Cricket: Happy and glorious way to answer a Lord's prayer

Cricket Diary
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The Independent Online
GLOUCESTERSHIRE AND Yorkshire, who meet in the second NatWest Trophy semi-final today, can lay some claim to being the two least proficient counties in the competition. True, they have occasionally flirted with glory but it is years since they last achieved consummation. It was in 1969 that Yorkshire reached the second of their two finals, and it was in 1973 that Gloucestershire made their solitary appearance.

In the 26 years since, each of the other counties (except Durham, because they are the exception in all these matters) have been to Lord's at least once and all but Glamorgan, Hampshire and Leicestershire have been there at least twice. Something has to give today in Bristol...

l Precedent is of little assistance. The counties met for the first time in the competition in 1976 when it was still the Gillette Cup. Gloucestershire won the second round tie at Headingley by four wickets. Zaheer Abbas made 111 for his fourth man of the match award; Mike Procter took four for 21.

The second and last time the sides were drawn against each other was in the 1993 second round when Yorkshire extracted revenge for what happened 17 years previously by winning by two wickets at Bristol. Richie Richardson was their top scorer with 90 but Chris Broad was man of the match for his unbeaten 116.

Gloucesterhire will have three survivors, Mark Alleyne, Jack Russell and Mike Smith, from the match six years ago. Yorkshire will have two, Richard Blakey and Craig White (it might have been four but Darren Gough who played in 1993 is injured this time while David Byas who was injured in 1993 will play).

The first man to score a century for Yorkshire in the competition was Geoff Boycott with 146 in the 1965 final, which remains the highest at the stage. Gloucestershire's first was by Ron Nicholls (127) the following year against Berkshire, which was also the first to be made before lunch.

Gloucestershire's poor record before this season meant that they had played fewer matches (74) than any other county in the NatWest (except Durham). Yorkshire had played 76 which compared with Lancashire's 103.

Tony Brown still holds the joint record for taking most outfield catches in a match in the competition, four in Gloucestershire's first tie in 1963. They lost. Six players have since equalled it. Jack Russell (69) holds the record for wicketkeeping dismissals, having overtaken Bob Taylor (66) and Alan Knott (65) this summer.

Yorkshire's leading scorer in the competition remains Boycott with 1,378. Graham Gooch has 2,547.

In the 1976 match, Gloucestershire had three Test players; Yorkshire also had three, with five more yet to be capped. In 1993, Gloucestershire had three with one who would eventually receive the call and Yorkshire had four and two. This year, Glorious Glos have two and probably none while Yorkshire have four and perhaps five. Glorious to win.

STILL, THE NatWest semi-final is not the only cricket to exercise our attention today. There is the small matter of the Test team. One of those being most talked about as likely to suffer the axe is Mark Butcher, who rep-laced Nasser Hussain as captain in the Third Test and gave an exemplary, painfully honest explanation of England's performance after the match.

From being captain to being out of the team in one match would be some journey, though it has been made before. It happened, for instance, to David Gower. Having led England against Australia in 1989 he was omitted from the touring party to West Indies that winter.

In 1988 it happened both to Mike Gatting after one Test in charge in the series against West Indies and to John Emburey after two. (Chris Cowdrey was also a victim that series, but though he never played again after being captain in only the Fourth Test, he was unfit for the next match, rather than being dropped). It may be scant consolation if needed, but Butcher would be in good company.

NO ENGLAND player has yet scored a century in this summer's series. Surely, somebody, anybody will go out at The Oval and reach three figures. The last series in which no England player made a hundred was in the 5- 0 Caribbean Blackwash early in 1986 when David Gower's Fifth Test 90 was top score. But that was West Indies with Garner, Marshall, Walsh and Holding. This isn't.

BOOK MARK

"THERE IS also the necessity for talented players to come through who are ravenously hungry to achieve the consistency that would allow them to compete with, and beat, the very best. This in no way excludes fun and laughter and camaraderie at close of play. But it does include concentration, dedication and unrelenting commitment to the cause during play. That is the way forward for English cricket and I would be honoured if, with the experiences I have and the knowledge I have gained, I could be part of it." Graham Gooch, sacked selector, in My Autobiography.

DON'T STOP THE CARNIVAL

HE CAME billed as one of the world's top all-rounders and Jacques Kallis is beginning to prove the one-day point at least. He made 155 not out in his maiden innings for Glamorgan in the CGU League, a county record. Last week in the double-headed matc#hes in what was once the Sunday League and is now the Anyday League, the South African made 13 and 72 (batting average now 120) and took 1 for 33 and 2 for 33. This is a fellow who has been playing non-stop cricket for two years.

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