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Gloucestershire snatch dramatic win over Worcestershire

Worcestershire Royals threw away a great chance to consolidate their lead of the First Division of the National league when they saw Gloucestershire snatch a dramatic three wicket win at Cheltenham.

The Australian Glenn McGrath had sent the home side reeling with a dynamic burst which rbought him threee wickets in seven balls for no runs.

They were then on 76 for 7 in reply to Worcester's 149 for 9 and McGrath had two overs left.

But then in an astonishing decision acting-captain Stephen Rhodes withdrew him from the attack and with the pressure off Chris Taylor, a youngster in his first season at county level, and veteran spinner Martyn Ball who can no longer command a regular place, as the West County side fashioned a remarkable escape.

They began to punch holes in the field and were to score 73 in 13 overs with each matching the other.

A capacity crowd at the Cheltenham College who had given up the mathc as lost began to get behind them cheering eveyr run and when McGrath was finally recalled to complete his nine overs the game had taken a completely different appearance.

Fifteen were needed off four overs and by then the eight wicket pair were fearing no one. McGrath at the start of the innings had sent down thunderbolts in an opening spell which saw just three runs taken off him, now Taylor planted one foot firmly down the wicket and drove four runs straight past him.

It was more than bravado for it was his fourth boundary and he finished on 37 off 54 balls. Ball had two boundaries in his 30 off 37 balls, the second of them winning the match as he smacked spinner Richard Illingowrth to the cover boundary.

The crowd swarmed onto the field to salute a famous, if unlikely victory, while Rhodes was left to reflect on a bad error of judgement for easing the pressure at the wrong time.

His decision to bat first had also come under close examination for it was never easy to get the ball off the square against the persistent accuracy of Mike Smith who bowled through his nine overs of left-arm pace for nine runs and the wicket of Paul Pollard, bowled off his pads for eight.

Vikram Solanki, whose enterprising 45 off 69 balls ended in a catch at long off, Ryan Driver with a big 29 and Rhodes, caught at cover off a full toss for 27 lifted Worcester's score but it was a modest score on a good wicket of even bounce.

Dominic Hewson (34) and Jack Russell gave Gloucestershire's reply a steady start with 40 in 17 overs before Russell who had made just seven of them spooned a return catch to Richard Illingworth.

The innings was in trouble on 56 when Hewson was run out by David Leatherdale's sharp throw from cover point before Illingworth, three balls later, bowled Harvey around his legs for 11.

A painstaking 11 overs for 20 by Matt Windows and Mark Alleyne promised to rebuild the innings but on 76 it all swung Worcester's way. An uncertain Alleyne, going onto the back foot was bowled by Illingworth and this was followed by McGrath's assult which saw Windows and Jeremy Snape depart leg before and Reggie Williams caught behind.

Worcester were on course for their seventh league win in eight maches but then came that fatal blunder to remove McGrath and it became sackcloth and ashes.