Rain invokes spectre of bowl-out lottery

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The Independent Online

Gloucestershire and Lancashire face the prospect of becoming the first sides ever to book their place in a Lord's final by having a bowl-out following yesterday's wash-out of their NatWest Trophy semi-final at Bristol.

Gloucestershire and Lancashire face the prospect of becoming the first sides ever to book their place in a Lord's final by having a bowl-out following yesterday's wash-out of their NatWest Trophy semi-final at Bristol.

The two sides failed to bowl a ball at the County Ground with persistent showers forcing the umpires, Alan Whitehead and Trevor Jesty, to abandon play just after 4pm.

They have today's reserve day to decide who will meet Warwickshire in the final on 26 August, but if the weather is anything like yesterday's they may be forced to settle the result through cricket's version of the penalty shoot-out.

The playing conditions for this competition state that five players from each side bowls two overarm deliveries at a set of stumps and if no winner is decided then, the same five players will bowl one ball apiece on a sudden-death basis.

The umpires also have the option of playing a reduced overs match if necessary, even down to a 10-over slog - analternative which would be favoured by both sides.

"I wouldn't want to settle a game like this with a bowl-out," said the Lancashire captain, John Crawley, whose side are looking to avenge their Benson and Hedges Cup semi-final defeat by Gloucestershire earlier this season.

"We've not even discussed the prospect of a bowl-out in the dressing-room yet and we're hopeful we can get out on to the field tomorrow for a reduced-overs match if necessary." Gloucestershire's coach, John Bracewell, concurred: "A 10-over match would suit both teams better than a bowl-out, but you have to be prepared for every scenario.

"Bowl-outs are not something you can really practice, but all the bowlers at Gloucestershire bowl at stumps when we're warming up every day and that would not be muchdifferent."

Mark Ramprakash smashed a season-best 61 not out between the showers at Trent Bridge yesterday, but his Middlesex team-mates were denied a likely Second Division victory over Nottinghamshire by more persistent rain.

The England discard's runs came from just 49 balls as Middlesex posted a massive 241 for 3 in an innings shortened by rain to 37 overs.

After Duckworth and Lewis did their work, Nottinghamshire would have been chasing an even more improbable 257 from their 37 overs - but heavy drizzle prevented them even making a start.

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