Dead-eye Drakes

Sussex 157 and 231 Gloucestershire 151 and 234 Sussex win by three runs
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The Independent Online
While cheers from the Jessop Tavern marked England's progress in Euro 96, Gloucestershire were trying to edge towards their 238 target, but losing crucial wickets in the process.

The finish was as tense as anything at Wembley, and Gloucestershire ended the day as sick as, well, the Scots, wondering how glory had slipped from them. This was a game where batsmen were undermined by a pitch that offered something for the bowler prepared to bend his back. It was possible to amass a decent score - Danny Law's 97 for Sussex was the best example - but most lacked dedication.

With 30 wickets having fallen in two days, Gloucester began in similar vein when Nick Trainor was lbw in the third over. The wickets continued to tumble: Rob Cunliffe had scored the first boundary in the 10th over with a square drive, but he was gone in the next over, bowled by Law with a full swinging delivery.

The home side brought up the 50 with an edge by Tim Hancock. The batsman rode his fortune when he was dropped in the gully by the former Gloucestershire man, Bill Athey. His luck soon ran out, bowled trying to force a wide delivery that he played on to his stumps. When Andrew Sy- monds was caught by Peter Moo- res, Gloucestershire were 81 for 4, and struggling. Fortunes shifted through a patient 50 from Tony Wright that took a shade over four hours. He shared a 79 partnership with the more aggressive Mark Alleyne.

Even when those two departed - for 51 and 71 - it seemed the home side had done enough in front of the watchful eyes of some 30 former players invited for a lunch and reunion. The six bowlers - in particular Vasbert Drakes - were getting swing and movement off the seam but any luck had deserted them.

Jack Russell, the day after earning an MBE, had the chance to take centre stage but went for 13. Even so, at tea the home side still looked favourites requiring 32 runs with three wickets intact. But when Martyn Ball was cau- ght by Athey and Drakes had Michael Smith lbw, the scene was set for a close finish. Gloucestershire needed four runs when Drakes' appeal for lbw against Richard Davis was upheld, han- ding Sussex the win.