Spearman casts spell to book another place in final

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The Independent Online

Gloucestershire's five-wicket victory over Yorkshire in the semi-final of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy highlighted just why England are finding it so difficult to produce quality one-day cricketers.

Gloucestershire's five-wicket victory over Yorkshire in the semi-final of the Cheltenham & Gloucester Trophy highlighted just why England are finding it so difficult to produce quality one-day cricketers. Saturday's match, supposedly being played between two of domestic cricket's leading limited-over sides, was dominated by two players unavailable to David Graveney and his fellow selectors.

Yorkshire's Matthew Wood, Michael Lumb and Michael Vaughan, the England captain, all made encouraging starts but each failed to go on to play a match-winning innings. That the visitors posted a challenging total was down to their Australian, Darren Lehmann, who batted in a typically proficient manner throughout his unbeaten innings of 80.

On this occasion, however, Lehmann was completely upstaged by Craig Spearman, a New Zealander, who took Gloucestershire to another Lord's final with a brilliant 143 not out. They will play Worcestershire in a repeat of last year's C&G showpiece.

European law and a few particles of Welsh blood allow the former Test opener to play in England as a non-overseas player, even though he is unavailable to the national selectors. There are many cricketers who have used this route to earn a living here but few have given as much as Spearman, whose presence in the county game has been good for cricket. Yorkshire's bowlers, who were flogged all round Nevil Road, may be reluctant to agree but following this display from the 32-year-old right-hander they will have to admit his presence raises the standard of domestic one-day cricket.

Spearman's 122-ball innings was as close to perfection as you will see in this form of the game. He would have realised that Yorkshire's total of 243 would usually be good enough for a win at Bristol. The pitches here tend to get harder to bat on as the game progresses and the ball gets softer.

Spearman attacked the new ball, and in particular Tim Bresnan, the weaker of Yorkshire's opening bowlers. In Bresnan's first over he struck the medium-pacer for two fours and in his second he clipped him twice over square leg for six. Matthew Hoggard was the pick of Yorkshire's attack, but the first delivery of his next over also disappeared over the deep square leg boundary for six.

Ninety-two runs were scored during the first 15 overs - while fielding restrictions were in place - which meant the holders never had to worry about the run-rate. After that Spearman took the easy runs that were available and punished the bad balls, of which there were far too many from a line-up containing six international bowlers.

Wood, the Yorkshire captain, constantly changed his attack and introduced his spinners early. But Spearman swept and reverse-swept Richard Dawson and Lehmann and by the end they must have wondered whether they were bowling at a right or left-hander.

His hundred came up off the 84th delivery he faced and it was fitting that he scored the winning runs with 23 balls of the game remaining.

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