Russell is in dogged mood

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reports from Bristol

Gloucestershire 208 Middlesex 34-0

Jack Russell played the role of the terrier to perfection yesterday, Gloucestershire 6 down for 94 but the captain digging in and refusing to let go.

The wicket may have been unusually brisk for the County Ground, and obviously to Richard Johnson's liking in particular, though the fall-rate was reaching embarrassing proportions until the block arrived in the shape of the left- hander.

There was much riding on this match, Middlesex lying third and Gloucestershire fifth before the start and the pair jostling for position behind Northamptonshire. When Mike Gatting won the toss, then, and Johnson obliged with three victims in six deliveries, any thoughts of proceedings stretching to a fourth day appeared to be pipe dreams.

Russell, though, is as difficult to shift as they come in this sort of situation. He also found a useful ally in Ricardo Williams, their 71 in 47 overs for the seventh wicket frustrating Middlesex after lunch. Besides which, Russell was still there when John Emburey wrapped up the innings by bowling Kevin Cooper, the keeper's contribution of 69 spread across four hours.

"They shall not pass" would fit Russell fine as a motto, which was more than could be said of some of his colleagues. While Tony Wright made a half century before Emburey claimed his first scalp, events at the other end suggested Middlesex would win well inside the distance.

While Mark Feltham had taken out Dean Hodgson in the 14th over and another 13 had passed without any undue alarms, Johnson suddenly ripped the heart out of the innings by removing Bob Cunliffe and Monte Lynch with successive deliveries.

Mark Alleyne survived the hat-trick ball but he was soon caught behind, and Emburey concluded the morning's activities by removing Wright and Andrew Symonds. It was Johnson, the 21-year-old seamer who accompanied England A on their winter tour to India, who eventually broke the Russell- Williams partnership. He finished with 4 for 53 and Emburey 4 for 34, while Middlesex were intact come the close.