Cricket: Alleyne deputies able and willing

Click to follow
The Independent Online
Gloucestershire 142 and 456 Kent 163 and 297 Gloucs win by 138 runs

ADROIT LEADERSHIP from Mark Alleyne, cleverly manipulating a weakened attack, guided Gloucestershire into fourth place with a game in hand on the leaders, Surrey. Their eggshell batting makes them unlikely champions but they do play like a team of cock-eyed optimists, willing to try anything and everything and something, usually, comes off.

Even Kent's best friends found it hard to understand their recent ascendancy and this defeat probably puts their summer into perspective. When they resumed under low cloud, needing 353 with eight wickets standing on a pitch still playing benignly, the odds were against them. True contenders would have attacked their task with a little more panache and application.

Carl Hooper apart, their innings lacked both dash and confidence. Trevor Ward, who can strike a ball, and the nightwatchman, Ben Phillips, a potential all-rounder, added 18 in seven overs. They knew that Gloucestershire were a bowler short, Alleyne still nursing a strained calf muscle. The Gloucestershire captain had to find able deputies. But first Jon Lewis beat Ward's defence.

Alleyne then called on Tim Hancock as the first relief bowler and he duly obliged, also trapping Phillips. That brought together Hooper and Alan Wells for the partnership that could still win through for Kent. The West Indian put Hancock firmly in place by pulling and driving three boundaries in an over but before the stand could take root Alleyne called on the off-spinner Martyn Ball who, with his second ball, dismissed Wells through a diving catch at silly point.

Hooper was still firing away, 54 at lunch but could anyone stay with him? Chris Walsh demonstrated a defensive technique until his namesake, Courtney, reappeared, short leg snatching an involuntary deflection. Hooper retaliated by pulling Ball for six and driving sweetly at anything pitched up to him; by then he had the appropriate partner for bravado in Matthew Fleming, who brought a howl of anguish from the field by slicing Courtney Walsh between first and second slip - at speed.

Back came Hancock to dive to his left and catch Fleming's drive, second ball.Twelve runs later Alleyne had the spark of inspiration that wins matches. Dominic Hewson bowled his first two overs - lively medium - for Gloucestershire on Sunday. Called on again he tempted Hooper into another drive, through extra, where Hancock took a match-winning low catch.

Only Steve Marsh, the tail, and the ever-threatening rain could then save Kent. Walsh was too quick for Julian Thompson only for the rain to start. Twenty minutes passed before play resumed, Mike Smith having last man Martin McCague caught behind.

Alleyne said afterwards: "We can still catch Surrey. They might hiccup and we have an easier run-in."