Cricket: Gooch labours in vain

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The Independent Online
Essex 128 and 382

Gloucestershire 326 and 187-3

Gloucestershire win by 7 wickets

ESSEX lost their final game yesterday, but the champions never relaxed. They practised their fielding as they have done every morning this season, except for the last cold day at Derby, and half an hour more of Graham Gooch would have made Gloucestershire's target demanding, another hour impossible.

Gooch reached his 99th first-class century, and a masterly one, about the time his former England opening partner, Chris Broad, signed a three-year contract with his native Gloucestershire, one of seven counties which had propositioned him.

In 1983 Broad left the county, complaining that they were unambitious, but yesterday he declared: 'My heart has always been in Gloucestershire. I'm a homespun chap.' Broad, 35 later this month, won 25 Test caps with Nottinghamshire between 1984 and 1989; yet the public announcement was greeted silently.

Throughout it was a cold and slate grey day, the 155th of the season, and Essex's prospects were no brighter when Mike Garnham was caught in the slips in the first over. But his wicket was the only one to fall in the morning as Gooch took charge and Don Topley did a passable imitation of his skipper in a swarthy, stubbly way.

It would be surprising if any of Gooch's previous hundreds had included fewer boundaries than his five fours yesterday. He was bent on accumulation, on one more victory, on another miracle, in what has perhaps been Essex's most miraculous Championship. An old fox's trick was to amble a single at the start of an over, tempting the fielder to throw at the bowler's stumps; and twice it worked, so that he took an overthrow and returned to the strike.

Gooch and Topley, who made 29, his highest score of the season, added 107 from 44 overs. Time was coming into the equation, and the slow pitch dusting in the high wind. Gooch reached his eighth hundred of the season, and by way of celebration called for a fresh left glove. But before he could wear it he went for a pick-up boundary off the very next ball and was caught by deep square.

Essex disintegrated - sometimes there is no disguising their tail - and Gloucestershire were left to score 185. Given all day to do it, they might have found time to panic. As they had only 46 overs available, Richard Scott had to go for his shots and was markedly better for it, pulling three sixes.

Peter Such had to run riot for Essex to win, and he had the squally wind to labour into. With two warning lights on the scoreboard, the last ball of the champions' season was cut for four by Jack Russell, who then shook Gooch's hand.

And so a long summer, or rather season, becomes a longer winter.

(Photograph omitted)