Cricket: Walsh's war of attrition

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The Independent Online
Gloucestershire 390; Worcs 51-2

COURTNEY WALSH backed himself and his trusty assistants to bowl out Worcestershire twice by extending Gloucestershire's innings into a 10th hour. It was attritional, unattractive but possibly effective. Only time will tell, though Walsh himself took two early wickets.

Walsh has already captured five or more in three Championship innings this season. Having bowled his team to an 83-run win over Somerset, Walsh whipped out Sussex in the second match with another 5 for 66.

He took encouragement here from the movement and bounce available for Neal Radford, who returned 4 for 70, and for Phil Newport. Both deserved more because of protracted playing and missing. The whole innings occupied 152.1 overs and was probably more of an advertisement for five-day rather than four-day Championship games.

Gloucestershire produced three half-century makers, including Tony Wright, whose 82 from 207 balls was his highest Championship score for two summers. Now approaching 10,000 career runs, Wright was denied potentially his 13th first- class 100 in his 13th summer on Friday the 13th when being caught at backward square-leg.

Jack Russell edged ahead of his new England arch rival, Steve Rhodes, with an innings of 46 in a ninth-wicket partnership of 64 with Mike Smith when some Worcestershire supporters had already moved on to more exciting diversions such as planting broad beans.

Gloucestershire's bat-on-and- on dilemma was caused by their loss of four wickets for 155 on the first day. The belief of Walsh that 'bowl them out twice' was feasible meant preservation of wickets, and a heavy grind to make Worcestershire seek 241 to avoid the possibility of following on.

They made the start which every Worcestershire devotee feared. Tim Curtis, their time- honoured batting mainstay, was leg-before in Walsh's second over to a ball cutting back and keeping low. Curtis, this season's beneficiary, has scored only 105 runs in eight first-class and one-day innings so far, with a top score of 39.

When Walsh is in full flight, there is hardly a queue of would-be nightwatchmen, but Graeme Hick was there as scheduled with the close-field predators lurking with intent and good reason.

The day, and the game, was in dire need of this needle-sharp approach because the limited excitement had been restricted to whether Gloucestershire would take a third batting point. They did so with two balls to spare.

Wright's innings had epitomised patience. Having scored his first run from the 27th ball he received the previous evening, Wright hit 11 boundaries in a four-hour span.