Gloucestershire 237-7Sussex 208-9Gloucestershire win by 29 runs
The comparative strengths of Australian and English cricket were starkly underlined at the County Ground yesterday.
First, Ian Harvey rescued Gloucestershire, who had found themselves at 54 for 4 in the 21st over, with a resounding innings of 86, and then Sussex, as always, had to rely on the stroke play of Michael Bevan. He was in a different class from any other of the Sussex batsmen. Until his arrival, in the 12th over with the score 30 for 2, they had been finding it hard work to keep the score moving against steady bowling and brilliant fielding.
Suddenly Bevan began to pick his bat up high and to find the boundary. A lovely drive off the back foot against James Averis brought him four to backward point and was followed, in the same over, by a scorching front-foot stroke through extra cover. He made it look a different game just as Harvey had done earlier in the day.
Bevan now, consciously and visibly, adjusted when he spotted Mark Alleyne's slower ball and drove it dismissively to the extra cover boundary - a most glorious stroke.
It was his partner Robert Montgomerie's job to give Bevan the strike, just as Alleyne had done for Harvey in what had turned out to be the decisive stand of the match. These two had put on 132 for Gloucestershire in 20 overs and Harvey won the Man of the Match award.
Montgomerie is ideally suited for this sort of supporting role and his departure now was something of a mystery. He and Bevan met in mid pitch after the 24th over and in the next, bowled by Alleyne, Montgomerie used his feet for the first time, drove and started immediately to run. Alleyne himself half fielded and Bevan was unable to respond to Montgomerie until he was sure the ball would not be deflected back on to the stumps. By then it was too late. Montgomerie was committed and he was left stranded when Tim Hancock picked the ball up at mid-on. One could only wonder what had been said to persuade Montgomerie to desert his passive supporting duties. It was his job to stay until the match was won.
James Carpenter took time to settle after Umer Rashid's quick dismissal and Bevan lost his momentum, but even so Sussex needed 92 from 12 overs. Six runs later Bevan swung a shade impatiently at Martyn Bell and skied a catch to mid-wicket. Sussex's realistic hopes departed with him, although Carpenter stayed on to complete a worthy 50.
Sussex had begun so well, too, after Gloucestershire had won a good toss on a slow, even pitch. A direct hit by Robin Martin-Jenkins from mid-off, with one stump to aim at, accounted for Hancock and he then dismissed Jeremy Snape and Matt Windows in his first two overs. In his full 10 overs he took 2 for 24, including a pulled six in his last, and bowled superbly.
The key moment came, when Alleyne had made a single and followed one from Martin-Jenkins. It flicked the outside edge and Chris Adams, normally such a safe catcher in the slips, put one down low and two handed in front of him.
Harvey, with some magnificent attacking strokes, now posed the question yet again: Why are the present generation of Australian cricketers apparently so much more capable, composed and confident than their English equivalents?