The most formidable run of one-day form in English history was brought to a routine end yesterday. Gloucestershire's record in the domestic limited-overs competitions had spanned five trophies, three seasons and a collection of performances which exuded efficiency and belief if not frequent thrills.
It foundered in a drab Benson and Hedges Cup final which began late, contained few periods of excitement, possessed little initiative and was witnessed by a disturbingly small crowd of fewer than 20,000. Maybe a few had turned up on 14 May, the date the official scorecards said the match was taking place. Surrey won by 47 runs with 4.1 overs to spare after recovering from a stuttering start to produce the sort of competent team performance which was the benchmark of Gloucestershire's successes.
The overriding impression was that one-day domestic finals at Lord's are no longer an occasion, an event to move the spirit. There used to be a buzz in the old arena, now it was a hush in the close.
The gold award winner was Ben Hollioake, who came in when Surrey were 118 for 5 and made 73 from 76 balls. When his county last won this competition four years ago, Hollioake was the brightest young thing around, the future of the game in this country. There have been some wilderness years since, partly down to him, partly down to those who have failed to nurture his talent, but he demonstrated again that he is a Big Time Player, and BTPs are not thick on the ground in England.
Still, his efforts could take Surrey only to 244, which was not the most intimidating of targets for a side who have prospered on their refusal to consider defeat. Instead, Gloucestershire never got going, and nor did their case for better representation in the England squad. It was Surrey who might have done better in that regard, with Alex Tudor, especially, and Martin Bicknell both doing what they had to with the new ball.
It is unfortunate and unfair, but the Glorious Glosters gave succour only to those who say they are country- bumpkin overachievers who were riding for a fall. How the Brown Hatters, perceived as arrogant metropolitan cocks of the walk, will have loved it.
It might have been different. At 118 for 5, Surrey's innings might not have been in tatters but it was distinctly frayed at the edges. All their star batsmen had departed, three who will definitely play in the Test here this week, one who probably will and another who can wreak carnage in the twinkling of an eye.
After winning the toss and batting, it was with a firm expectation that one of the quintet would either anchor the innings or make a significant score. There was no reason to think that this supposition was groundless when the first of them, Mark Butcher, departed to the first ball of the third over. He simply got himself into a tangle against Ian Harvey's late, full inswing with the new ball.
This was no cause for alarm given that Mark Ramprakash now joined Ian Ward. For 40 minutes on his old stamping ground where he has been heavenly for Middlesex and hellish for England Ramprakash was divine. He was utterly unfettered, his choice and execution of shot was a joy.
It was time to sit back and enjoy the ride, to watch one of the great unfulfilled batsman of the generation deliver a reminder of his rich talent mere days before he returns again to the Last Chance Saloon (international branch). Inexplicably, he then pulled what might be politely called a short ball from Alleyne, but was nearer a long-hop, in the air to square leg. The immediate instinct was to look in the direction of the top tier of the Grandstand, but Ramprakash had fatally underclubbed and the ball landed in Chris Taylor's hands.
Still, no worries with Alec Stewart bristling in, squeaky clean again, and that's official. Not long after, he drilled an intended drive to another innocuous delivery from Alleyne straight to mid-off. Alistair Brown's front-foot drive to a gentle away-swinger ended up with first slip, and followers of the Brown Hatters might have needed brown underwear with their side not yet into three figures. Alleyne had taken 3 for 8 in 24 balls: he is not captain of the most successful one-day side in English history for nothing.
When Ian Ward, the least illustrious of their Test players but a Test player nevertheless, reached for a ball outside off stump and edged behind, Surrey had tottered rather than advanced to 118 for 5. But with the impetus of Ward, who made his 54 from 59 balls, and Ramprakash, whose 39 took 33 balls, only 25 overs had gone.
It meant that the brothers Hollioake could consolidate as well as rotate. They did both with aplomb. Adam was the more circumspect, Benthe more authoritative. Twice he rocked and rolled on his heels to pull into the Grandstand for six (how Ramprakash must have envied him). Sometimes it was little more than controlled slogging, but it was Ben the BTP on view.
The pair had taken Surrey to something approaching renewed good health, putting on 84 in 104 balls, and 260 was a serious proposition again. That receded when Hollioake, A J, decided it was appropriate to increase the risk factor, reverse-swept and was lbw.
Hollioake, B C, was eventually out swiping one to wide mid-on, but his job was done and Surrey had less than they would have expected before the innings, more than they dared hope once it had started, probably about par for the Lord's course.
Gloucestershire were always in chains. They banked on a resolute beginning, hoping to increase the pace with wickets in hand. But the parsimony of Bicknell and Tudor meant risks against the rest and Ed Giddins benefited.
Jack Russell's 62 in 96 balls was eccentrically stoic, and he and Alleyne offered brief hope that the run would be sustained. It fizzled out thereafter. The crowd were warned for the first time at Lord's not to go on the pitch, even at the end. It was probably the last thing on their minds.Reuse content