Fast delivery gives fitting farewell to Bracewell

Worcestershire 149 Gloucestershire 150-3 <i>Gloucs win by 7 wickets</i>
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The Independent Online

There have been larger margins of victory in domestic cricket's showpiece final than Gloucestershire's seven-wicket walloping of Worcestershire but it is hard to imagine that any of the previous 40 contests have been quite so one-sided.

There have been larger margins of victory in domestic cricket's showpiece final than Gloucestershire's seven-wicket walloping of Worcestershire but it is hard to imagine that any of the previous 40 contests have been quite so one-sided.

After restricting their opponents to a pathetic 149 it took the "Glorious Glosters" just 92 minutes and 123 balls to wrap up Saturday's Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy Final. The contest officially finished at 4.10pm with 177 balls remaining but for most here it was over before they considered what was on the lunch menu.

Ian Harvey, Gloucestershire's Australian overseas player, ensured that those with plans for the evening had plenty of time to get ready. By smashing a whirlwind 61 off 36 balls, the all-rounder even allowed time for a pre-journey aperitif. The Victorian's flashing blade and early wickets during Worcestershire's feeble batting display deservedly won him the man of the match award.

For the Gloucestershire captain, Mark Alleyne, and his magnificent team this flawless performance was the perfect farewell gift for John Bracewell, their departing coach. After six successful seasons driving the county forward, the former New Zealand all-rounder leaves Bristol at the end of the summer to take over the responsibility of coaching the country he played for with passion during the Eighties.

Having guided the West Country side to seven limited-over trophies, the 45-year-old can leave with his head held high. The team he has helped to create remain the undisputed kings of English one-day cricket. No side has dominated this form of the game to such an extent since Bob Woolmer and Dermot Reeve ran Warwickshire in the mid-Nineties.

The victory, over opponents who will have to look at a video of the match - if they dare - to check that they turned up, came through the same simple methods that have served Gloucestershire so well in the past. Through disciplined bowling and scintillating fielding this committed team strangle the life out of opponents.

They have very few stars - and no England players - they work and trust each other and they make the most of their resources. Their desire to have a team of committed men rather than a group of talented individuals is an ethic that England would be wise to adopt.

Worcestershire, having been invited to bat by Alleyne, started well on a good pitch. At 64 for 0, the wisdom of the captain's decision to give his opponents first use of a dry, cracked surface was beginning to be questioned. As is almost always the case with Gloucestershire, it only took one moment of hesitation between Vikram Solanki and Anurag Singh for them to pounce.

There are many fielders to whom batsmen should not be looking to take a quick single but none more so than Jonty Rhodes. Solanki, who had played some glorious strokes in his 40, sought such a run but was sent back by Singh only to be beaten by the Rhodes/Alleyne combination. This wicket started a collapse of Marconi share-price proportions.

Graeme Hick, after a warm reception, weakly chipped his fourth ball to extra-cover and in the next 10 overs Worcestershire were reduced to 99 for 6. Urged on by the immaculate Jack Russell, who acts as play-maker behind the stumps, Gloucestershire rendered "The Pears" shotless.

Steve Rhodes and Gareth Batty tried to repair the damage but they fell in consecutive overs from Jon Lewis as the medium-pacer was reintroduced into the attack.

Matt Mason was brilliantly stumped down the leg side by Russell before Nantie Hayward summed up the inadequate nature of Worcestershire's batting when he mindlessly slogged the off-spin of Martyn Ball to deep mid-wicket with 21 balls of their innings remaining.

In reply, Craig Spearman and Philip Weston opened up like men who wanted the party to start early. Thirty runs had been struck off the first 17 balls of the innings before Spearman drilled Kabir Ali - who was trying to impress the England selectors on the eve of the announcement of the squad for the final Test - to Ben Smith, the captain, at mid-off.

This early setback did not appear to worry Harvey or Weston who continued aggressively, swiping anything in their half straight back over the bowler's head. For Weston, who left Worcestershire at the end of the 2002 season because he had not been considered worthy of a place in their one-day side, this innings, and indeed the day, must have been as satisfying as any in his career.

The day, however, belonged to Bracewell. England will find out how much New Zealand benefit from his endeavour when the Kiwis tour this country next summer, but in the West Country he will be missed. The man who takes over from him will have one of the toughest jobs in county cricket.

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