There is life in the old dogs yet. Their label as the one-day kings of domestic cricket may have looked a bit tattered this summer, but Gloucestershire treated the pretenders to their Norwich Union crown to a severe jolt yesterday.
The defeat did not kill off Leicestershire's title hopes, more than likely it has simply delayed the inevitable. But it certainly served as a rude awakening to a team that had strung together an unbeaten 13-match run in limited-overs cricket up the middle of August.
How they must hate the West Country. Somerset ended that run, then beat them in last weekend's C&G Trophy final. Yesterday Gloucestershire did for them. But the Foxes can still steal the title, if they win their remaining matches, against Warwickshire at home tomorrow and Nottinghamshire on Sunday.
Gloucestershire had a more immediate problem, having entered the match in the relegation zone. Victory was vital. And Ben Smith gave the home fans a scare with a brilliant half-century off 48 balls, as Leicestershire chased a reduced target.
Unfortunately Darren Stevens called him for a non-existent run just when their partnership was starting to blossom and hopes of victory withered as the Gloucestershire attack and excellent fielding strangled the life out of them.
There had been an urgency to Gloucestershire's innings from the start as Tim Hancock and Kim Barnett set about the somewhat slack Leicestershire attack. The pair had clicked along to 66 after 10 overs, but that haste was brought to a halt by the foxy Leicestershire captain, Vince Wells. The first ball of his opening over was dispatched to the boundary for Barnett's third four, but the batsman had the temerity to step down the track to Wells' next ball and lost his off-stump for his pains.
The Australian Ian Harvey came and went, having scored 13 runs off his first seven balls, thankfully Jack Russell came in and anchored an end, while Hancock continued on his merry way and the West Country side were fairly rattling along at more than six an over, with Hancock maintaining a near breakneck pace of a run a ball.
Hancock hit one immense six off Devon Malcolm, the ball clearing the bowler, the boundary and pretty well everything else, and he had also picked off eight boundaries by the time Shahid Afridi was introduced into the attack. The Pakistani leg-spinning all-rounder got into his stride, then tempted Hancock into an injudicious cut, which cost him his off-stump.
Thereafter the Gloucestershire innings drew to a sliding stop. It never quite ended, but then again it never quite picked up the original momentum. It was not until Rob Cunliffe, who has been given permission by the club to seek another county, and Mark Alleyne added a brisk 50, then right at the close Martyn Ball had a brief carve, that some of the early promise was fulfilled.Reuse content