Essex shattered by Russell's last stand

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The Independent Online

reports from Chelmsford

Essex 208-8

Gloucestershire 211-8

Gloucs win by 2 wickets

A thrilling finish when Jack Russell sliced a drive over gully for four off the last ball of the match brought Gloucestershire their fourth victory in four matches in the qualifying stages of the Benson and Hedges Cup.

When Gloucestershire were 125 for 5 in the 36th over Essex might have fancied their chances, but Russell, with valuable help from Gloucestershire's new young prodigy, Andy Symonds, kept them in touch.

Seven runs were needed from the last over bowled by Ronnie Irani with two wickets left. A single was scampered by Kevin Cooper off the first ball; Russell missed the second and drove the third through extra cover for two. The next two balls produced singles and, with the fielders all saving one, Russell flailed at the last which flew away to the backward- point boundary.

Gloucestershire made a solid but slow start to their innings, with the 50 coming up in the 19th over. After Andy Wright had been lbw playing across Irani, Monte Lynch threatened to finish it all. He drove Peter Such for successive sixes in the 28th over, producing 16 runs before holing out in the next at long-off.

Brilliant catches by Nasser Hussain, Robert Rollins and Jonathan Lewis accounted for Tim Hancock, Mark Alleyne and Bobby Dawson, and, at 125 for 5, Russell joined Symonds.

They had taken the score to 171 when Symonds glanced at Such's last ball and Rollins held another fine catch. After that, Russell made sure Gloucestershire continued their progress towards the quarter-finals.

At the start, Graham Gooch made 69 - the biggest innings of the day - but it took him 103 balls and he never really found the pace of the pitch against some tight Gloucestershire bowling. Darren Robinson played as well as anyone for Essex with his 32, and Hussain and Irani also made important contributions.