Lancashire 152 for 5 (Loye 58, Croft 10*) beat Durham 151 (Di Venuto 66) by 5 wickets
Even in one-day cricket, a six off the final delivery to win the match is not a common occurrence. Steven Croft of Lancashire, and the Lancashire supporters, will long remember his superb stroke that did just that for his team against Durham at Old Trafford in a thrilling rain-reduced match.
Infuriating drizzle delayed the start, but play was finally possible at 4.30pm, with the match reduced to 23 overs per side - almost a Twenty20 contest. Lancashire won the toss and put Durham in to bat, although by doing so they condemned themselves to bat in very poor light.
Durham began with nine off the first over, only to have Phil Mustard caught at third man for six in the next. His partner Michael Di Venuto proved to be the key man for the team, almost batting through the innings as he held it together. His problem was in finding reliable partners; the best was Dale Benkenstein who came in at 60 for 4 and hammered 40 from 31 out of a partnership of 61.
Lancashire's bowling was a mixture, with Andrew Flintoff predictably economical: he bowled a superb over to Di Venuto when the latter was on 39, beating him all ends up twice. He eventually bowled him for a 58-ball 66, and also had Neil McKenzie (12) caught at the wicket. He finished with 2 for 13 in five impressive overs. Kyle Hogg also produced some good deliveries, including a gem to Paul Collingwood first ball that turned him around and he was superbly caught by a diving Stuart Law in the gully. But the reserve bowling was weak, and missed chances also aided Durham to reach 151 for 7.
It was a tight contest all the way as Lancashire chased their target, the momentum ebbing and flowing. Lancashire took the lead first with a flying start, until Gareth Cross (19) was brilliantly caught by Collingwood in the gully in the fifth over. Then Durham clawed their way back, thanks mainly to an admirably tight spell from off-spinner Gareth Breese, aided by Steve Harmison, who was both quick and disciplined - their respective figures of 1 for 26 and 2 for 33 did not do them full justice.
Lancashire had a crucial break when their opener Mal Loye was dropped at mid-off, a low hard chance, on 45; he went on to 50 off 48 balls and was finally out to a remarkable one-handed flying catch, at the second attempt, by wicketkeeper Mustard, for 58. This may well have been the turning point of the match. Such games turn on small hinges.
At the other end Mohammad Yousuf was working the ball around the field skilfully, and Flintoff joined him at 111 for 3 in the 18th over. He soon played a thunderous straight drive for four, but Neil Killeen avoided further damage to his figures with skilfully directed yorkers. As the light continued to deteriorate and more rain-clouds loomed, Flintoff threw his wicket away for 10, holing out at deep midwicket, and Lancashire began sliding behind again.
12 runs were needed off the final over, bowled by Graham Onions. Yousuf (32), the key man, skied the first ball to mid-off; 140 for 5. The Steves, Croft and Mullaney, could not find the boundary and six were needed by Croft (then on four) off the final delivery. It was Durham's match for the taking - except that Croft stepped back and slapped the ball superbly over the extra-cover boundary to clinch a remarkable win.