Gloucestershire defeated Worcestershire by one run
Vikram Solanki made a dramatic return to Worcestershire duty at Bristol last night and came so close to inspiring his side to victory.
But the Worcestershire captain's Twenty20 best of 92 proved in vain when his side lost off the last ball.
Needing just three runs off the final three balls bowled by home captain Jon Lewis, Gloucestershire old boy Roger Sillence could only manage a single. The one-run win for Lewis's side maintained their one-day stranglehold over Worcestershire, especially in this competition.
A second Twenty20 defeat in three nights puts a question mark over Worcestershire's chances of making the last eight. Pressure is now on Solanki's side to register that first win of this year's competition against Northamptonshire at New Road tonight.
As to whether Solanki will play, after yesterday's morn-ing summons from the England squad, that is still not clear.
The Worcestershire skip-per was called into the England one-day squad on Tuesday as cover when Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood both pulled out through injury. But, having not been required to play at Old Trafford, that could again prove the case when England play the final game of the Nat-West Series against Sri Lanka at Headingley tomorrow, in which case Solanki would be better served by playing for Worcestershire tonight.
"I'm not entirely sure where I'll be," said Solanki. "I still don't know what's going on. I'm waiting to find out whether I go to Leeds or stay down and play at New Road."
The one sure guarantee is that Solanki and England one-day international teammate Kabir Ali will both be back for Monday night's return game with Northants.
But first comes tonight's meeting with Northants, New Road's first Twenty20 game of the summer. And Worcestershire will simply hope they get a few more of the breaks.
Chasing a Gloucestershire total of 181 for seven amassed largely by former skipper Chris Taylor (61, topped by three successive sixes off Daryl Mitchell) and some typically lusty early blows from old thorn Ian Harvey (40 off 17 balls), Worcestershire were dealt a savage early blow in the first over.
From only his second ball, Graeme Hick belted Carl Greenidge over mid on but, with both feet off the ground, Harvey's right arm snaked up to pull off a stunning catch.
It was the irrepressible Harvey's biggest contribution of the evening, topping even the assault he made on Zaheer Khan and Sillence when he went 6,4,4,4,4,6,4 before holing out to the long on boundary. And that wonder catch was made to look even more of a matchwinner when Lou Vincent perished on the deep cover boundary. But, by then, Solanki was already settling to his task.
Temporarily released from England duties, Solanki's excellent 92 from 61 balls was easily his competition best - in only his seventh Twenty20 innings. But, just when it seemed like he had the job done, hitting 12 runs from the first three balls of the 18th over bowled by Ian Fisher, he went for one big hit too many and holed out to the long off boundary.
Even then, with 25 now needed off 15 balls, Sillence and vice captain Gareth Batty kept their heads. And, when, with ten needed to win off the final over, Batty went 2,4,1 from the first three balls, there seemed only one winner. But experienced England man Lewis bamboozled Sillence by three times bowling his slower ball. And when they could only scramble a single off the last ball, Gloucestershire had snatched an unlikely victory.
"It was bitterly disappointing not to get over the line," said Solanki. "Another day Roger would have hit one of those straight out of the park because that's the sort of player he is.
"But these things happen. It was a good effort to chase a pretty challenging total as well as we did. And you can always look back at a number of incidents in any game. That's what you do when you lose."