By Neil Fissler
Justin Benson admits that he won’t ever forget Leicestershire’s first Lord’s final for seven years – but for all the wrong reasons.
Leicestershire had won the Benson & Hedges Cup three times and been runners-up on another two occasions but this was their first Gillette Cup/NatWest Trophy Final.
They had breezed through the opening two stages, thrashing Norfolk by 132 runs after clocking up 293-7 before bowling the Minor Counties side out for 161.
In the second round Derbyshire were dispatched by 98 runs after being bowled out for 103 in reply to 201-9 which booked a tie with Durham, who were beaten by 45 runs after failing to chase 249.
But the deeper they went into the competition the bigger the injury list got and for the semi-final against Essex they needed to resort to desperate measures.
Benson said: “We had just finished with Bobby Simpson, the Australian coach, and Jack Birkenshaw had taken over and we knew that if we put it together we were a good team.
“But we just didn’t put it together that much. It was probably best known because Jonathan Agnew played in the semi-final. He was there working for the media and we were that short.
“We had no more fit players, we were patching things together and he was still registered to play for some reason. He opened the bowling and bowled his overs straight through.
“But we had a touch of luck in the game when Steve Waugh, who was playing for Essex at the time, had to fly back Australia because he was picked for something or other.
“It was a massive game for us and he was obviously a big loss for them. They made 226 but then when we batted Mike Garnham the Essex wicketkeeper cut his eye.
“Paul Pritchard ended up keeping and missed quite a few and I hit a four off the second last ball of the game and we won by five wickets.”
At Lord’s Leicestershire were inserted and could only manage 208-7 off their allocated overs and were never at the races as Northamptonshire ran away with the game.
Despite an early break through when Alan Mullally got the wicket of Nigel Felton, a 91 from Alan Fordham helped Northants home by eight wickets with 11.2 overs to spare.
Benson added: “Vince Wells was due to play but passed out on the night before the game so David Millns played and he wasn’t fully fit either. But we were well and truly stuffed.
“I didn’t make any runs after being bowled by Curtly Ambrose but then I dropped Fordham at slip when he only had a few.
“Then I dropped Rob Bailey so I didn’t have a great day in the slips but we didn’t give them enough runs to chase.”
BACK ROW (left-right):
Ben Smith: Batsman who returned to Grace Road as batting coach and is now a senior coach.
Iain Sutcliffe: Batsman who also boxed for Oxford University and is now teaching at Wellington College.
Ian Plender: Batsman now living in Kincardineshire. Works in Aberdeen as a building surveyor.
Paul Nixon: England wicket-keeper who now runs his own cricket academy and works in the media.
Martyn Gidley: Leicester-born all-rounder is now a teacher at Loughborough GS.
Matthew Brimson: Spinner is now head of geography at West Buckland School, Barnstaple, Devon.
David White: Seamer lives in his native Horwich and has been a postman for the last 15 years.
Darren Maddy: England all-rounder is now the master in charge of cricket at Solihull School.
Rob Stenner: Now a consultant physiotherapist for the NHS in Somerset.
Robert Gofton: Seamer is now Falmouth & Exeter Students Union CEO.
Andrew Roseberry: Batsman and brother of Middlesex’s Mike. Lives in his native North-east and is a hotelier.
Vince Wells: England all-rounder is an assistant housemaster and cricket coach at Sutton Valence School, Kent.
David Millns: England A fast bowler has been on the first class umpires panel since 2007.
Chris Hawkes: Batsman who went into publishing and now lives in France after becoming a successful author.
Alan Mullally: England fast bowler has worked in the media since his retirement in 2005.
Justin Benson: Irish batsman is now director of admissions and communications at King Edward’s School, Surrey.
Laurie Potter: All-rounder who is the only person to captain England and Australia teams – both at junior level – is head of Lower School at Leicester GS.
Andy Haye: Jamaican fast bowler lives in Nottingham. Runs a plumbing and heating company.
Peter Hepworth: Batsman is now living in his native Ackworth, near Pontefract, where he runs his own building company.
Phil Whitticase: Keeper/batsman who became head coach and academy director at Grace Road until his association with the county ended last December. Is now working for the ECB.
Geoff Blackburn: Scorer from 1985 to 1994 and lived in the Loughborough area until his death in 2013, aged 92.
Gordon Parsons: Fast bowler who was the brother-in-law of Hansie Cronje. Now lives in South Africa where he has been on the coaching staff of the Highveld Lions since 2008.
James Whitaker: Former England batsman who became coach and director of cricket at Leicestershire. He is now the ECB’s head of selectors.
John Josephs: The chairman during the Nineties. Ran his own leather business and died in 2012, aged 88.
Nigel Briers: Leicester-born batsman is a teacher at Marlborough College in Wiltshire where he has been head of PE, director of sport and is currently master in charge of cricket.
Charles Palmer: Batsman who worked for a steel company and served Leicestershire as chairman and president. He died in 2005, aged 85.
Jack Birkenshaw: The former England all-rounder has been a cricket manager, umpire as well as coach.
Mike Turner: Served the county as player, secretary, manager and chief executive and died in 2015, aged 81.
Russell Cobb: Batsman who spent over 30 years at Grace Road as player and coach. Now head coach at Loughborough UCCE. His son Josh plays for Leicestershire.
Tim Boon: Batsman who went into coaching became the Leicestershire head coach and is now working for the ECB as England development programme head coach.
This piece originally featured in The Cricket Paper on Friday September 25, 2015