Gloucestershire grace Lord's again

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The Independent Online

Gloucestershire made their way to their fourth successive Lord's one-day final with surprising ease and in doing so became the first county ever to achieve the feat.

Gloucestershire made their way to their fourth successive Lord's one-day final with surprising ease and in doing so became the first county ever to achieve the feat.

The basis of their victory over Lancashire in the NatWest semi-final was the batting of Kim Barnett, Jack Russell and Tim Hancock, who took the score to 180 before the second wicket fell in the 40th over after they had been put in to bat.

But an incident in the first over of a mercifully fine day undoubtedly unsettled Lancashire. Barnett cut at a very wide one from Glenn Chapple and there was a unanimous appeal for a catch behind. The umpire Alan Whitehead not only turned it down but, adding insult to perceived injury, signalled a wide.

Channel 4's famous Snickometer did not appear to detect contact between bat and ball, but modern technology is far from infallible. Mike Atherton's initial jubilation at first slip was not necessary either, but Lancashire all too clearly nursed a grievance after that and, while nursing it, wasted a good morning on which to bowl. Their control was poor.

Barnett, who will go to his fifth successive Lord's final having played in the NatWest final for Derbyshire just before he joined Gloucestershire, went on to construct a partnership of 55 with Hancock for the first wicket. After that Lancashire had to suffer the batting high jinks and idiosyncrasies ofRussell for what must have been 101 extremely irritating minutes.

Both Russell and Barnett had some luck but put on 125 for the second wicket. Gloucestershire then lost wickets towards the end although Mark Alleyne, as usual, made a useful contribution. Even so, with a very slow outfield a target of 249 was always going to take a lot of getting.

As it was, Lancashire made a dreadful start to their innings against some tightly controlled bowling by Mike Smith and Johnathan Lewis. In the fifth over when the score was only three, Atherton drove firm-footed at Lewis and Alleyne dived far to his right at second slip and held a beauty.

Atherton's place was taken by Andy Flintoff who stood up and drove his third ball magnificently off the back foot to the cover boundary. It was a stroke which will have sent shivers down Gloucestershire spines for they will have remembered all too well his 135 not out against Surrey in the quarter-finals. Soon afterwards, he played a similar stroke against Smith.

At the other end, it took Sourav Ganguly 22 balls to get off the mark and then almost at once he was squared up by Smith and flailed across the line of a ball on or just outside the off stump. It threw off a thick outside edge to third man where Lewis, running full tilt to his left, went sprawling forward on his knees before managing to hold on to an outstanding catch.

There were one or two more powerful blows by Flintoff, but when the score had reached 43 in the 14th over he tried to pull a ball from James Averis which was not quite short enough. It hit the bat near the splice and flew low and straight to Tim Hancock at square leg.

By then John Crawley had begun well with some lovely strokes on both sides of the wicket. He was joined by Neil Fairbrother and together they had the tricky job of trying not to let the asking rate rise too much above six an over while not getting out.

Gloucestershire's fielding was superb and, as always in this type of cricket, they were shrewdly handled by Alleyne who won the man of the match award for a fine all-round performance. While Crawley was at his best, Fairbrother was less sure and when they had put on 45 he charged down the pitch to Alleyne and holed out to Lewis at long on.

In the next over, the 28th, Lancashire's challenge effectively ended. Crawley played Martyn Ball to Matt Windows' left at mid-on and set off for a run. Joe Scuderi did not respond and Windows, who is left handed - something Crawley may have momentarily forgotten - threw to Jack Russell and Lancashire's main hope was stranded out of his ground.

Eight runs later, at 98, Ball's throw to Russell from backward point ran out Warren Hegg and one run after that Chris Schofield was bowled playing a horrid-looking reverse sweep at Ball. The end was only delayed by some entertaining belligerence by Ian Austin and Peter Martin. The truth was that on the day Lancashire had been unable to compete.

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