Cricket: Gatting is defiant to the end

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire 238 and 88 Middlesex 158 and 72 Gloucs win by 96 runs

MIKE GATTING said goodbye to Championship cricket at Lord's, barring emergency recall, and though he could not produce a final defiant innings, he did greet the standing ovation that ushered him off the field, led from the middle by his long-time enemy, Courtney Walsh. So it was a sentimental day on which to say goodbye to the old press box here, but none of the batting will linger long in the memory.

Four-day cricket cannot exist when spirited fast bowling is faced by undisciplined batting. The season's last Championship match at Lord's concluded yesterday afternoon under a mockingly beautiful sky, had moments to cherish, but it means another empty Saturday.

Although Gloucestershire won the season's penultimate match against an abject Middlesex batting order, they cannot yet take their first Championship title. Even if they gain maximum points at Trent Bridge next week, while The Oval stays under water, Leicestershire's levy for an abandoned game would deny them.

No matter. It has been a warming season for Gloucestershire. Yesterday morning they were vulnerable, four wickets down second time around and just 129 ahead, and even more so when the rest of their order was swept aside for a further 39 runs. Angus Fraser, yet again, proved that he is still the finest line-and-length purveyor on the circuit. He took six wickets for 23.

Mark Ramprakash was awaiting removal of his troublesome tonsils, while Gatting nursed a sore elbow. As it was, of course, they were both ready to bat. Walsh was bowling with his apparently ageless guile, variation and naked pace, and was chasing Andy Caddick to 100 wickets. While the Middlesex batsmen, a term that can only be loosely applied here, came and went, Walsh reached a tally of 97. Mike Smith, the Little to Walsh's Large, completed a match analysis of 8 for 57 and yesterday there was also a chance for their straight man, Jon Lewis, to get in on the act.

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