Weston guides Gloucestershire to C&G glory
Gloucestershire 237 for 2 (Weston 110*, Spearman 70) beat Worcestershire 236 for 9 (Solanki 115, Averis 4-23) by eight wickets
Philip Weston scored a magnificently determined century against his former county colleagues, to guide Gloucestershire to their fourth C&G Trophy success in six years and underline their status as the country's leading exponents of one-day cricket.
For the second year running, Gloucestershire's victims were Worcestershire who, despite a classy hundred from Vikram Solanki, were unable to recover from a calamitous start to their innings. Their eventual total of 236 for 9 was a considerable improvement on the 149 they mustered in the 2003 final, but it was not enough to deny Weston and Craig Spearman, who added 141 for the first wicket to break the back of the run-chase.
Weston was the ultimate hero, batting all through the innings for an unbeaten 110, but earlier in the day, the focus had been on Jon Lewis, Gloucestershire's impressive seamer who has been placed on standby for this winter's England tour to South Africa. He needed no time whatsoever to demonstrate his credentials, as Worcestershire followed C&G tradition by faltering badly after being asked to bat first.
Bowling at a good pace and finding a hint of movement off a full length, Lewis grabbed three wickets in his first seven overs, as Worcestershire slumped to 8 for 3. His first victim was Stephen Moore, who feathered a beauty to Stephen Adshead behind the stumps for a twelfth-ball duck, before Graeme Hick - who had already survived an excruciatingly close first-ball lbw shout - fell to his fourth ball, again for a duck.
Hick, who had also lasted just four balls in the 2003 final, was well caught by Adshead, moving coolly to his right (4 for 2). But Lewis's fun wasn't over there. His next victim was Worcestershire's former captain, Ben Smith, who was caught low in the gully by Mike Hussey for 1, and an early finish seemed inevitable.
Solanki, however, refused to panic as he and David Leatherdale added 194 for the fourth wicket. With the NatWest Challenge against India fast approaching, Solanki looked in absolute command as he unfurled his full repertoire of wristy shots. The veteran Leatherdale played a vital second-fiddle, striking just three fours to Solanki's 14, but rotating the strike to excellent effect.
Leatherdale had one reprieve, when Tim Hancock put down a screaming one-handed chance at extra-cover off Hussey, but otherwise played a chanceless innings. Solanki's innings eventually ended disappointingly, stumped by a country mile as he charged down the pitch to Martyn Ball, before Leatherdale holed out at long-on for 66, while trying to blast James Averis into the stands.
Averis, who might not have played had Nathan Bracken's plane from Australia arrived in time for the final, then took centre stage as the Worcestershire innings unravelled in the closing overs. Andy Bichel smacked successive sixes to keep the momentum going, but his dismissal triggered a second spectacular collapse. Averis mopped up the tail to finish with 4 for 23, with seven of Worcestershire's batsmen managing no more than a single.
Gloucestershire never looked likely to surrender their title. Spearman and Weston came blasting out of the blocks, adding 51 in the first nine overs, and Worcestershire's fortunes were summed up in consecutive reprieves - one apiece for the batsmen. With the score on 102, Spearman miscued Ray Price to Leatherdale at midwicket, who somehow muffed the simplest of chances. Then, in his eagerness to get off the strike, Spearman sent Weston scampering for a suicidal single against the arm of Solanki, but Steve Rhodes, in the swansong of his 23-year career, couldn't gather the ball cleanly.
Spearman was eventually dismissed in bizarre circumstances, caught off his boot as he reverse-swept at Gareth Batty, and Hussey was bowled for 20 by Price, but Chris Taylor joined Weston to knock off the last of the runs, and secure yet another piece of silverware for Gloucestershire's unstoppable one-day team.