Russell climbs to new high

Lancashire 231 & 117 Gloucestershire 265 & 84-0 Gloucs won by 10 wkts
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AFTER victory in last week's Benson and Hedges Cup final had got people talking about Lancashire possibly improving on Warwickshire's record of a treble in 1994, they were yesterday reminded that there is competitive life left in the County Championship when a fast-improving Gloucestershire beat them by 10 wickets.

The match ended in the first over after lunch to leave most of a large festival crowd with mixed feelings: delight, even surprise, at the way the home side had sailed through what should have been a stiffer challenge; but disappointment at being deprived of further entertainment on a day when the Cheltenham College ground was at its loveliest.

The damage had been done by Friday night. Resuming their second innings on 87 for 8, a lead of only 53, Lancashire had little hope left, even less after the third ball of the day when Warren Hegg aimed an extravagant cover drive at the left-arm over of Mike Smith, and Jack Russell caught him at the wicket.

Glen Chapple spun things out, adding 30 for the last wicket with Gary Keedy before he was bowled having another heave at Smith, that left Gloucestershire with 84 to win. The compact and nimble Matt Windows and the taller, more refined Tony Wright, knocked off the runs in 23 overs to give Gloucestershire their fifth win of the season.

For Russell, in his first season as captain, these are satisfying times in a county career that has not produced many. Indeed, Gloucestershire have to go back further than any county, even Kent, for the last time they won anything - to 1977 and the Benson and Hedges Cup.

"Now everyone believes we can beat anyone," Russell said. "But we won't be satisfied until we win a trophy." Russell cited the emergence of Smith, the run-scoring of Wright, and the psychological boost provided by three new men - Andrew Symonds, Monte Lynch and Javagal Srinath - as the key factors.

And then there is Russell's own form, with both gloves and bat. He averages 47 this season and must be on the brink of today regaining the England place that many feel he should never have lost. "I'm probably at a peak," he said. Russell's peak is very high indeed.