BILL Athey made a shock comeback for Worcestershire -- and figured strongly in the Royals' magnificent win over National League title holders Lancashire Lightning.

"Definitely a one-off," smiled the New Road coach who wore the number 41 shirt to match his age. He fielded superbly and ran like a whippet between the wickets as he steered his wide to a six wickets success with 28 balls to spare.

"I enjoyed it, but that is the last one," said Athey who claimed an unbeaten and untroubled 22.

" We have had lots of players injured and Gavin Haynes pulled out with sickness. We could have used Chris Liptrot but skipper Steve Rhodes said he wanted me to play, so that was it.

"I did my bit but it was a solid team performance. That's two wins out of three, and we should have won the other against Yorkshire, so despite the problems we have had, we are looking okay."

Athey had one second XI game for Worcester last season but this was his senior debut, 21 years after launching his career with Yorkshire before going onto Sussex and Gloucester.

It was a top-notch display by the Royals who restricted Lightning to a modest 186-8, which would have been far lower but for two hectic last overs in which Warren Hegg and Richard Green slammed three sixes.


Openers Paul Pollard and Lancashire-born Reuben Spiring blasted into the Lightning attack with a rapid-fire century partnership, and despite a three wickets spell from Gary Yates, that basically was that. Pollard hammered top score of 66 and -- Spiring finished with 56.

If Lightning had any hope of a late fightback, Athey extinguished it, batting calmly in growing gloom to wrap up a convincing Royals' victory.

He added: "In the end it was comfortable enough, but a win at Old Trafford always had to be worked for and we deserved this one."


McKeown c Rhodes b Sheriyar 4

Chilton lbw b Leatherdale 44

Crawley b Rawnsley 32

Lloyd not out 8

W'nson st Rhodes b Rawnsley 16

Hegg not out 30

Yates c Hafeez b Rawnsley 7

Chapple c & b Rawnsley 10

Martin b Illingworth 2

Green not out 14

Extras: 19

Total (8 wks 45 overs) 186

Fall of wickets: 1-24, 2-82, 3-91, 4-105, 5-121, 6-135, 7-154, 8-157.

Bowling: Sheriyar 8-1-42-1; Catterall 6-0-29-0; Leatherdale 6-0-20-1; Hafeez 8-0-29-0; Rawnsley 9-1-27-4; Illingworth 8-0-28-1.


Pollard lbw b Smethurst 66

Spring st Hegg b Yates 56

Solanki c Hegg b Yates 8

Leatherdale b Yates 9

Athey not out 22

Hafeez not out 8

Extras: 18

Total (4 wkts 40.2 overs) 187

Fall of wickets: 1-109, 2-129, 3-142, 4-167.

Bowling: Martin 9-0-23-0; Chapple 4-0-35-0; Green 5-0-28-0; Smethurst 4.2-0-26-1; Yates 9-0-36-3; Watkinson 9-1-35-0.

Sunday, May 23, 1999.