Weston weighs in to keep Lancashire waiting

Gloucestershire v Lancashire
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There are few more engaging places to watch cricket than Cheltenham during the festival. The historic Cheltenham School and its adjacent chapel, the smooth sweep of the college lawn and an almost unbroken ring of tents and marquees combine to form a backdrop unrivalled on the English circuit.

It is within such settings, of course, that the uninitiated spectator can be fooled into thinking that the game itself must be a gentle, leisurely pastime in keeping with the slightly intoxicated sleepiness that can colour the mood here, particularly after a long and well-lubricated lunch.

The woman at fine leg whose peace was disturbed by the ball striking her on the side of the head might argue with that perception. Happily, a nearby coolbox had taken the full force of the impact and the startled victim soon recovered her poise. It was a reminder, nonetheless, that letting the eye wander from the action can be hazardous.

In the middle, in fact, an intense battle was developing as Lancashire sought to turn their domination into a win. Aware that Warwickshire, whom they trailed by 41 points at the start of this round, are showing no signs of relinquishing their Championship lead, it was a victory they were desperate to secure.

Without it, they would know that their chance of fulfilling the early promise of this year's campaign would look increasingly fragile.

Gloucestershire, somewhat closer to the leaders in second place, were content simply not to lose. A target of 496 to win when Lancashire declared on Friday afternoon was never more than a theoretical one, placing the onus squarely on the visitors to bowl, on a flat pitch, in the manner of potential champions.

Inevitably, they encountered solid resistance. Disappointed to have made only one breakthrough during 20 overs on Friday evening, they enjoyed only two more successes before lunch yesterday in what was not the most accomplished session Jamie Haynes, Lancashire's reserve wicketkeeper, will have experienced in his career. Haynes, standing in for the injured Warren Hegg, let Mike Hussey off twice in a few minutes, missing a stumping off Gary Keedy and a catch off James Anderson, when he dived in front of first slip.

Carl Hooper finally ended Hussey's stay with the help of a diving catch by Mark Chilton at silly point, and followed up by trapping Philip Weston leg-before. Weston had put on 102 for the second wicket with Hussey and had occupied the crease for three hours.

Alex Gidman, caught off bat and pad, became a third victim for Hooper but Chris Taylor took advantage of the attacking field to collect 14 boundaries. Anderson struck twice before tea as Gidman dragged one on and James Franklin was trapped in front, but much as Keedy and Hooper tried to make use of slow turn, Gloucestershire's chin was defiantly set.