Cricket: Caddick finds full blast at last

County Championship: Gloucestershire bustled out of the title race while Durham just miss out on a rare victory; at Bristol Gloucestershire 355 and 187-6 Somerset 396
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The Independent Online
ANY LINGERING hopes Gloucestershire may have had of maintaining their challenge in the Championship were shattered in the early evening sunshine by a vibrant Somerset. The Glorious Glosters, as they are known, may as well have been trying to grab handfuls of sand as victory from this match.

They lost wickets with a chilling regularity as they struggled to nose themselves ahead of their West Country rivals, taking an inadequate 146- run lead at the close. Having conceded a 41-run advantage in the first innings, two men had departed before they had wiped out the arrears. Andy Caddick and Andre Van Troost were steaming in and Gloucestershire were hustled out. Rob Cunliffe shouldered arms and lost his off stump to the rejuvenated Van Troost and not too long afterwards Jack Russell was caught out by a sharp lifter which ballooned to second slip.

Mark Alleyne, the scorer of a century in the first innings, managed 101 runs fewer second time around, well taken at point by Peter Bowler. When Matthew Windows offered the tamest of catches to silly point on the stroke of tea, followed shortly after the interval by Bobby Dawson the faces of the home fans lengthened with the shadows.

It was left to Tim Hancock to take on the mantle of resistance. He displayed an obduracy and maturity which was an object lesson to his team-mates. There was no swish and swipe, no ineffectual prodding. He looked for runs while trying to avoid risks - there was one chance when he was 40 - on the way to his half-century, the fourth consecutive time he has passed fifty, once going on to a hundred.

He and Tony Wright, in his 17th and possibly final season with the county, then managed what all others had failed to do, putting together a partnership of some substance, but Hancock's departure after more three hours at the crease in which he faced 148 balls spelled the end for Gloucestershire.

Opportunity had trickled through their despairing clutches all day. Nothing went right for them. They could not even muster maximum bowling points, which could well prove prove crucial in the end-of-season jostling for positions in the prize money list. Whereas Somerset gleaned maximum batting points for only the third time this season and the first in two months.

The only sniff off a chance in the Somerset innings came very late when Caddick's mis-hook appeared to have been taken cleanly by Cunliffe, who had run fully 30 yards before taking the ball on the sprawl close to the ground at deep backward square leg. No one was clear whether it was a good catch, including the fielder - there appeared to be no consultation between fielder and umpires and so the batsman, on 17 at the time, was given the benefit of the doubt.

The bowler, Courtney Walsh looked distinctly disgruntled, but 10 runs later it was all over anyway, the West Indian splaying Van Troost's stumps for figures of 4 for 80, taking him to 76 for the summer.

It was just not destined to be Gloucestershire's day. But then it has never been Gloucestershire's day in the Championship. In 1930 under any other system they would have lifted the title having won 15 matches to champions Lancashire's 11 (in that season it was eight points for a win and five for a draw), while their claim to the 1877 crown is not even recognised in Wisden anymore, because champions were declared unofficially in those days. The Championship was only adopted officially in 1890, since when the best Gloucestershire have managed is to finish in the runners- up slot on half a dozen occasions, the most recent being in 1986. They will be lucky to finish as high this year.