and the positive play of Adams and Lumb meant the run rate never became an issue even when wickets did fall. Adams was trapped on the crease by the pacey Wright and he soon had Lumb caught behind.
Michael Carberry continued the form he has shown in the Championship where he has racked up three centuries in three matches including a career-best 204 against Warwickshire. He raced to 30 off 23 with excellent timing and placement before getting carried away and top edging a pull. Sussex, though, could never haul the innings back even when Wright returned for a second spell and had Sean Ervine caught in the deep.
At that point 66 were still needed, but overs were never in the equation and after calming nerves Pothas and Benham added the finishing touches. It was a team performance from Hampshire, but one man's name will still steal the limelight. Dominic Cork won't mind that one bit.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo