Cricket: Western rivals roll into town

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The Independent Online
IT IS being billed as a Wild West shoot out, but neither Somerset nor Gloucestershire could be described as cowboys. And Lord's, where a sell-out 29,500 crowd will be crammed tomorrow to witness this modest piece of cricket history, is no OK Corral.

But, despite the historic setting, the Gloucestershire coach, John Bracewell, said: "This is a backyard match. The teams know each other so well. Your closest relation is often your fiercest rival. It's a traditional thing, we want to be the best in the west, so do Somerset. It is friendly war, because we get on so well, but when you get down to battle it is eye-scratching stuff."

It is also eye-catching: two of the game's perceived lesser lights have taken over the game's headquarters for the day to contest cricket's blue riband competition, the NatWest Trophy. And not only that; these West Country cousins have put bums on every seat in the ground. In the wake of the doom and gloom which hung around after England's abysmal Test showing - with the honourable exception of the Somerset fast bowler Andrew Caddick, the only West Country representative in the team - it says a lot for the state of the game outside the metropolis.

The Somerset chief executive, Peter Anderson, said: "Just because the England team is poor, it does not follow that cricket is dying in the rest of the country. Our national team may be in decline, but in the West Country the opposite holds true.

"We may be a small county, but we have just redeveloped our ground, we have built a pounds 1m indoor school which is heavily used in the winter for age group coaching. We have set up an academy, where we take on half a dozen 16- to 18-year-olds. It has already produced Matthew Bulbeck, one of the successes for England Under-19 this year.

"In addition we have helped set up a new West of England Premier League, with a network of feeder leagues below it. And our Under-15s, Under-17s and Under-19s have all tasted success this summer. Whatever is happening at the top of the game, cricket is a success story in the West Country."

That much is obvious, culminating in this the first all West Country final in the 37-year history of the competition.

Somerset are favourites for promotion to the CGU National League Division One and look set to make the first division of the revamped County Championships; Gloucestershire have already won one Lord's final, the B&H Super Cup at the beginning of the month. They are a division higher in the National League, although near the foot of the Championship.

While a great deal hangs on the outcome of tomorrow's match - including pounds 52,000 to the winners and pounds 26,000 for the losers - there is possibly even more at stake than meets the eye. West Country cricket, possibly even county cricket, could well benefit from this sort of showdown. It promises to be some shoot out.


GLOUCESTERSHIRE (from): M W Alleyne (capt), K J Barnett, T H C Hancock, R C Russell (wkt), R J Cunliffe, I J Harvey, J N Snape, M G N Windows, M C J Ball, M J Cawdron, A M Smith, J Lewis, B W Gannon.

SOMERSET (from): J Cox (capt), P D Bowler, P C L Holloway, M Burns, M E Trescothick, R J Turner (wkt), K A Parsons, J I D Kerr, P S Jones, A R Caddick, P W Jarvis, G D Rose, M P L Bulbeck.

Umpires: D R Shepherd, N T Plews. Third umpire: M J Kitchen.