McGrath inspires Worcestershire's rise

The pains to which Worcestershire went to secure Glenn McGrath as their overseas player for 2000 were vindicated again here but it is in his absence that the Australian fast bowler's full value is likely to be most appreciated.

The pains to which Worcestershire went to secure Glenn McGrath as their overseas player for 2000 were vindicated again here but it is in his absence that the Australian fast bowler's full value is likely to be most appreciated.

Yesterday, McGrath added three wickets to his first-innings return of 7 for 29, giving him 10 for 69 for the match, his best figures for the county. It was the fifth 10-wicket match of his career and his second for Worcestershire, raising his total of Championship wickets to 58 from 11 matches.

A 52-run victory with more than four sessions to spare lifts Worcestershire from fifth place to top - temporarily, at least - in the Second Division.

Enthusiastic predictions of promotion will be tempered, however, by the knowledge that by this time next week McGrath will be back in his homeland, preparing for three one-day internationals against South Africa in Melbourne. He will certainly miss Worcestershire's next two Championship fixtures, possibly three.

If this creates a picture of a one-man team then they are not so by design. After the feats performed last season by their left-arm quick, Alamgir Sheriyar, they might have imagined they possessed the most potent attack in the country but Sheriyar, who took 86 Championship wickets in 1999, has managed only 20 this season. Out of favour since mid-June, he played this time only because the promising Kabir Ali was required by England Under-19.

Ali, of course, was unwittingly at the centre of the eligibility controversy that resulted in Worcestershire's third-round NatWest Trophy win over Gloucestershire last month being declared void.

Ian Harvey wasted little time first thing yesterday in claiming his sixth wicket as Worcestershire's second innings ended at 225 with Steve Rhodes unbeaten on 52.

But to perpetuate the bad feeling between the sides, Gloucestershire, having been dismissed for 87 in the first innings, would have had to score the biggest total of the match, 237. On a slow, sometimes untrustworthy pitch, this was never a proposition with much appeal, although late runs from Jeremy Snape and Martyn Ball kept Worcestershire waiting.

The outcome had looked to be plain sailing. Within five overs, Gloucestershire were 10 for 3, with Sheriyar triumphant when Tim Hancock flicked a half-volley straight into the hands of square leg before McGrath, with two wickets in three balls, had Dominic Hewson caught at first slip and Matt Windows leg before to a nip-backer.

Four down at lunch, they lost two more wickets soon afterwards, but while McGrath was resting Snape and Jack Russell took advantage, adding 63 in 16 overs.

Three wickets in 13 balls by Stuart Lampitt regained theinitiative, but then Ball and Mike Smith put on another 35 for the last wicket before Rhodes, equalling his own Worcestershire record of nine catches in a match, snapped up Smith off Sheriyar.

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