Cricket: Russell revives Gloucester

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The Independent Online
WHEN Somerset set off in pursuit of 259 to win this match, 14 overs before tea yesterday, it was still in the balance. Gloucester had posted a higher total than seemed likely at start of play, but the wicket was flat and well-behaved, the weather perfect, and the visitors had all weekend to win.

An inspired Courtney Walsh then wobbled that balance with a 14-over spell, either side of tea, in which he got steep bounce from a placid pitch, angling the ball from round the wicket, and beat Somerset down to 17 for four.

As the crowd had grown during a warm, clear morning so had the optimism of the locals, thanks to the diligent repair work of Tim Hancock and Jack Russell. Somerset had already made deep cuts into Gloucester's second innings, and at this stage had hopes of turning the West Country derby into a three-day fixture.

They were handicapped in this aim by being deprived of the services of their opening bowler Andy Caddick, who nursed a back strain on a bench in the sun. And when Somerset resumed after lunch with their opening batsmen, their skipper Andy Hayhurst and Mark Lathwell, sharing the bowling and offering gentle swing and part-time off-breaks respectively, it suggested that Somerset's game plan had undergone some revision over the ham salad.

Gloucester's early hope of setting a tricky target lay with the tall, determined left-hander Simon Hinks, 63 not out overnight. But a scuttling straight ball from Neil Mallender undid him, leaving Gloucester half dead by 11.20.

Then came the recuperation. Hancock, a compact player yet to fulfil his promise after three seasons, and the fighting Russell had by lunch ensured that Somerset would have to build a substantial innings to win. Hancock had a life at 33, top-edging Mushtaq Ahmed to Graham Rose, sprinting round to square leg, but the chance was grounded.

Hancock and Russell added 93, substantially the game's highest stand, but Gloucester's innings subsided somewhat carelessly, leaving the hard- working Russell stranded.

Walsh, having accepted the responsibility of captaining an under-achieving side, then went to work himself, turning a featherbed into a terror track. But he was too tired to finish the job when he returned, and at stumps the newcomer Vinnie Clarke and an edgy Mallander had batted Somerset into Sunday.