Cricket: Slow-motion Warwickshire

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Gloucestershire 372-9 dec

Warwickshire 24-0

WARWICKSHIRE had long won the Championship and it seemed that everyone was simply going through the motions here yesterday. But after tea, with the traditional farewells of Monday evening coming ever closer, the tempo quickened as one or two players took the opportunity to prove a point.

Last season Dean Hodgson topped 1,000 runs and the Gloucestershire batting averages. This year, after a miserable start, he struggled even to get a first XI game, and had a highest score of 32 before taking tea yesterday on a nervous 99, and moving to a careful 100 immediately afterwards.

Warwickshire's left-arm spinner Richard Davis, newly arrived this year from Kent, has also had an in-and-out season. But he has now netted two six- wicket hauls in his last four matches, and enjoyed his marathon spell yesterday.

Brain Lara and Gladstone Small remained under wraps, cossetted for today's vital game, when Warwickshire at last took the field. The rain that swept up from the West last week had clipped away the first half of this fixture, turning Warwickshire's lap of honour into at best a two-day sprint. Jack Russell won the toss on behalf of Courtney Walsh and between them they decided to deny Warwickshire batting practice.

Anti-climax it may have seemed to the visitors, a mere pause before the last big Sunday on which they hope to win their third trophy of the season, but meanwhile Gloucester steadily built a bargaining position for whatever contrivances might be necessary to keep the truncated game alive.

Matt Windows, and big hitting from Tim Hancock and Martyn Ball supported Hodgson. Whereas Windows' run- out, from a direct hit by Trevor Penney, had seemed like a blur in a slow- motion afternoon, the evening pace hurried towards a declaration with 40 minutes remaining. By this time, thanks to Reeve's reliance on spin, the minimum over requirement had already been completed. Andy Moles and Roger Twose survived a brief Walsh spell before the ground staff hurried out to set the stage for today.