Cricket: Alleyne's attack provides the relief

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The Independent Online
Hampshire 167

Gloucestershire 339-8

FOR the past two days the Press balcony here has been brightened by a lady who claimed, probably tongue in cheek, that she had come to write an article on 'The Most Boring Team in Cricket'.

The natural assumption, watching Gloucestershire take 75 overs to overtake Hampshire's 167, was that she was referring to the home team; but not so. Hampshire? The team of Gower, Marshall and Smith boring?

Actually only Marshall is here, four others are missing and Shaun Udal, carrying a chipped bone in his left forearm after being hit by Courtney Walsh on Tuesday, will play only a minor part, if any, in this match.

The bruising continued as Gloucestershire ground their way through two sessions and then, when Mark Alleyne and Jack Russell arrived around teatime, flogged Hampshire for 158 in 39 overs.

Marshall bowled eight overs for seven runs in the morning, one reason why only 37 runs were registered in the first hour. Dean Hodgson and Richard Scott, makeshift openers while Bill Athey recovered from a stomach upset, were a promising pair, showing admirable composure as Marshall's missiles swung and seamed around the edge of the blade.

It was relief that caused Scott to flash at Kevin Shine, but it was Marshall, after lunch, who eventually dismissed Hodgson.

Even Cumbrian patience can snap and Hodgson went to drive a ball that must have left him late, the snick carrying in a lovely arc to third man. Tony Wright tried to hasten matters by attempting to pull Shine, Athey - 25 in 15 overs - batted like a man in need of further aspirin, leaving Nicholas not dissatisfied at having removed the four top batsmen while retaining a lead of six runs.

The crowd, enjoying breezy sunshine and the best home- baked cake south of the Ladies' Pavilion at Worcester, had their patience rewarded with Alleyne's arrival: nine boundaries in his first 50 while Russell used his brilliant judgement of length to pounce upon any aberrations.

The pair added 93 in 28 overs to seize a third batting point before Shine, with the new ball, was hit for 13 in one over.

Alleyne should have been run out when 68 and if the calling between the pair was scripted by Mack Sennett the runs cascaded, the next 50 coming in seven overs as the cherry splattered the boards.

The gentler Jon Ayling and Raj Maru were needed to halt the slaughter. Bombed-out Hampshire may have been, but not boring.

On another day of slow scoring at Cardiff, the opening batsman Stephen James (80) helped Glamorgan to 200 for 6, avoiding the follow-on against Yorkshire, who had earlier declared on 348 for 8, Richard Blakey finishing on 125 not out.