This Trophy semi-final turned into an epic, record-breaking match but few would have guessed at the drama to come on a damp Wednesday morning in August 1990, with Lancashire attempting to reach their second Lord’s final of the season against a strong Middlesex side.
On the first day play didn't start till 2pm and when it did the visitors made a great start after David Hughes won the toss and opted to bowl. Paul Allott conceded only three runs from his first five overs and dismissed Mike Roseberry lbw when the opening batsman played across a straight delivery (pictured below) . But that was Lancashire’s only success over the first part of the day as Desmond Haynes and Mike Gatting piled on the runs at four runs an over to build a great platform.
The pair both reached half-centuries before there was a further two hour rain delay, and on the resumption Gatting was bowled by Mike Watkinson for 53. Mark Ramprakash joined Haynes to push the score up to 199 for 2 from the 49 overs possible, with the West Indian looking in great touch, 93 not out at the close.
Rain washed out any chance of play on the second day, but fortunately three days were allocated for matches at the time, although the TCCB (now ECB) did look at restaging the match the following week if no further play was possible.
The forecast for the third day was not promising, and the following morning Lancashire’s players took one look at the conditions before heading to nearby Bowlers indoor cricket nets to practice for a ‘bowl-out’.
The weather thankfully did not follow the forecast and the skies cleared, but the fact that the game did restart was entirely due to a herculean effort by the groundstaff. In from 6am they mopped up non-stop for the entire morning. There was general surprise when a restart at 1.45pm was announced, and only around 300 optimistic spectators were actually present. The Club announced through the media that admission was free, and eventually numbers swelled with around 7,000 inside Old Trafford by mid-afternoon.
With no TV coverage after the first day, they were the lucky ones who witnessed a thrilling game. Middlesex added another 97 runs in the remaining 11 overs, with Haynes responsible for 56 of them to finish unbeaten on 149. The Middlesex man had picked up an earlier injury that left him limping so badly by the end that he was unable to field. It made his innings all the more astonishing.
Lancashire were faced with the task of chasing the highest total in their history, and the innings got off to a bad start when Norman Cowans bowled Graeme Fowler for 8.
Gehan Mendis had by then smashed two short balls from Cowans for four, and the Lancashire opener had a huge let off when 15 with Simon Hughes dropping a straightforward catch at mid-off.
Mendis made no further mistake, and finding great support from the rest of the line-up, went on to hit his first one-day century for the club.
At 4.05pm we finally got to the point where a result would be reached when 20 overs of the Lancashire innings had been completed. Middlesex were in front, but the low clouds that had frustrated them earlier were gone.
Mike Atherton perished to a Hughes inswinger after making 34, but in the next 17 overs Mendis and Neil Fairbrother set up the result adding 102. Fairbrother’s 48 only occupied 52 balls and included a pulled six off Hughes who had some revenge with his wicket.
Mike Watkinson’s clean hitting gave Middlesex no respite. The man of the match from that season’s B&H Cup Final smote three huge sixes, with one off John Emburey screaming past Hughes on the long-off boundary. It was hardly five yards away from the fielder, who simply had no chance of getting near it.
Watkinson and Mendis needed 111 from the last 20 overs, and they made 75 of them in 10. It’s not often you see a standing ovation for an innings of 43, but this richly merited moment awaited Watkinson after he edged Angus Fraser to wicketkeeper Paul Downton.
By then the game was up for Middlesex and Mendis capped a great day by batting through for 121. Wasim Akram added 14, with Phil DeFreitas present when the winning runs arrived with 4.1 overs left.
56 hours after the game started, Lancashire had made it through to Lord’s and an exhausted, but jubiliant, set of players invited an equally exhausted groundstaff to join with them in the dressing room celebrations.