The result was in doubt right to the very end, but Old Trafford had got used to last ball 'thrillers' that year.
Lancashire had reached the quarter final’s of the competition with a nerve shredding one wicket victory over Northamptonshire. Man of the Match Peter Martin (4 for 36 off 12 overs & 4 not out) hit the four off the fourth ball of the final over to set up the match with Derbyshire. The game against Dean Jones side was eagerly anticipated, but the gate of just 8,116 was a disappointment, however those who decided to travel to Old Trafford were rewarded with a pulsating tie and dramatic finish.
Mike Watkinson won the toss and sent out Jason Gallian and Michael Atherton to face the new ball bowlers, Dominic Cork and Phillip DeFreitas. They found early movement but lacked accuracy, and the batsmen, Atherton in particular, found gaps in the field and kept the scoreboard ticking over. The openers had 57 on the board before Gallian departed. Crawley and Fairbrother only contributed twenty between them, and the pressure was on as Graham Lloyd walked to the wicket. Lancashire 109 for 3.
The fourth wicket partnership added 101, and Lloyd produced an innings of high quality. His 61 was made off only 59 deliveries, and he continually frustrated the Derbyshire attack by hitting cleanly over the top of mid off and mid on, and he and Atherton were continually on the look out for quick singles.
Five regular bowlers had been used when Dean Jones surprisingly threw the ball to Kim Barnett. His leg spin did not have too many airings that summer, and most in the county ground were bemused as he marked out his short run up and prepared to bowl to Lloyd. The Lancashire batsman fell almost immediately, and Barnett also collected the scalps of Watkinson (17), Hegg (18), and Austin and Chapple for ducks. Atherton however continued to accumulate on both side of the wicket, and his century duly arrived and was acclaimed by all, including the opposition. It seemed that he would carry his bat, but after making 115 off 175 balls with six 4’s miscued……and was caught by O’Gorman off Dean.
Gary Yates and Peter Martin added 16 in an unbroken tenth wicket partnership of flailing bats and snatched singles, and just how important that stand was only became apparent as the game reached its exciting conclusion. Lancashire 289 for 9 off their 60 overs. Barnett 5 for 32 off 6 overs!
Austin and Martin opened Lancashire’s attack, but Cork and Barnett settled in quickly and timed the ball superbly. Boundaries flowed from their bats and they were well ahead of the asking rate of just under five and over, when in the space of eleven runs both openers were dismissed.
The rest of the Derbyshire innings revolved around their skipper. Dean Jones took control, and without ever looking hurried continued to maintain the required scoring rate. His partners came and went. Five of them reached double figures but perished in trying to up their pace.
Off spinner Gary Yates contributed a controlled and accurate spell and collected the wickets of Chris Adams and Tim O'Gorman – but despite a series of bowling changes – Jones refused to be subdued, and anything off line was punished. His flashing blade sent the ball to all parts of the ground, and his half century came up off just 67 balls with four 4’s. Lancashire’s fielding though, with Lloyd and Fairbrother outstanding on both sides of the wicket, continued to perform at a very high level, and no cheap runs were on offer.
The tension of the occasion got to everyone watching. Every run was cheered by a small group of Derbyshire supporters in the double-decker Washboook & Statham stand, and every dot ball or piece of fielding received a round of applause from the home members.
With five overs remaining, Derbyshire were 239 for 5, needing 51 at a rate of 10.2 per over. Jones went into a higher gear! Lancashire however maintained their fielding discipline, and continued to take wickets and cut off shots which seemed destined for the boundary rope. Excitement was at fever pitch as the winning target got ever closer. Vandrau stayed with his skipper for a while but only scored 3, before being run out off the penultimate ball of the game.
Kevin Dean walked to the wicket and ambled to the umpires end. Lancashire wanted one wicket for victory – Derbyshire four to win – Dean Jones two for a well earned century He watched calmly as Mike Watkinson in consultation with bowler Glen Chapple, set the field with precise deliberation. Finally all were ready for the dramatic conclusion.
Chapple ran in. Jones tapped his bat and concentrated intently. The fielders were on their toes. The atmosphere went up another notch as the crowd roared. Chapple delivered and Jones drove furiously into the covers. One was taken as fielders converged on the ball, and the batsmen turned for a second. In came the throw to Warren Hegg. A not out century to Dean Jones off 106 deliveries, but it was the Lancashire team which celebrated victory by two runs. They all made a point of congratulating the disappointed Derbyshire skipper on his three figures…..but as ever, personal success in defeat, meant nothing to the Australian.
In the semi final two weeks later, Lancashire beat Yorkshire in another Old Trafford thriller to reach the Lord’s final, where Glen Chapple’s bowling (6.2 - 1 -18 - 6) destroyed Essex for just 57……but that is another story.
Michael Atherton’s 115 won him the Man of the Match award against Derbyshire, and he received the usual bottle of champagne on the pavilion top balcony. A day to remember for him, and all who had the pleasure of watching one of the great one-day games.