Cricket: Walsh in top gear

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The Independent Online
Lancashire 294 and 213

Gloucestershire 450 and 58-1

Gloucs win by nine wickets

COURTNEY WALSH was last off the field after Lancashire's second innings at Cheltenham and as he stood at the gate obliging small boys with his autograph, the crowd around him applauded. As well they might. Walsh had bowled for Gloucestershire the way he does for the West Indies and his 5 for 83 had set up their first win of the season in his third county game as captain.

Walsh is 30 now and sometimes this season, playing for a demoralised team, his mind has seemed elsewhere. But yesterday he seemed inspired by the responsibility of captaincy and the rare scent of victory. He looked taller than his 6ft 51 2 in; his run seemed longer and faster; the bounce on a true wicket looked steeper. If his figures look expensive it is because Lancashire's tail-enders used the edge of the bat as an offensive weapon, hitting fours over the outstretched arms of the three slips.

Walsh was tired by the end of his second long spell, but he intended to finish what he started. He got the first three wickets, and the last two.

Lancashire were already in a difficult position when their second innings began. A performance in the field that varied from lacklustre to inept allowed Gloucestershire to score 450, and Mark Alleyne to reach 142 not out. On Friday he had taken four hours to score 69. Yesterday he doubled that in less than two hours. Indeed, the bowling was so unenthusiastic that Kevin Cooper was able to score his first 50 in 17 years of county cricket.

Without detracting from Walsh's passion, Lancashire's top batsman showed no more will to work than the bowlers. Perhaps this was because of the passion, but the first six wickets fell for 69 and only when Neil Fairbrother limped in with a runner did recovery begin. He got 38, Warren Hegg used the edge valiantly for 49, and Gloucester were set more runs to win than they had expected.

But they were having no trouble getting them. The 58 required came off 13 overs for the loss of only one wicket. It was a memorable day for them; one for Lancashire to try to forget.