Cricket: Smith sweats on Cup final selection

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The Independent Online
GLOUCESTERSHIRE'S leading bowler Michael Smith is sweating over whether he will be picked to face Yorkshire, the county of his birth, in the Benson & Hedges Super Cup final at Lord's on 1 August.

Smith has formed a productive partnership with Courtney Walsh over the past decade at the County Ground, but now the West Indian pace bowler has gone in acrimonious circumstances and Smith was left out of the semi- final victory over Sussex despite declaring himself fit after recovering from a leg injury.

Smith has a formidable record at Lord's - where he achieved his career-best figures of 8-73 against Middlesex three years ago - and against Yorkshire, too. But he believes it will be "touch and go" as to whether he is part of Gloucestershire's first final at HQ for 22 years.

His semi-final replacement, Michael Cawdron, came in for some early punishment from the Sussex batsmen but then hit back to claim three wickets as part of a dramatic collapse.

"I declared myself fit for the semi-final and the NatWest game with Derby," Smith said. "I said I had not given up on proving my fitness and, having done that, to be told I wasn't playing was heart-breaking.

"It was an awful week for me. Mark Alleyne felt it would be a bit unfair to change the team, which was very disappointing for me because I had been here eight or nine years without us having many big games.

"I was a bit confused. Anyone who gets left out finds it hard to take - especially when I've been at the forefront of the bowling for a few years with Walshy. It was hard to take. But once I accepted it - which took a couple of days - I got behind the lads.

"If I play in the final it would make up for it, but I think it's touch and go. Do you pick me or the team that got the county to Lord's? I'm glad I don't need to make the decision.

"Michael Cawdron has not let anyone down and has picked up wickets, but then I've not let anyone down over nine years."

The Dewsbury-born Smith, who used to sell burgers from a van outside Elland Road, admitted it would be special to play against Yorkshire.

"I would love to play at Lord's against Yorkshire and I've had a whole lot of people from back home ringing me up for tickets," he said. "I've got a good record against Yorkshire in the past - and so have Gloucestershire. We've been a bit of a bogey side to them in the Championship, and the one-dayers have been shared.

"I think the way that Yorkshire have played means people will make them slight favourites, but it couldn't be closer. Yorkshire have choked on a few semi-finals in the past but they've made it through this time and have several international players.

"We are in good form but are not used to the big occasion, so it couldn't be a closer game to call in my opinion."

Smith, who made his one Test appearance two years ago - ironically at Headingley - added: "Lord's has been a good ground for me and left-armers in general, with the slope from the Pavilion End being ideal.

"It's a ground where I have got the ball to swing quite a lot and where I got my career- best. I just hope I am picked to play."

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