No time for friends
Ian Ward previews Saturday's Friends Provident Trophy final between Durham Dynamos and Hampshire Hawks.
Last Updated: 20/08/07 12:46pm
Friends Provident Trophy Final
Durham v Hampshire
Saturday, 10.30am, Sky Sports 2
Durham take part in the first Lord's final in their history as they take on Hampshire in the final of the Friends Provident Trophy on Saturday.
There will be a few mates looking to outdo one another which will add a little spice to the occasion. More on that later, but firstly I would like to state how well Durham have progressed since becoming a first-class county in 1991.
It's a great achievement for them to get to their first Lord's final. They are doing some great stuff up there because not only are they building a strong side, they are also producing players for England in Paul Collingwood, Steve Harmison, Liam Plunkett, plus up-and-coming talents such as Graham Onions, Philip Mustard and Ben Harmison.
They are a club that is going in the right direction. They are on the rise and they thoroughly deserve to take part in what is still the biggest day in domestic cricket.
Their form in one-day cricket has been great this season, especially in the FP Trophy, and in general they are a club on the rise - their championship cricket has slipped a little bit, but as a whole they are going places.
The Dynamos are a solid outfit. At the top of the batting order they have Mustard who has been in fine form with the bat in one-day cricket this season, scoring more than 550 runs so far.
Michael Di Venuto gives them a cutting edge with the bat and having just passed 1,000 championship runs for the season, he will have his tail up. Dale Benkenstein, the captain, is also dangerous with the bat and of course Collingwood comes back into the line-up.
Ottis Gibson has been rolling back the years in all forms of cricket this season. Having taken all 10 wickets in the first innings of the championship match with Hampshire last month, he will be relishing the chance to skittle them out on this big occasion.
The seam bowling attack is Durham's strength. It's a fantastic attack, although having Steve Harmison ruled out for the final is a bit of a blow.
But with Gibson, Plunkett, Onions and Neil Killeen - who is a very experienced bowler and offers control with the white ball - it's a solid and dangerous line-up, even without Harmison.
And let's not forget possibly the man of the summer in Shiv Chanderpaul. The recent acquisition of the wily left-hander adds depth to their batting. We know what a class act he is and he will be an important player for Durham on Saturday.
They have a nice balanced side but the one area that they are slightly weaker than their opponents is the spin department because, although Gareth Breese is a competent performer, Durham will be up against the master, Shane Warne and Shaun Udal.
Hampshire Hawks have a fair few match winners in their side. Any side that has Kevin Pietersen and Warne in would have to be favourites to win any game of cricket. They are ably assisted by John Crawley and Michael Carberry who have been scoring consistently of late.
The problem for Hampshire without Pietersen has been getting runs on the board. But the runs are now starting to flow and with KP coming into the side, they will be confident of posting a big total or chasing one down. Michael Lumb is a talented young player who has been scoring well in one-dayers this year; Chris Benham is also a talented player - we saw him smash 158 in the Pro40 play-offs last year Live on Sky Sports. Then you have the inventiveness and power of Dimitri Mascarenhas who is brilliant at pacing a run-chase.
With the ball, Hampshire have all angles covered. Chris Tremlett has shown his class in flashes at the highest level and James Bruce has been outstanding this season and Mascarenhas bowls a steady line and length. He now has a little bit of international experience under his belt having broken into the England one-day team.
Add to that Warne and Udal and you have a very well balanced side. The question will be whether they can make it count with the bat?
There will be some wonderful match-ups involving some of England's top players. I'm looking forward to seeing Collingwood take on Warne, Pietersen take on Onions (who has been on the fringes of the England team), and Tremlett will be trying to outdo Plunkett and vice-versa, as both will be striving for a place on England's winter tour of Sri Lanka. Two good wicketkeepers, in Mustard and Nic Pothas, who could potentially play for England, will be going up against each other also.
The individual matches within the bigger picture make this a potential cracker.
Finally, some people may not like the scheduling of the FP Final, given that it has been eight weeks since the semi-finals were played. The problem they have is scheduling the Twenty20 Cup - to get it done and dusted in the space of a few weeks. That's where everything gets squeezed. The ideal scenario would be to get the FP Trophy Final played before the Twenty20 or save the semi-finals until after because it does seem an awful long time ago that the semis were played.
Lord's finals are special days for the players but the public may have to be reminded that the competition hasn't yet finished. Does it take a bit of gloss off the final? Maybe slightly with the public but not with the players involved as these are great occasions for all involved.
That familiar hum of Lord's is just awesome. I know that Shane Warne was disappointed that the last time he got to this final in 2005 he wasn't able to play, or even watch or support his team, because he was on the Ashes tour with Australia and had to do twelfth man duty at Chelmsford, which was crazy.
The weather forecast for Saturday, unfortunately isn't tremendous. So hopefully we're not going to get a situation whereby you win the toss, put the other side in and the ball seams around all over the place and we have a low scoring affair. That would, I think, lean towards Durham because of their strength in the seam department. But hopefully the sun will come out and we will have a bit of a run-fest.
It promises to be a fascinating match-up and it's very hard to pick a winner as both sides have immense strength. It's a real close one to call but if I had to pick a winner I would go with Hampshire simply because of Shane Warne. He will be so keen to lead his team to victory. But either way, it promises to be a great final.
Ian Ward was talking to James Root