Essex Archives: The NatWest Trophy Final 1997


Essex v Warwickshire
NatWest Trophy Final
Sunday 7 September 1997
Lord’s Cricket Ground, London

Warwickshire Team: Nick Knight, Neil Smith (c), David Hemp, Dominic Ostler, Trevor Penney, Dougie Brown, Graeme Welch, Ashley Giles, Keith Piper (wk), Allan Donald, Gladstone Small

Essex Team: Paul Prichard (c), Stuart Law, Nasser Hussain, Ronnie Irani, Darren Robinson, Paul Grayson, Danny Law, Robert Rollins (wk), Ashley Cowan, Mark Ilott, Peter Such

Toss: Essex, who elected to field

Umpires: Mervyn Kitchen, Peter Willey & John Hampshire

Result: Essex win by 9 wickets

Man of the Match: Stuart Law

Match Highlights:

Match Report:

Two comprehensive defeats by your opponents within a 10-day period leading into the Final itself is not the most encouraging way to prepare for a tilt at winning the trophy. Add to that the memory of a Final debacle in the same competition one year earlier (Essex were bowled out for 57 in reply to Lancashire’s 186) and it is easy to understand why even the most fervent Essex follower would have viewed another trip to Lord’s with some trepidation.

However, over the years when following the county, one had learned to expect the unexpected. We have all enjoyed watching the team carve out the incredible victory, many times with panache, when defeat or a draw was a far more likely outcome. Equally we have all squirmed as we watched our heroes snatch defeat from the jaws of victory often in a ludicrous manner as wicket upon wicket fell incredibly and bizarrely.

Yet again, the outcome of the NatWest Trophy Final appeared to rest heavily in favour of the side that won the toss. Paul Prichard called correctly and decided unhesitatingly to field. Essex fans and players breathed a little easier in their hopes of erasing the nightmare memory of the previous year’s Final.

What followed was a performance of total dominance from the start of play and which concluded with the record of completing victory in the shortest match on record for a final in the competition. The entire game spanned just 86.3 overs and was dominated by Essex throughout.

Whilst the importance of the “lucky call” of the toss should not be underestimated, the manner in which Essex exploited the advantage thus afforded to them was admirable.

Overcast skies hung over Lord’s as the crowd observed a minute’s silence in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales, whose funeral had taken place the previous day.

From the moment that Ashley Cowan opened the bowling at the Nursery End, Warwickshire were forced on the back foot as Essex attacked. The third legitimate ball of the day – Cowan had delivered a wide with his previous effort – trapped former Essex opener Nick Knight leg before wicket and the voices of the Essex supporters roared into life.

Essex were on their way.

Cowan and his new-ball partner Mark Ilott frustratingly beat the bat time after time as batsmen produced a series of false shots and mistimed edges. There was also a plethora of shouts for leg before until Cowan found the edge of the potentially belligerent Neil Smith’s bat and Stuart Law took a regulation slip catch. With the scoreboard showing 12 for two, the opposition’s third-wicket pair attempted to entrench but it really was backs-to-the-wall stuff as the Essex bowlers found prodigious swing and seam movement off the pitch.

Cowan ended a fine opening spell with figures of 7-2-13-2, and he was replaced by Ronnie Irani who it had been thought would only play as a batsman following his recent injury. But ‘Big Ron’ steamed in, fired by his usual enthusiasm and the occasion, to maintain the good foundations laid by Cowan.

Stuart Law took over from the frugal Ilott (7- 3-7-0) to keep the tight stranglehold on the batters attempted progress. With 20 overs bowled, Warwickshire’s total was a miserly 44 for two. Irani beat the bat for the umpteenth time bringing a philosophical and rueful smile from the bowler whilst piling the pressure on the batsmen. That led to a moment of impatience and indiscretion from David Hemp that cost his wicket after he and Dominic Ostler deliberated about the merits of a quick single only for the outcome to be settled by Paul Grayson’s direct throw from short extra cover that left Hemp stranded out of his ground.

With often six fielders plus bowler and wicket-keeper often stationed within the fielding circle, Prichard’s aggressive tactics restricted the singles; boundaries were a rare commodity. The introduction of Peter Such continued to curb Warwickshire’s attacking intent as the off-spinner executed his usual features of tight line and length. There was nowhere for the Warwickshire team to run as lunch loomed and Essex struck again before the break when the obdurate Trevor Penney edged the re-introduced Cowan, to wicket-keeper Robert Rollins leaving the Midlanders to reflect on a score of 75 for four wickets from 36 overs at the interval.

Five overs into the post-lunch session, Ostler heaved a pull to deep mid-wicket where Danny Law turned what should have been a uniform catch into one of great achievement as he juggled twice with the ball before falling forward to grab it inches from the ground. Everything was going Essex’s way.
Such brought off a truly magnificent catch, diving to his right to hold a stinging return as Graeme Welsh was dismissed caught and bowled, that reduced Warwickshire to 96 for 6 whilst the bowler’s figures at this stage were 8-1-17-1.

A rare explosion of runs came in the 49th over, nine in all, and raised the pitiful run-rate. Dougie Brown and Ashley Giles combined to complete the first and only 50 partnership of the innings, by the culmination of the 55th over.

With only five overs to go, desperation and impetuosity became a feature of the batting side as they risked the unconventional in an effort to post a reasonable total. An injudicious attempt to run cost Giles his wicket when he was beaten by yards following Grayson’s throw.

Ilott returned to bowl from the Pavilion End and his first ball of a new spell induced a hook from Brown that picked out Danny Law stationed at deep extra cover. This time, the fielder made no mistake, taking the catch cleanly to leave the scoreboard showing 156 for 8.

The remaining 11 balls of the innings produced only 14 more runs, the Essex attack having exerted authority throughout limiting their opponents to 51 runs from the last 10 overs including 24 from the final five.

Although they could be justly satisfied with their efforts in the field, Essex knew that the task was not yet done. Warwickshire’s 170 for 8 was only 16 fewer than Lancashire’s score in 1996 and so Essex supporters were far from complacent.

However, any apprehension and concerns were quickly dispelled was as the Essex openers quickly executed their game plan. Not for them the steady accumulation of runs towards the victory target but rather a veritable assault on the stunned Warwickshire attack.

With the sun burning away the cloud cover, Essex wrote a totally different batting chapter to the story of this final. Prichard played the second ball of the innings tantalisingly short of Brown at slip but if Warwickshire harboured hopes of vagaries in the wicket, it was to prove a false dawn.

The Essex captain and his buddy Stuart Law put the attack to the sword as they formed a formidable opening pair. It took just 4 overs for the Australian to impose his brilliant batting skills on the game as he took four boundaries when facing Welsh. Prichard followed the Queenslander’s lead taking a couple of fours from the next over and in express time, Essex had reached 45 without loss from 5 overs.

After one further over, Essex reached the total they had posted in their nightmare final 12 months earlier. This time though, there was to be no heartbreak, only joy.

Smith rung the bowling changes frequently in an unsuccessful bid to part the rampaging Essex duo using five different bowlers inside the first 13 overs, but it brought his side now respite as Prichard and Law plundered the attack unmercifully. The Essex skipper reached his half-century via a misfield having faced just 40 deliveries summing up Warwickshire’s beleaguered state.

He finally fell to the pace of Allan Donald, lbw, having contributed 57 out of an opening partnership of 109 but that was to be Warwickshire’s one and only success as Nasser Hussain joined Law.

Together they turned the pursuit of victory challenge into a mere formality. As the sun shone brighter, Law sublimely reached his 50 from 38 balls that included seven boundaries. Essex supporters were savouring every moment and with singing and chanting ever increasing, Law fuelled their delight with more encouragement by the minute.

A wonderful cover drive from Hussain brought up the 150 in the 24th over and tea was taken with Essex on the cusp of victory at 152 for one – and they still had 35 of their allotted 60 overs remaining!