September 4, 1993, is a day embedded deep in the memory of not just Warwickshire supporters but followers of cricket as a whole.
It was the day of the NatWest Trophy final.
That is the NatWest Trophy final.
Warwickshire beat Sussex by five wickets. Sussex 321 for six, the Bears 322 for five after 60 overs.
It was described in the 1994 Wisden Cricketers Almanack as “the greatest final.” More than 20 years later, it remains the greatest. And probably always will.
Many people vividly recall the match, the day and the occasion, each with his or her own special memories.
But there is one chap who has a unique perspective on it – and who has every right to feel uniquely proud, having been the principal catalyst for the Bears’ sensational victory.
Asif Din went into bat with the score on a wobbly 93 for three and came out, with a brilliant 104 to his name, at 306 for five having taken his team to the brink of a win and a denouement which was to leave the cricket world abuzz for weeks.
“It is a very special memory,” says Asif, now a Warwickshire committee member and who will be at Lord’s on September 17 to cheer the Bears on against Surrey in the Royal London Cup One-Day Cup final. “It is special knowing that people still talk about it as the best game ever at Lord’s when you think of all the games that have been played there – finals and ODIs and Tests matches.
“It created so much interest. Because it was so late finishing, club games all over the West Midlands had ended and people, some not even changed out of their whites, were glued to the telly in clubhouses watching it with a pint.
“There are many highlights in life; your marriage, your first child – and as a cricketer your first century and first five-for. But to score a hundred in a Lord’s final, and in that Lord’s final, for the county you have played for all your career – well, it doesn’t get better that.”
In those pre-Twenty20 days, when 250 was seen as a demanding 60-over score, Sussex’s total of 321 for six was mammoth. Martin Speight set the tone right at the start of the day with a blistering half-century on which David Smith built with 124 and Neil Lenham 58.
When the Bears’ reply hit 18 for two, it looked like game over. But Dominic Ostler and Paul Smith added 75 to prevent a collapse and when Ostler departed, in went Asif.
“321 was a formidable score,” he said. “It was like we were 4-0 down at half-time in a football match but we just said to ourselves let’s just relax, go out there and be positive and see where it takes us.
“We lost a couple of early wickets but then Dom and Paul put on a partnership. I had been due to go in at seven but when we lost those two quick wickets Dermot Reeve, the captain, told me to pad up. I did that and went and lay on the bench in the dressing-room and watched the game on the telly. Then Ossie got out.
“It was just a case of trying to keep us in the game. I was so hyped up I remember going down to talk to Paul between overs and using my native language. I’d go and say something to him in Punjabi and he would just nod and go back to his end and we’d carry on!”
Din and Smith kept the recovery in motion by adding 71 and then Reeve joined Din to crank up the chase with a dazzling partnership of 142 before the latter fell in the penultimate over, caught in the deep off Ed Giddins. That over brought just five runs, leaving Reeve and Roger Twose to find 15 of the last.
Reeve collected 13 from the first five balls so Twose had to find two off the last – his first ball faced. To a tumultuous response from thousands of Bears’ fans at Lord’s and in clubs, pubs and homes all over the West Midlands, he did the honours.
“It helped us that Sussex, with a big total in the bank, were happy to give us singles,” recalls Asif. “We took plenty of them and added the odd two and four and just kept ourselves in the game. I think it was when the PA announcer gave the score after 40 overs, and ours was exactly what Sussex’s had been, that we thought this was ‘game on.’
“All we were focused on was the 321 we needed. It was as though I was in a shell, shutting out the crowd noise, so it came as a big surprise when I suddenly saw I was in the 90s. I had got to 60 mostly in singles but went from 60 to 90 quite quickly.
“Sussex started to panic. We had been going along quite comfortably at six and over and were still right in the game.
“Then I got out in the penultimate over to the sweetest hit I made all day! That left 15 off the last and Dermot played it brilliantly against Franklyn Stephenson who, with his slower balls, was one of the best in the world at the time.
“I remember Dermot hitting one to cover and Bill Athey misfielded it so they got back for two and kept Dermot on strike which was huge. Then it came down to two off the last ball and Twosey did it. What a finish!”
Royal London One-Day Cup Final Tickets – 17 September
Warwickshire Members and supporters have been allocated the upper and lower tier of the Edrich Stand and the Lower tie of the Mound Stand for the Royal London One-Day Cup final at Lords.
Royal London One-Day Cup Final Coach Travel
Departing Edgbaston from 7.00am and returning from Lord’s shortly after the close of play, return coach travel for the Royal London One-Day is priced at £25.