Cricket: Lewis the top gun

Nottinghamshire 269 and 201 Gloucestershire 317 and 154-3 Gloucestershire win by 7 wickets
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The Independent Online
JON LEWIS, bowling on the brisk side of medium and obeying the ancient verities of line and length on a decent four- day wicket, eased Gloucestershire into a winning position yesterday morning.

His second-innings 7 for 56 was a career best, he took 10 wickets in a match for the first time, and his season's first-class tally now stands at 43. With the fruitful Mike Smith nursing a brace of bone fractures to fibula and hand, Lewis's form is timely for a club jostling for the comfort zone in the Championship's top nine positions.

For three days this was a proper contest, but Nottinghamshire began yesterday a fragile 128 ahead, with four wickets in hand to ease them towards a total they could defend.

Lewis, however, was having none of it. He removed Vasbert Drakes and Paul Franks in his first and second overs of the morning, and Mark Bowen was run out misjudging a sharp single to Tim Hancock at mid-on.

Mathew Dowman, the overnight survivor, and Richard Stemp offered a little resistance before Lewis struck again 50 minutes into the day. When Stemp snicked to Mark Alleyne at second slip the visitors left Gloucester a target of 154.

The Bristol crowd are much resigned to the brittleness of their team's batting, however, and it was not until 50 was passed just before lunch, with all wickets intact, that they allowed themselves to relax into their interval refreshment.

Jack Russell was promoted to open the Gloucester innings in mid-May, and as far as one can tell beneath the helmet and the sunglasses he is enjoying himself. After this career change somewhat late in life, he is sitting proudly on top of the county's batting list, with an average on the right side of 40. In partnership with Hancock, he forms the left- right combination that unsettles many opening bowlers, even when the left- hander is not as infuriatingly eccentric as Russell.

Drakes and Paul Franks could make no impression on him with their brisk new-ball attack, and indeed the umpires found it necessary to warn Franks to curb his open frustration at Russell's apparently bottomless well of good fortune. But he does squirt out those yorkers, he does waft the ball into empty space, in between the clunking drives and fearless pulls, and no doubt he always will.

After Hancock had been persuaded by Stemp to tread on his wicket attempting a cut, Russell and Rob Cunliffe took Gloucester to within 25 runs of victory. Once they had been parted Gloucestershire made heavy weather of securing what was now an inevitable success, Kim Barnett spending 13 overs in scoring a single, plus the winning run, but by mid-afternoon the formalities were completed.

Nothing less than a first division berth next season could possibly satisfy Gloucestershire after finishing fourth last year and with Somerset also winning yesterday this efficient performance completed a good day for the West Country.