PROFESSIONAL sport is tough. As well as ability you need a winning mentality, perhaps summed up by W C Fields’ famous line 'Never give a sucker an even break'.

It does not mean cheat but it does mean be ruthless.

Can our county cricket team do this? The early answer must be no. Against Hampshire and in the current game against Glamorgan the evidence is damning.

Our inability to control games is shown in two ways, namely losing wickets in clusters and bowling that errs in both line and length. It is too early to comment on the tough tense battle being fought at Cardiff but the Hampshire game was lost because of exactly the faults I have mentioned.

The second day was a clear example. Firstly, we lost our last five wickets for nine runs. The chance to establish a good first innings score was squandered.

Two of our bowlers were exemplary. Will Gidman and, after an initial loose spell, Matt Taylor took wickets (nine of the ten that fell) and exerted the control the captain wanted. The rest were very much below par, two conceding runs at an alarming rate, namely six plus per over. Hampshire took full advantage. They scored heavily giving themselves time to force a win on the fourth day.

Not all is doom and gloom. There were good performances with the bat. Will Tavare made an outstanding start to his county career, Michael Klinger and Gidman played one good innings each while Hamish Marshall stood firm and rallied the tail in the second innings. The fact we scored over 300 runs in each innings shows the side can bat, but these cluster collapses must be avoided.

Looking ahead there have already been talks with Klinger about an extension to his contract. Originally signing for two years he has been an outstanding success. We would love to keep him for longer.

Driving home from Bristol gives me plenty of opportunity to reflect on the day’s play. As I passed through Tetbury the loose bowling dominated my thoughts. I thought I heard a gyrating sound. It must have been Sam Cook turning in his grave (older readers will know exactly what I mean).

Someone else was driving through Tetbury last weekend, namely Garry Hill, manager of Woking who were playing Forest Green. He had missed the Stroud road exit when leaving Cirencester. The road from Tetbury to Nailsworth is closed so a bemused Garry headed back towards Cirencester. He stopped for advice in the far reaches of Rodmarton, where he was correctly directed towards Frampton Mansell and the Stroud road. He got to the game in time!

This was a problem for some at the Corinium Stadium on Easter Monday. The largest crowd of the season meant a full car park and for the first time I had to queue. A tense game, with defences largely on top saw a dogged home team victory. The trip to Yate on Saturday will be tough but the league title is within the Centurions’ grasp. What a wedding present for manager Hughes!

I must take issue with Sports Editor Danny Hall. In last week’s paper he referred to veteran striker Jody Bevan as ‘lumbering’, a word both inaccurate and undeserved. Jody appeared as a substitute, giving a performance that was positively spritely.

That word spritely also described Tony Truman when I saw him this week. Tony is always good value and was so on this occasion. First of all he had backed the Gloucestershire-trained winner of the Irish Grand National, then responding to intense questioning he told us of the success of the Butchers Arms cribbage team. Although that Ampney pub closed some time ago, the crib team still exists – successfully.

The main reason for Tony’s joy, however, was the honour conveyed on him by the Referees Association for his services to soccer refereeing. He has become a life member. Very few are awarded this and Tony is justifiably proud.

It reminded me that sport is nothing without its many characters. You will all have your own list – mine runs from Bomber Wells (GCCC) to Reece Styche (FGR), taking in Harry Parker, Dick Gearing and Reg Tugwell of local repute.

Another such character, Brian Hudson, has become chairman of Active Gloucestershire. No word better sums up Brian than active. Where his drive and energy comes from I do not know.