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Essex v Gloucestershire

Reports from the Electronic Telegraph

19-22 August 1998

Day 1: Hancock drives home advantage

By Geoffrey Dean at Colchester

First day of four: Gloucs 401-5 v Essex

THE garrison town of Colchester has for years been a near-impregnable cricketing fortress for Essex, with visiting sides consistently unable to scale Castle Park's ramparts. But the Glorious Gloucesters, repelled by an innings here two years ago, established a beachhead yesterday from which they should be able to launch a match-winning assault.

Essex's successful formula here has been based on compiling a large total and then letting their spinners get to work on a pitch that invariably turns. Their run of luck with the toss ended, however, as Gloucestershire called correctly and then made hay against some moderate bowling on a flat, dry wicket. As yet there has been no real turn but that should change.

Leading the charge was Tim Hancock, whose flashing blows brought him 21 fours and a six (off Peter Such) in a career-best 135 in just under four hours. Once he had seen off a new ball that Mark Ilott swung a little and Jamie Grove used to hit the deck hard, Hancock, 26, looked immovable. ``He always gets runs against us,'' said Ilott.

For Hancock, this has been a productive year, but until yesterday he had not made a century. ``I've been in nick all season but threw away three chances to make hundreds,'' said the old boy of St Edward's, Oxford.

Hancock, a renowned cutter and puller, also drove particularly well yesterday. Essex obliged by feeding the shot regularly on a day when they bowled too many four-balls.

Thanks to Hancock, and to several other decent contributions, notably from the pugnacious Matt Windows, Gloucestershire gained maximum batting points for only the second time this summer. Before yesterday, they had gleaned a mere 10 batting points all year, fewer than any other county.

Day 2: Essex wobble as kings of Castle

By Geoffrey Dean at Colchester

Second day of four: Essex (176 & 16-0) trail Gloucs (564) by 372 runs

ESSEX'S long unbeaten run at Castle Park appears certain to come to an end after some woeful batting on a good pitch. Gloucestershire, who had surprised observers by continuing their innings until 25 minutes after lunch, took six wickets before tea and by stumps had enforced the follow-on.

Essex now face the inevitability of an eighth defeat this summer. The long-time sponsors of the club, Lay & Wheeler, have already abandoned plans to entertain tomorrow, while one former player yesterday predicted a bottom finish in the championship.

Essex's feelings of doom and gloom were matched by the weather, particularly after tea when all five lights on the scoreboard came on. Spin had to be employed at both ends to the relief of the tail, who profited through not having to negotiate Courtney Walsh. So too did the Essex openers in their second innings when the poor light required the Gloucestershire spinners to take the new ball.

It was Walsh's underlings, Jon Lewis and Tim Hancock, who dismantled the Essex top order with three wickets apiece. Both got the ball in the business areas more consistently than Essex had done.

Hancock came on for three overs before tea and took three wickets in eight balls. Ian Flanagan edged him to slip, Paul Grayson missed an off-cutter and Stephen Peters drove rashly to short extra cover.

Lewis got more movement than anyone else. Darren Robinson and Ronnie Irani both edged out-swingers to first slip and Tim Hodgson nicked a cutter to the wicketkeeper. Later, Danny Law exhibited an apparent death wish when he top-edged an ill-advised sweep.

Earlier, Matt Windows reached his second successive century, guiding his side to their biggest score against Essex. His 151 took 248 balls.

Day 3:Spineless Essex are blown away

By Geoffrey Dean at Colchester

Gloucs (564) bt Essex (176 & 107) by an innings & 281 runs

ALMOST exactly 24 hours after the start of their first innings, Essex were bowled out for the second time to suffer the third heaviest defeat in their history. For Gloucestershire, it was their biggest victory, surpassing their rout of Somerset in 1885 at Moreton-in-Marsh.

Essex, however depleted they were, were left badly damaged, a team without authority, conviction or confidence. They had been trapped, caught and gutted by a Gloucestershire side who were disciplined and played as a team. It was not even a contest and some might have wondered if commercial director David East was joking when he said he would try and drink the fixture back.

No one expected Essex to save this game without succour from the weather when they resumed at 16 without loss. But to be all out by 2.35pm, having lost their last seven wickets in 14 overs, must have shocked even their most resigned members. It was spineless batting.

Peter Such talks of the ``snowball effect'' when a weakened side like this one loses early wickets against committed opposition like Gloucestershire. There is certainly truth in that and Essex will look and play like a different side in tomorrow's AXA game . All their previously unavailable players will return bar Nasser Hussain, whose groin strain could keep him out well into September.

Apart from a fourth-wicket stand of 15 overs wickets fell with the regularity of a drumbeat yesterday. Ian Flanagan went first fending off a lifter to gully; Tim Hodgson was athletically caught behind leg-glancing and, in the same over, Ronnie Irani gave a tame return catch.

Martyn Ball, not introduced until 12.45pm immediately took three wickets in 10 balls. Paul Grayson missed a straight one, playing for some turn, and Stephen Peters was bowled out of the rough by one that spun sharply.

Only Darren Robinson, seeking his first championship fifty since April, held firm until Courtney Walsh finally removed him in the 42nd over.

Source: The Electronic Telegraph
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Date-stamped : 22 Aug1998 - 10:30