Flintoff's awesome hitting turns expected close contest into Lancashire canter
Andrew Flintoff - superb exhibition of stroke-play
Photo © CricInfo
Lancashire, the specialists of one-day cricket, had their sight fixed firmly on a Lord's final as they moved so comfortably towards it with an emphatic eight-wicket victory over Surrey, with fourteen overs to spare, in a quarter-final of the NatWest Trophy.
Going by the performance of these two sides in the other competitions - they are the top two teams in the county championship and while Lancashire are at the bottom of Division One in the National League and Surrey on top of Division Two - this fixture was expected to provide an exciting tussle and a close finish.
As it turned out, Surrey were totally outplayed on a day when Lancashire's burly all-rounder Andrew Flintoff produced an awesome batting display. It was a superb performance, not one of wild slogging but, indeed, of hard-hitting, entertaining stroke-play. Surrey's bowling was depleted in the absence of the in-form Martin Bicknell, who suffered a back injury bowling in the nets yesterday. But with Flintoff in such form, a full attack of Surrey would have made little difference.
Dominating partnership - almost 200!
Having been set a fair target of 211 for victory, Lancashire lost a quick wicket, that of Michael Atherton, to the third ball of the innings, without a run on the board. But that was to be Surrey's only success - and one that raised their hopes - until towards the end of the innings when Sourav Ganguly lashed out at a ball from Alex Tudor to be caught at slip having reached a relatively patient half-century from 85 balls.
The magnificent partnership between Flintoff and Ganguly, which ended just ten short of a double century, took the game rapidly away from Surrey as Flintoff, in particular, dominated the bowling during his 110-ball innings of 135 not out.
Astonishingly, a hundred of those runs came from boundaries and that should be an accurate indication of the power in his shots. With a batting exhibition such as that, and Flintoff in such belligerent mood, Ganguly, himself such a brilliant batsman, was happy to play the supporting role.
Flintoff reached his half-century with two sixes in one over from Jason Ratcliffe and increased the tempo of his batting as he progressed towards his century. On 67, however, he was lucky not to have been given out leg before wicket in Ian Salisbury's first over and a run later he was dropped in the slips off the same bowler. But, following the pattern of batting in limited-over's cricket he went on, undeterred, to see his side home.
Surrey's confident start checked by spinners
Surrey had, earlier, justified their decision to bat first with an opening stand of 80 and then lost wickets to the turning ball as the combination of off-spinner Gary Yates and leg-spinner Chris Schofield rocked them back on their heels.
Alec Stewart had set the scoring pace early for Surrey with his confident stroke-play and was well supported by Ian Ward. But having got off to a fine start, Stewart, just one short of his half-century, attempted to square-cut left-arm spinner, Gary Keedy but chopped the ball on to his stumps.
The next two wickets went in quick succession with Yates drawing Ward out of his crease to be smartly stumped and then he had Alistair Brown caught from a reverse sweep. Surrey were 109 for 3.
Schofield takes important wickets
Thirty runs later, the Hollioake brothers fell in the same over. Schofield first bowled Adam as he tried to sweep him and four balls later Ben went down the wicket, missed the ball and wicket-keeper Warren Hegg did the rest.
Graham Thorpe meanwhile picked up the runs steadily and when he was finally caught at deep mid-wicket off a full toss from Schofield, for 55 from 67 balls, Surrey were 182 for seven.
With the help of Ian Salisbury, 21 not out, Surrey eventually reached 210 without further loss, from 50 overs of which Schofield bowled ten and claimed four important wickets for 41.