AUSTRALIA international Ed Cowan smashed 70 off 48 balls on his Gloucestershire debut to help them keep their hopes of reaching the Friends Life t20 quarter-finals alive with a seven-wicket win over group leaders Worcestershire.

Cowan struck nine fours and two sixes in a destructive second wicket partnership of 142 with skipper Hamish Marshall, who top-scored with 72 off 49 balls.

Although both fell in quick succession, Gloucestershire reached their target of 160 with two overs to spare, Alex Gidman hitting the winning runs to move them within a point of the top three sides.

Seamers Ian Saxelby and Liam Norwell took two wickets apiece with spinners Ed Young (1-21) and Muttiah Muralitharan (0-22) bowling tight spells in Worcestershire’s innings of 159-6, where Gareth Andrew top-scored with 43 off 26 balls.

With the way the other groups are shaping up, a top three finish would probably be enough for Gloucestershire to progress to the quarter-finals, making tonight’s game against third-placed Warwickshire at Edgbaston crucial.

Their final group game is at Northants on Sunday, but with the forecast not looking good for the next three days their fate could be cruelly decided by the weather.