Gloucestershire overcame the shock of losing captain Alex Gidman in the warm-up to reach the Friends Provident Trophy semi-finals with a convincing six-wicket win over Nottinghamshire at Bristol yesterday. Gidman had to withdraw from the game with a back spasm, but acting captain Craig Spearman led from the front with 50 not out as the Gladiators reached their target of 190 with 12.3 overs to spare.
The Outlaws could make only 189 all out after winning the toss, batting for only 44.2 overs. Chris Read top scored with 57, while Jon Lewis (4 for 34) and Steve Kirby (3 for 33) were the most successful Gloucestershire bowlers.
The Gladiators now face a visit to Hove to play Sussex Sharks in the semi-finals on 5 July and will be tough to beat on the evidence of this thoroughly professional all-round display. They might have plunged into trouble at 68 for 3 when Will Porterfield, back from World Twenty20 duty with Ireland, was caught behind off Samit Patel for a breezy 36.
Ryan Sidebottom, also fresh from Twenty20 duty for England on Monday night, had removed Steve Snell with a lifter, while Luke Fletcher had sent back the dangerous Hamish Marshall. But Spearman and Taylor employed sensible shot selection during a fourth-wicket stand of 85 in 16 overs that put the result beyond doubt. By the time Chris Taylor was caught at cover, driving at Patel, Gloucestershire needed only 37 with 21 overs in hand. Spearman stayed solid to the end and hit the winning runs, by which time he had faced 66 balls and collected six boundaries. For all that, it was the impressive Kirby who earned the man-of-the-match accolade.
Nottinghamshire's hopes of a challenging total were destroyed inside seven overs. Alistair Brown, Alex Hales and Mark Wagh found themselves back in the pavilion with only nine runs on the board.
Brown and Hales fell to Kirby, who produced some quick deliveries in a five-over opening spell of 2 for 15. At the other end Lewis' first five overs cost just six runs and he had Wagh brilliantly caught above his head by Snell at mid-wicket. By the 25th over, the visitors were in disarray at 87 for 6. But Read and Mark Ealham used all their experience to craft a stand of 62 in 14 overs and Andre Adams at least gave his side some chance by hitting Lewis for 6,6,4,4 before falling to a boundary catch by Marshall at the end of the same eventful over.