Lethal Lewis sends the finale west

The seamer England ignored strikes three early hammer blows to set up victory but stifle the occasion

At 11.12am yesterday, some 27 minutes after the start of play, Gloucestershire retained the C & G Trophy, winning it for the fourth time in six years. The proceedings did not technically end and the trophy was not formally presented until seven hours later.

At 11.12am yesterday, some 27 minutes after the start of play, Gloucestershire retained the C & G Trophy, winning it for the fourth time in six years. The proceedings did not technically end and the trophy was not formally presented until seven hours later.

Indeed, the most handsome cricket of the day was played immediately after that by Vikram Solanki, who scored a century that was beautifully timed in every sense. But when Worcestershire lost three wickets by the seventh over with eight runs on the board that was effectively that. It meant that the Glorious Glosters remained one-day kings and that this tournament has now gone 11 years without a pulsating final contest. These things cannot be manufactured, but the feeling grows that the occasion needs an occasion.

The result, an eight-wicket victory for the holders, became official after 43.5 overs of Gloucestershire's innings, which contained the second century of the day.

This was scored with growing assurance by Philip Weston. What was as assured as his innings was that after 13 seasons in the professional game this was his greatest moment. For the journeyman pro there can be nothing finer, not even ham and eggs in Carolina, than scoring a hundred at Lord's in a final.

It was a horrible defeat for Worcestershire. Neither the margin of victory nor the overs to spare were as great as last year, when they were humbled by the same opponents, but it was all equally predictable. Worcestershire's innings began and finished in catastrophe. From 8 for 3 at the start, they then lost 7 for 34 at the end.

Fortunately, sandwiched between these forlorn bookends was something uplifting and substantial: a robust partnership of 194 from 231 balls between Solanki and David Leatherdale. It is difficult to overestimate their value. The early moisture in the pitch was sufficient to make old-fashioned straight English seamers think they can make the ball talk.

Jon Lewis, supported admirably by James Averis, went better than that. He was relentlessly accurate, probing both ways off an upright seam. In his hands the ball was not only talking, but singing, dancing and, you could swear in the quiet moments, whistling Dixie. It was extremely high-class bowling. Lewis has long been highly regarded by the sages around the county circuit and has been rewarded (belatedly, say some) by being put on reserve for England's winter tour. Averis was no less miserly.

Stephen Moore nicked a good ball that moved fractionally away, Graeme Hick survived a powerful shout for leg-before to his first ball that seamed in. But it mattered not, because three balls later Hick edged behind and Smith then pushed one low to gully. Lewis had 3 for 4 in 11 balls.

Circumspection was the only worthwhile weapon at the disposal of the fourth-wicket pair. Anything other than the utmost care would have deepened the wound. The main question was whether Solanki could be trusted. He could, and how.

Beaten a time or two (and why not) and ready to acknowledge the bowler for doing so, he made sure he got well forward and tried nothing too elaborate. Progress was slow, naturally, but Solanki and Leatherdale, a model of forbearance, gradually became prepared to accelerate.

Solanki was admirable, and when he decided it was safe to do so, he played some corking strokes, frequently through the off-side, but was equally prepared to employ his wrists to manufacture something easy on the eye through leg.

Still, he departed when the job was not quite done, charging Martyn Ball's hapless off- spin and missing. That sparked the late collapse. Had Solanki remained, it is possible another 20 runs might have been gathered. As it is, the rest came in and had no option but to throw the bat. They threw it one ball and were dismissed the next.

In this crazy whirl, Averis took four wickets in six balls, including the first hat-trick in a Lord's final since Ken Higgs for Leicestershire in the Benson & Hedges Cup 30 years ago. Thus he finished with superior figures to Lewis, and if he was not to be begrudged that nor did it make him the architect of the destruction.

Whether a score of 236 was enough to make Gloucestershire sweat to retain their title did not occupy minds for long. Weston and Craig Spearman set off at breakneck pace. They had luck as well as judgement. Both played false shots, Leatherdale, moving from hero to zero, putting down a looping dolly when Spearman was 53.

But Weston, carving away in upright fashion, was there at the end having faced 129 balls and struck 12 fours and a six. It was not as comely as Solanki's 115 from 136 balls, and nor was it made in adversity. Still, Weston was on the winning side.

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