Weston's victorious century outshines Solanki's best efforts

<preform>Worcestershire 236-9<br>Gloucestershire 237-2<br>Gloucestershire won by 8 wkts</preform>
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The Independent Online

Vikram Solanki deserved to be a winner at Saturday's Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy Final. The Worcestershire opener scored a majestic century and saved what was once domestic cricket's biggest day from becoming an anti-climax.

Vikram Solanki deserved to be a winner at Saturday's Cheltenham and Gloucester Trophy Final. The Worcestershire opener scored a majestic century and saved what was once domestic cricket's biggest day from becoming an anti-climax.

But Solanki's brilliance failed to allow Worcestershire to gain revenge for the seven-wicket thumping they received from Gloucestershire in the corresponding fixture 12 months ago. Philip Weston, a close friend and former teammate of Solanki, saw to this when he guided his new county home to a comfortable eight-wicket victory with an equally impressive, unbeaten innings of 110. Weston left Worcestershire in 2002 because the county did not rate him as a one-day player - how sweet this moment must have been.

This victory also allowed Mark Alleyne to step out of the shadow of John Bracewell, the former Gloucestershire and current New Zealand coach. Under the Kiwi, the West Country side won seven domestic one-day titles in five years, but Saturday's triumph signified that Gloucestershire will be no less of a force whilst Alleyne pulls the strings.

Gloucestershire's success under Bracewell was based around good organisation, commitment and teamwork, and it was these qualities which again allowed Alleyne to leave Lord's with a trophy. As a side they contain few stars - Worcestershire's team on Saturday consisted of five players who have played international cricket in the last 12 months, whilst Gloucestershire's contained none - but each player has his own role within the side and plays accordingly.

Craig Spearman, one of the most dangerous batsmen in the country, and Jon Lewis, the best English qualified bowler yet to play international cricket, give Gloucestershire a touch of quality. But their real strength can be seen from the way they work in the field. It is not just the fearless way in which they throw themselves about which saves countless runs; the running and backing up off the ball is also a sight to behold. It allows fielders a free shy at the stumps.

Weston was not the only Gloucestershire player to rise to the occasion. Lewis claimed three wickets in a superb opening spell, James Averis took the second ever hat-trick in a Lord's final as Worcestershire looked for quick runs and Spearman gave his side a wonderful start with a typically belligerent 70.

The 141-run opening partnership of Spearman and Weston made chasing 236 a simple task. Worcestershire's bowlers never looked capable of restricting Gloucestershire's batsmen but they were not helped by an ordinary fielding display.

But it was disappointing to see more than 4,000 empty seats. The main reason is the volume of international cricket being played.

Without Solanki the day would have been a non-event. The 28-year-old looked on helplessly as Lewis found the outside edge of the bats of Stephen Moore, Graeme Hick and Ben Smith. At 8 for 3, most of the crowd expected to be home before Kelly Holmes won gold.

Solanki and David Leatherdale had other ideas though and put on 194 for the fourth wicket. Solanki has often been criticised for playing reckless shots when responsible stroke play was required, but he showed great maturity during his three hours at the crease.

Solanki scored only three runs in the first 10 overs but he failed to panic and this was just the sort of innings England's selectors would have been looking for from him.

He was dropped from England's one-day side in Sri Lanka before Christmas after a string of low scores, but this innings should allow him to regain his place in Michael Vaughan's team, which takes on India in the NatWest Challenge on Wednesday.

"It is nice to be joining up with the England team in decent form," said Solanki. "But I would love to be going to Nottingham with a winners medal around my neck. It was disappointing to be left out after Bangladesh but I have gone away and thought about my cricket. In the past I got carried away with making the most of the first 15 overs but now I have started to look beyond this and aim to make big scores."

If Solanki were to repeat this performance at Lord's next Sunday against India, and England were to win, the painful memory of Saturday's defeat would quickly be forgotten.

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