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Gloucestershire v Leicestershire

Reports from the Electronic Telegraph

13-15 May 1998

Leicestershire (351 & 44-1) bt Gloucestershire (134 & 259) by 9 wkts

Day 1: Lewis takes charge

By Stephen Thorpe at Bristol

First day of four: Leics (245-5) lead Glouc (134) by 111 runs

LEICESTERSHIRE made maximum use of favourable morning conditions, dismissing Gloucestershire for 134 inside 42 overs before Vince Wells's splendid 120 and Ben Smith's undefeated 81 emphasised their early supremacy.

James Whitaker, their nominated captain, is still hampered by a knee injury but his replacement, Chris Lewis, led from the front with six for 60. Luck with the coin can often be more efficacious in the short term than tactical acumen and this was an excellent toss to win on a firm, well-grassed track beneath low cloud cover. After an hour Gloucestershire were 46 for four, three of the departed having failed to offer a shot.

The ball swung all day and Gloucestershire's Mike Smith nipped in with four wickets himself later on. Mark Alleyne, Lewis's counterpart, alone appeared largely untroubled, especially when the sun broke through.

Lewis exercised his captain's prerogative at the outset, bowling 13 overs off the reel but Alleyne's dismissal barely hinted at the wholesale collapse to come. Lewis triggered it alongside Allan Mullally (four for 33) with a final spell of four for 16 in 21 balls.

Day 2: Gloucester guilty of repeating their folly

By Stephen Thorpe at Bristol

Second day of four: Gloucs (134 & 146-6) trail Leics (351) by 71 runs

TOP order stability is a prerequisite for all successful sides and Gloucestershire have struggled to achieve it in recent times despite switching formats and chopping various personnel. Another rearguard action yesterday, ably mustered by the captain, Mark Alleyne (56) and Matt Windows (38) in a fourth-wicket stand of 114 only served to highlight earlier shortcomings and they will be hard pressed to extend the match beyond lunch today.

Nick Trainor and Bobby Dawson are missing from this revamped line-up and Gloucestershire, facing a first innings deficit of 217, soon slid to 16 for three, a mirror image of their initial decline which was admittedly pitch-assisted.

Tim Hancock went to an expert low catch at third slip by Darren Maddy, Rob Cunliffe was adjudged lbw for the second time shouldering arms, then David Millns trapped Tony Wright half forward.

In an attempt to redress the situation Gloucestershire have engaged the services of Gregor Macmillan, the former Oxford University captain and Leicestershire batsman, who signs a one-year contract today. The 28-year-old right-hander has already impressed in two second XI matches, after four championship appearances last year, and may make his debut against his former colleagues in the AXA League on Sunday.

Leicestershire, 111 ahead overnight, were bent on consolidation on a warm, hazy morning when batting was a far easier proposition on a surface which had mellowed considerably from the first day.

Paul Nixon, though, when seemingly well set, steered an innocuous half-volley to gully while Ben Smith dropped anchor and moved sedately to an eighth first-class hundred, eventually finishing unbeaten on 121 with 13 fours after 6.25 hours.

Chris Lewis had delayed his entrance on the first evening intent, no doubt, on a lengthy residence which may have advanced his ambitions for an England recall, and was not best pleased to be dispatched lbw.

Rarely can Courtney Walsh have been on the rough end of so much stick and misfortune. After Alleyne bowled Millns, Mullally disturbed the spectators' somnolence, and more significantly, Walsh's equanimity, with a six driven over long on and another boundary pulled flat through midwicket. The next ball was always destined to be quick, of course, its length indeterminate, and Mullally opted for further glory, losing his middle stump to a fastish full toss in the process.

Mike Smith's first five-wicket haul of the season wrapped things up, leaving a rueful Walsh, partially appeased, to contemplate figures of one for 131 off 26 overs.

Day 3: Leicestershire made to wait for easy win

By Stephen Thorpe at Bristol

Leicestershire (351 & 44-1) bt Gloucestershire (134 & 259) by 9 wkts

TO their great credit Gloucestershire refused to lay down and die, the last four wickets adding 120 and forcing Leicestershire to make 43 to ensure the formality of victory.

This was a thumping triumph for the visitors, the manner no less emphatic than the nine-wicket margin, in an all-round effort astutely orchestrated by the captain, Chris Lewis. The Leicestershire coach, Jack Birkenshaw, remarked: ``Surely a must for England next week on this form?'' Perhaps so.

Gloucestershire needed 71 to avoid an innings defeat and Jon Lewis pottered along in no undue haste for an hour with Jack Russell until Alan Mullally decided enough was enough.

Mullally, whose left-arm swing was the perfect foil throughout, earning match figures of eight for 87, flattened Lewis's off stump and had Russell caught behind before Martyn Ball, an ebullient battler down the order, cut and pulled seven fours in a 65-ball cameo which drove Leicestershire to distraction. Even Mike Smith and Courtney Walsh joined the act until Lewis stopped the nonsense, bowling Ball for 44.

As is often the case in these small target operations, concentration can lapse, and Darren Maddy almost chipped Ball to midwicket in his first over before steering Leicestershire home. The visitors can now bask at their leisure for a day while Gloucestershire must regroup and reappraise.

Their new signing, Greg Macmillan, is something of an unfulfilled talent, a 6ft 5in right-hander with a penchant for the unorthodox and capricious. Gloucestershire, though, need steel at the head of the order and Macmillan must channel his ability and forge consistent long innings.

Batting late in the day in a Second XI match against Somerset once, he told his partner: ``Trump must go,'' and Harvey Trump, the off-spinner, went, Macmillan smiting sixes off the last three balls before strolling off. Some of the same tomorrow would be a start.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 16 May1998 - 14:22