The fact that this was also a Roses clash, with a place in a Lord's final at stake, just added to the drama.
It was a game full of twists and turns, with the result in doubt right to the end. Website editor Ken Grime, who has been watching Lancashire since 1968, reckons it is still the most exciting finish to a cup match he has seen, and he met up with the Gold Award winner from that game, Warren Hegg, to re-live an epic Roses clash.
The draw pairing Lancashire and Yorkshire in the 1996 B&H ‘semi’ meant a re-match between two of the best teams of the mid-nineties, following the Roses clash the year previously in the NatWest Trophy at Headingley, where Yorkshire had enjoyed a narrow two-wicket victory.
Sadly, all the 15,000 who turned up at Old Trafford on June 11th had to watch for most of the day was a combination of rain and the efforts of the ground staff to mop up, but thanks to the hard work of Peter Marron’s staff, play started at 4.30pm.
Lancashire, with Nick Speak replacing hamstring victim John Crawley, won the toss and Mike Watkinson put the visitors in to bat in overcast and damp conditions.
Yorkshire skipper David Byas made an electrifying start, hitting 22 of the first 29 runs before edging Peter Martin to Warren Hegg, but Martyn Moxon and Michael Vaughan struggled in the face of some accurate bowling from the Lancashire attack of Martin, Ian Austin and Glen Chapple. By the time the 15 over fielding restrictions were lifted, the visitors had only reached 47 for 1.
And Lancashire were soon in an even stronger position as four wickets fell 17 runs in a 6-over spell. Michael Atherton held an absolute blinder of a catch at gully to hang on to a fierce square cut by Vaughan off Chapple, before snapping up a more routine catch in the same position two overs later when Moxon mis-timed an attempted square-drive off Watkinson, who was bowling in seam-up mode for this match.
Warren Hegg snared two further catches, diving in front of Fairbrother at slip to dismiss Anthony McGrath for a duck off the bowling of Steve Elworthy, and Craig White nicked Watkinson to the wicketkeeper shortly afterwards to leave Yorkshire on 83 for 5 after 23 overs.
The visitors were wobbling, but Australian overseas batsman Michael Bevan joined forces with Richard Blakey to rescue the situation with a century stand for the 6th wicket. Rated as one of the best one-day ‘finishers’ around, Bevan drove and manoeuvred the ball around to great effect. Blakey, spurred on by his partner, responded with a half-century full of sharp running and containing just two boundaries.
When the playing regulations forced a halt at 8pm, the pair had turned the innings around with a 115-run partnership over 23 overs to take Yorkshire up to 198 for 5 after 46 of their 50 overs.
The second day, in contrast to the first, dawned with bright, sunny conditions and a big shock in store for the Lancashire bowlers as Bevan and Blakey plundered 52 runs off the remaining 4 overs, to leave a shell –shocked Lancashire the ten minutes of the change of innings to contemplate chasing 251 runs to win.
Warren Hegg: “I remember thinking in the morning that at worst we’ll go for around six an over, so we expected they might add around 24 runs or thereabouts, which would leave us chasing around 220 at worst. Michael Bevan might have been a world-renowned batsman, but we had Peter Martin and Ian Austin left to bowl who were both quality one-day bowlers. We were stunned when we came off the field. Richard Blakey played some awesome shots, and matched everything Bevan did. They must have thought they had a commanding score, certainly one they were confident they could defend.”
Just after Lancashire started their innings, I had cause to go to the dressing room to check the balcony microphone connections for the end of match presentations, and bumped into a distraught Peter Martin pacing the back of the room kicking, boxes, cases, and anything else in his way. His description of own bowling that morning can’t re-appear in print! He wasn’t to know it, but ‘Digger’s’ chance at redemption was to come in a huge way a few hours later.
The fast bowler’s mood at that point hadn’t been helped as Lancashire had made a disastrous start to their innings. Michael Atherton edged a fast, rising delivery from Darren Gough to David Byas at slip without scoring. Mike Watkinson mis-judged a quick single to Michael Bevan and was run out after being sent back, and Steve Elworthy-sent in as a ‘pinch-hitter’ to take advantage of the 15 over restrictions-thumped a couple of boundaries before flicking Chris Silverwood high towards backward square leg, where Gough took a good running catch moving round from fine leg.
WH: “We lost Athers early, and when you lose someone of Mike’s quality early on in your innings, it means you are up against it straight away, no matter what quality you have further down the order. You had England best opening batsman at the time being dismissed by England’s premier strike bowler, and Goughy bowled brilliantly that day. Mike Watkinson was run out not longer after, and ‘Winker’ was a devastating batter who could get you quick runs and set you up for a good start, so it was definitely not the best way to begin a run chase.”
Lancashire, at 36 for 3 in the 12th over, were in trouble, but then a pivotal moment of the match arrived. Neil Fairbrother, newly arrived at the crease, edged Peter Hartley to slip where Byas juggled a reasonably straightforward chance once, twice, three times, before failing to grab the ball at the fourth attempt. It was a huge let-off, and Fairbrother went on to punish the error severely.
The first task however, was to rebuild the innings and Nick Speak joined Fairbrother to accumulate a useful fourth wicket partnership of 43. Then, just as the pair were gathering momentum, Speak was run out for 34 after the new TV replay system showed him just short of the crease following a great pick up and throw from the boundary by Michael Vaughan. Graham Lloyd came and went quickly, edging an attempted dab to third man off Silverwood to wicketkeeper Blakey, and the game had swung back in favour of the White Rose county with Lancashire requiring 154 from 22 overs with half the side out.
Warren Hegg joined Fairbrother in the middle, and the pair produced some dazzling running between the wickets, allied to some attacking shots in an effort to keep the scoreboard moving and prevent the run rate, now at over seven runs per over, from climbing. Fairbrother produced two lovely late cuts off Richard Stemp to claim consecutive boundaries on his way to a typically gritty 59, adding 64 runs in 11 overs with Hegg before Yorkshire hit back.
WH: “When I went out to bat, ‘Harv’ was great. He put me at my ease and said let’s just go out and enjoy it, and we put on some good runs without trying. He played only the way he can, and I chanced my arm a few times, got a couple of outside edges for four, and I remember clearing point as well for another boundary. We kept each other going, and as the runs came we felt we could go all the way and knock the runs off. Then ‘Harv’ was run out!
Warren dropped a rising delivery from Craig White at his feet and responded to a call by his partner for a quick single, but the bowler reacted just as swiftly, running down the wicket to kick the ball onto the stumps. Another TV replay was required and White was mobbed by his jubilant teammates moments later after getting the verdict.
If you believe in fate however, maybe a decision across the Pennines played a little part in what happened next, with Yorkshire-immediately on the fall of Fairbrother’s wicket-despatching their Academy mini bus to Old Trafford full of Cup Final ticket application forms to hand out to their supporters at the close!
So were the cricketing gods smiling on Lancashire in the next over? There was certainly further drama when Hegg went down the wicket to left arm spinner Richard Stemp, hitting the ball high towards Martyn Moxon on the long-off boundary. Moxon caught the ball chest high, but then stumbled and fell backwards, taking the ball with him over the rope for six and Hegg, then on 41, had received a major let-off.
WH: “I looked where the ball was going, and Moxon had swarmed all over the catch and I thought I was gone. Then at the last minute he just fell over the boundary. Possibly he thought he was nearer to the rope than he actually was, but it was a huge break for us.”
However, when Ian Austin gave a return catch to Gough moments later, it looked like a decisive blow had been delivered with Lancashire now 174 for 7, still needing 77 runs off 8 overs, and with three of those overs to come from the dangerous Gough.
The decision of Yorkshire captain Byas to bowl Stemp’s one remaining over immediately forced Hegg, now joined by Gary Yates, to “go for it”. Yates hit a straight six, followed later in the over by Hegg who cleared the ropes over mid off, the pair taking 18 runs from this 44th over of the innings. Importantly the over proved to be the catalyst for both batsmen who played their shots without restraint, and the tension, and excitement rose as the target came closer and closer.
WH: “It was real body blow losing Neil Fairbrother, and then ‘Oscar’ soon after. Gary Yates joined me, and Yatesy was a great man to have coming in. He had an array of shots, was a bit unorthodox, and I remember on that day the Yorkshire bowlers found it difficult to bowl to him. We were surprised when Stemp came back to bowl his last over, and decided immediately to target that over, and it worked out well for us.”
White returned to partner Gough for the remaining five overs with 47 runs required, and the medium-quick bowler received a mauling in the 48th over, conceding 17 runs with Hegg hitting 4 over cover, 6 over long off, and a breathtaking, amazing, six over extra cover. White wasn’t finished however and, to his great credit, pitched the last ball of the over up to Hegg who missed it to be bowled for 81, his brilliant innings taking just 62 balls and Lancashire to the brink of victory.
WH: “We were on a roll after the Stemp over and I threw caution to the wind a couple of times. I hit Craig White a couple of times into the stands, and the low full toss that went into the double tiered stand over near the railway I still think even now was the best shot I ever hit in any form of cricket.”
Yates and Hegg had blasted 66 runs off 36 balls, but Lancashire hopes, dented with Hegg’s departure, fell even further when Yates was run out in the next over attempting a second run, only to be beaten by a brilliant throw by McGrath from the cover boundary.
One wicket and seven balls left, eight runs required was the scenario greeting Peter Martin on his way to the middle to join Glen Chapple. Darren Gough roared in to bowl the last ball of his 10 over allocation, and the crowd collectively held their breath after the Gough screamed for an lbw decision as the ball rapped Martin on the pads. Not out, was the verdict on a close call, with replays showing the ball moving down the leg side-just!
It fell to White, Yorkshire’s most expensive bowler that day, to deliver the final over. Eight runs required, and Old Trafford-with around 7,000 in attendance on this second day-erupted as Chapple pounced on a wide delivery, driving this first ball for four through extra cover. That shot changed the mood of the game once again, with Lancashire now one scoring stroke away from an amazing recovery.
Chapple dug out the second ball to short mid-wicket, for no run, before White then, crucially, bowled the only wide of the innings with his third ball. It meant 3 runs were required with still 4 balls to be bowled.
The next ball was flicked to fine leg by Chapple for a single, to bring Martin on strike with the big fast bowler needing to score 2 runs from the remaining three deliveries.
White pitched up the 5th ball of the over wide of the stumps and Martin played and missed. The 6th ball was identical, as was the shot, and incredibly we were facing the 7th and final ball (due to the earlier wide) with 2 runs still required.
David Byas not surprisingly spent some time setting his field and while he appeared calm on the field, off the pitch the atmosphere can only be described as frenzied, with many unable to watch. And the batsman? “All I could think about was Warren Hegg and how well he had played to give us a chance,” said Martin afterwards. “I’d bowled like an idiot earlier in the day, and now here I was on the point of wrecking all his work.”
With just the four men in the circle, and the other five fielders about halfway back to the boundary to prevent the second run, it appeared that Martin had a monumental task to find a gap. White ran in and delivered another pitched up delivery, but slightly straighter, and Martin squirted the ball away square on the off side. To an immense roar the ball beat the diving Bevan at point, as the batsmen completed one run.
Martin turned for the second run and, as the throw came in from Vaughan near the boundary, ‘Digger’ appeared to take an eternity to make his ground as the throw came in, but it was too high and too late to have any effect and Martin was home. Redemption? You bet!
It was a breathless, unbelievable, victory that the celebrating fans could scarcely comprehend. Lancashire, the cup holders, were through to Lord’s again, and quite fittingly Warren Hegg received the Gold Award for his man of the match performance.
WH: “When I was out I was still convinced we had done enough and had the lads left who were capable of finishing the job. The four by Glen at the start of the last over was huge, but when ‘Digger’ was there at the end, attempting to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, I wasn’t so sure!”
“For that last ball, Bevan had been told to go back to the edge of the circle, but he was so sure that he wouldn’t get cleared by Peter Martin, he had crept back in towards the wicket, and we all saw what happened.”
“Afterwards we had probably one of the best celebrations during my time in cricket. I seem to remember we partied into the night! It was such a release after the build up to the match, and then two long days ending in that finish. It was an amazing game of cricket, very special to have played in it, and to have been part of an historic game.”
Yorkshire 250 for 5 (50 overs) Bevan 95*, Blakey 80*, Watkinson 2-30
Lancashire 251 for 9 (50 overs) Hegg 81, Fairbrother 39, Gough 2-39
Lancashire won by 1 wicket
Gold Award: Warren Hegg