Symonds hot but too hasty

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The Independent Online
Gloucs 263 and 136-6

Somerset 259

Andrew Symonds looked like a man acting out a fantasy. The temperature never got to 50 degrees, and the clouds lay low over the county ground in Bristol, but he had plastered sun tan cream round his lips and he was wearing a sun hat and a short-sleeved sweater.

With Somerset looking troubled, still 124 behind Gloucestershire's first innings of 263 with four wickets down, Richard Harden pushed the ball gently out on the leg side and set off for a run. When Shane Lee did not budge, Harden turned sharply, but Symonds, who had swooped in from mid- wicket, already had the ball in his hand. His throw broke the wicket with Harden still stretching desperately for the crease.

It was one of the few brilliant moments of the day for Gloucestershire. When bad light stopped play at 5.50, they were only 139 ahead with four second-innings wickets standing. Somerset's virtue was persistence. Gloucestershire, on the other hand, had rather carelessly thrown the game away; and Symonds had set a particularly bad example.

When he came in, Gloucestershire looked as if they intended to chase runs hard and build a lead that would give them a chance to win this weather- disrupted game on Monday. The timing was just right for Symonds to display his talents. His innings began circumspectly and was interrupted by a shower, but once he settled in, he scored with fluent ease.

Symonds is especially strong on the leg side, pulling Andy Caddick and playing a fierce paddle that crosses the boundary backward of square. But he also contemptuously square cut and cover drove Shane Lee, Somerset's Australian import, as if to say that it was he, and not Lee, who should have established a foothold in the Australian squad.

Symonds makes things happen, and he is bound to play test cricket sooner rather than later; he might prefer to play for Australia, mainly because it is the better team at the moment, but he is more likely to be selected for England. You feel sorry for him. Since he is eligible for both, he must be waiting for the selectors to make up his mind for him. This does not mean he is a mercenary, more that he is the victim of a confused identity.

He was one of the players that David Graveney watched during the first two days of the game, but the view in the Gloucester dressing-room is that the England selectors are not yet ready to ask him to play, and the way he got out may help to explain why. Symonds dashed to 47 off 52 balls with nine fours. He took a quick run to get to the crease so that he could face the slow bowling of Jeremy Batty. To bring up his half-century he swept vigorously; except he missed and was plumb lbw.

The Gloucestershire score had moved fast, up to 127, and, once he was gone, two more wickets fell quickly. Earlier in the day, they had bowled Somerset out for 259.

Lee had looked comfortable during Somerset's innings and scored a capable 65; then the last three wickets fell in five balls just before and after lunch. But Gloucestershire, instead of establishing a winning position, fell carelessly into a hole from which they are unlikely to emerge on Monday.