Cricket: Marsh makes a match

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire 142 and 212-3 Kent 163

THREE PLAYERS produced by Gloucestershire are in the top 10 run scorers of all time. The successors to W G Grace, Wally Hammond and Tom Graveney have resolutely refused to make any attempt to emulate them this season. Their batting has yielded 10 paltry bonus points, fewer than any other side in the Championship. It is no sort of way to show respect to your elders and betters.

Such has been their fragility that some of their most seasoned observers expected this match to be finished on the second day. Seventeen wickets had fallen on the first and since Kent have been almost equally inefficient in gathering first- innings runs there was scant reason to presume too many players would be hanging round.

The England and Wales Cricket Board's inspector of pitches was called in but this was merely to accord with regulations (if 15 wickets tumble on day one of a match he is in business) and nobody seriously expected his verdict to be other than: "Competent groundsmanship, rank bad batting."

Despite their failures to post totals which enter the realms of adequacy, these sides have somehow managed to reach fourth and fifth places in the table.If that implies something about standards, it also says much for their bowling and their team spirit. Both teams showed elements of the latter in ensuring the game made at least the third day and, who knows, might require a third-innings declaration and a fourth-innings runs chase tomorrow. Gloucestershire were much more proficient yesterday and by the evening were 191 ahead and Kent will have to find a similar improvement to win.

Kent had been 54 for 7 in pursuing Gloucestershire's dismal 142. The first-day pitch had exhibited some pace but that was to encourage the faster men rather than open the floodgates. Steve Marsh has dug his side out of so many holes over the years that his shovel must be worn down, and his 60 from 128 balls to secure a first-innings lead was characteristic of his virtues down the years.

Gloucestershire's response was determined. The bounce had all but disappeared and Martin McCague was nowhere near as threatening as he had appeared on the opening morning. There are few faster men around than McCague and, though he or maybe his nerve were found wanting when he played for England, he is perhaps the most rapid bowler to come out of Northern Ireland.

Rob Cunliffe and Tim Hancock were extremely competent. They accumulated 84 together which represented the highest first-wicket partnership at Bristol this season and the highest by Gloucestershire anywhere. When Cunliffe appeared to drag on there was a chance of them faltering. But Hancock went on to compile an assiduous half-century before thinning a catch to Marsh. McCague had Dominic Hewson caught at short leg by David Fulton but in the evening sunshine Mark Alleyne and Matthew Windows played some handsome strokes.