One of cricket's longest sponsorships - and the last one dependant on a tobacco company - came to an end in 2002 after 31 seasons. Established in 1972 in the wake of the success of the end-of-season 60-over competition and the resulting Sunday league, the B&H was always the League Cup final to the Gillette/NatWest's FA Cup. But, nevertheless, it was an immediate success, enjoying its heyday in the 1970s before settling down into comfortable middle-age in the 1980s. In its latter years it increasingly came under fire, critics arguing it was one competition too many and also attacking it for its rather clumsy system of zonal matches. The formatting was tinkered with several times but increasing legislation against tobacco advertising gave the authorities the chance to quietly kill the concept off.
In its defence, the B&H provided good income for the counties and some decent early-season entertainment. It also allowed non first-class sides to play against the big boys and, on occasion, beat them. In 1989 Combined Universities, led by Michael Atherton, came within a whisker of reaching the semi-finals, and eight years later Ireland pulled off a memorable win over Middlesex.
Benson & Hedges Cup
Summary of County wins
4 - Lancashire 3 - Gloucestershire, Kent, Leicestershire, Surrey 2 - Essex, Hampshire, Middlesex, Somerset 1 - Derbyshire, Northamptonshire, Nottinghamshire, Warwickshire, Worcestershire, Yorkshire
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