Cricket: Russell reels them in

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .322-9 dec and 39-4

Middlesex . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .251-8 dec

SHOULD Jack Russell be harbouring any grievances over his shabby treatment by the England selectors, the red mist has certainly not obscured his vision, nor indeed his standing as the country's - if not the game's - foremost wicketkeeper.

Proof came in the third over of the Middlesex innings yesterday. Reacting with breathtaking swiftness when Courtney Walsh made one lift and leave Mike Roseberry, Russell took off to snaffle the edge as it sped between first and second slip. To suggest England are barking up the wrong tree by preferring Alec Stewart, a cross-breed to pure pedigree of this ilk, is akin to saying Lassie was a useful retriever.

Sadly, the remainder of the fare here was decidedly more humdrum. Gloucestershire began with Vaughan and Williams in occupation. Harmony, though, was lacking and it was the bowlers who initially called the tune, three wickets falling for five runs before Bill Athey eventually let the restless natives off the hook and declared.

Walsh soon profited from Russell's magic, one of three victims on the day to take the Jamaican back to the head of the national wicket-taking list. So much for the perceived wisdom about easing up in your benefit year.

Achieving wobble aplenty in the muggy conditions, Vaughan then twice received the benefit of the doubt - which, lest it be forgotten, is supposed to favour the batsman - to elicit leg-before rulings against Desmond Haynes and John Carr, the latter appearing to have had his treasure chest raided.

Mike Gatting now erupted like some dormant volcano as he collected eight boundaries in 11 scoring shots either side of lunch. Not until a rash charge at Mark Davies saw him bowled for 86 did his seventh century of the summer lose its air of inevitability.

Middlesex were then indebted to a sixth-wicket stand of 55 between Paul Weekes and John Emburey after plunging to 164 for 6. Fuelling the argument against batsmen-stumpers, Keith Brown made eight, dragging his season's average down to 24.33 to Russell's 42.81. Game, set and match to the traditionalists.

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