Spearman keeps up Kiwi theme as county hero

<preform>Yorkshire 243-6<br>Gloucestershire 247-5<br>Gloucestershire win by 5 wickets</preform>
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The Independent Online

County cricket lives. This point is always worth reinforcing since, although it never quite expired, there have been times when only a foot has been visible because the other one was in the grave.

County cricket lives. This point is always worth reinforcing since, although it never quite expired, there have been times when only a foot has been visible because the other one was in the grave.

In a trice, Twenty20 has come prancing to the rescue. Crowds are flocking to matches, and if they are watching, they are talking about it. This is a gift horse, and to think that some counties were not only willing to look it in the face but to punch it there. The domino effect (and dominoes is one of the few sideshows not yet brought along to spice up matches) should work on the county game generally, and the C & G Trophy, for instance, should be a beneficiary. The point is that county cricketers are stars again. Quite right, too.

This C & G semi-final was one of the key contests of the season, bringing together the holders and the previous year's winners, for whom the England captain, no less, was playing. It was adorned with a fierce, improvised century made by the New Zealander Craig Spearman.

His unbeaten 143 from 122 balls with 14 fours and four sixes allowed Gloucestershire to cruise into their seventh one-day final in six years with 29 balls to spare. This made the suggestion that the toss, which Yorkshire won, was all important look so much tosh. They have won five of the previous six finals. The transfer of power from the former coach, John Bracewell, now with New Zealand, seems to have been seamless. Kings of the short game, if only they were in tomorrow's Twenty20 quarter-finals.

There was a healthy, vociferous crowd. The Gloucestershire supporters have come to expect victory, and let it be known. About Yorkshire there remains an air of hope rather than expectancy. Too many things have happened off the pitch for it to be otherwise. Their arrival in Bristol without their captain, Craig White, can hardly have uplifted them.

White's knee injury, sustained while fielding, could keep him out for the rest of the season. It is but the latest in an interminable litany of knocks to various bodily parts that have blighted his career.

Spearman batted beautifully for his highest score in this competition. He has already made a triple century this season and emerged blazing. After taking some early sighters he took two sixes off Tim Bresnan's second over, from which 21 accrued. They were both no more than timed flicks to leg, one off the back foot, one off the front. Later on, when the slower men came on, he made a profitable delicacy of the reverse sweep.

When watching Spearman it is possible to veer between admiration and wondering what the hell he is doing there. He had played 19 Tests and 51 one-day internationals for New Zealand when he decided to take advantage of his mother's Welsh birth by claiming his British birthright and turning out in county cricket as a home player. He now plays in New Zealand as an overseas batsman. But there is no doubting his pedigree, and as he is still only 32 it is presumably possible that he still has some years of international cricket left in him.

Yorkshire's attack was not at its best, but then the same could probably be reported about their batting. The score of 243 might have been enough on a Bristol pitch which is always deliberately manufactured to be slow and get slower, but they did not get a move-on when they might have done. And although they did not go with sufficient haste, they were also pegged back by spells of sublimely precise seam bowling from Mike Smith, who played for England once, and Jon Lewis, who has never won an international cap and now probably never will. Presumably the selectors want Gloucestershire to show them their trophies.

The loss of wickets at untimely moments did not help Yorkshire. Their start was bold as Matthew Wood, the replacement captain, made 32 in 38 balls but then got out. Similarly, Michael Lumb, who had taken his time to establish himself, was well caught by Steve Adshead, standing up. Adshead, who has taken over from Jack Russell, has absorbed well. Lumb wasted his chance: twice in an over early in his innings he had been caught off free hits which had been granted after no-balls.

Then Vaughan was out, playing an awful-looking shot across the line. Of course, had he connected he would have been praised for his audacity. The pity was that he had taken 21 balls to get off the mark and was presumably aiming to stay around.

Darren Lehmann ensured a presentable score. His 80 off 90 balls was not as dashing as some innings he has played for the county but its purpose was obvious. Had he been accompanied by Ian Harvey for the last five overs, Yorkshire might have made more.

Harvey was keen to show the Glosters what they were missing. He left after last season in search of better things up north. He might be musing on the wisdom of this.