Alleyne keeps one-day success going

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This may have been a season of change at Gloucestershire but some things, it seems, remain the same at the West Country club who on Saturday hope to pick up their seventh one-day crown in six seasons in the C&G Trophy final showdown with Worcestershire.

The departure of former coach John Bracewell for his native New Zealand as well as the elevation of Mark Alleyne to player/coach and the retirement of Jack Russell suggested the end of a hugely successful era at Nevil Road, but scarcely a beat has been missed this season.

Under the guidance of Alleyne and joint captain Chris Taylor, Gloucestershire are fourth in the first divisions of both the county championship and the Totesport league, a worthy effort in a season of transition. But it is their charge to the C&G final that has really caught the eye. If much of Gloucestershire's previous one-day success was attributed to the preparation work put in by Bracewell, then most of the rest of the credit flew in the direction of Ian Harvey, their influential Australian import.

And so when Harvey followed Bracewell out of Bristol it seemed impossible for the club to continue its extraordinary run of success in the one-day game.

But not only have Gloucestershire breezed relatively comfortably into Lord's today, they had the added pleasure of beating Harvey and his new county, Yorkshire, in the semi-final.

A number of players have stepped into the huge hole left by Harvey's all-round talents, including Alleyne himself and fast bowler Jon Lewis, who are Gloucestershire's leading wicket-takers in the competition.

But the engine of their challenge has been the opening pair of Craig Spearman and Philip Weston. Their lowest partnership in four knockout matches is 71, ensuring that Gloucestershire have gotten away to fliers in each match. And crucially one of them has always reached at least 50 in every match.

Spearman, in particular, is a dangerous customer and will be targetted by Worcestershire. In the semi-final, he destroyed Yorkshire almost single-handedly as four sixes and 14 fours added up to a magnificently brutal innings of 143 off 122 balls. On his day and he has a lot of them Spearman is the most destructive one-day batsman in county cricket and a healthy Lord's crowd will be royally entertained should he get his eye in.

Worcestershire are not without their own threats, however, and for all the disruption of Ben Smith's abrupt abdication of the captaincy a fortnight ago and the absence of the injured Kabir Ali, they will present formidable opposition.

The Australian Andy Bichel is a mighty competitor, as England found out to their cost during the last World Cup, and Graham Hick has enjoyed the sort of season that five years ago would have propelled his name into the reckoning for an international recall.

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