Tuesday, 15 May 2018

3 day Glos salvage another draw against one of Division 2’s big boys

Gloucestershire 210 (Dent 66, Cartwright 4-33) and 326 for 4 (Bracey 125*, Harris 3-60) drew with Middlesex 455 for 8 dec (Gubbins 99, Malan 76, Morgan 76)
Gloucestershire walked away from another away match against one of division 2’s big hitters with a credible draw after James Bracey’s heroics this time are enough to see the Shire across the line. However, some major question marks must now be raised against this Gloucestershire squad, particularly the batting, for the rest of the season.
Middlesex, champions of division 1 only two seasons ago, were heavily fancied for immediate promotion back to county crickets top table. Thus a draw in this away fixture at the home of cricket must be seen as a decent result for the Shire. The revolutionary tactics of picking only 3 specialist batsmen and then praying for one days play to be washed out by rain has now yielded two solid away draws, firstly at Sussex, and now at Middlesex. Whether such a tactic is viable for the rest of the season is probably a longer terms question. But for short term success in the early part of the season we commend coach Dawson for his outside the box thinking.
Electing to forgo the toss and to bowl first Gloucestershire’s attack really struggled to hit its stride against a team that hadn’t passed 300 in its first innings for 13 matches. That unwanted record was easily swatted away as the England wannabe Nick Gubbins scored an excellent 99 before this was built on by Dawid Malan’s 76. Even Eoin Morgan, in his first 4 day match for 3 years, seemed to know what to do with a red ball as he also added 76 before perishing. Only Dan Worrall looked threatening, finishing with 3 for 73. However, with both Liam Norwell and David Payne injured, and Craig Miles struggling to make an impact in the first part of the season, Gloucestershire will be worried about the strength in depth of the bowling unit.
After the second day was almost entirely lost to rain Gloucestershire knew that they effectively had two days to bat for a draw. This didn’t look likely when they proceeded to be dismissed for only 220, in two sessions, in their first innings. Only Chris Dent offered any resistance with his season high score of 66. Benny Howell grittily fought off a stomach bug to make 47 but it was nowhere near enough to prevent Middlesex enforcing the follow-on. In the evening of day 3, and batting for a second time in the day, both Dent ans Howell appeared to get Glos off to a good start, but both were dismissed before the close leaving the Shire to bat for the whole of day 4 with only 8 wickets left in the hutch.
Enter James Bracey who, for the second time this season, looked head and shoulders Gloucestershire's best player. He found solid support in the form of Gareth Roderick (48) Jack Taylor (41) and Graeme Van Buuren (46 not out) to see the Shire, rather surprisingly, home for a comfortable draw. His 125 not out was his second hundred in four championship games this season. A young man very definitely stepping up to the plate.
It is difficult to know what to make of this Gloucestershire performance. Walking away with a draw was a highly credible result, especially given the situation they faced on day 4. It showed a willingness to get stuck in and fight and, hopefully, it provides a platform for the batsmen to gain a bit of confidence to now push on. Dent finally scored some runs (coming into this game he was averaging 8 for the season!) as did Roderick and Van Buuren. Jack Taylor also had a couple of cameos and Benny continues to look like a viable top order batsman. It is conceivable that this unit can develop and grow together to produce the runs necessary this season.
However, the feeling remains that this is a batting unit that has foundations built on sand. Benny is a converted one-day specialist, and a bowling allrounder one-day specialist at that. Roderick is a keeper, all be it in the modern keeper-batsman form, but how many keepers are good enough to bat at 3? Taylor is a bowling allrounder, and highly effective late order biffer, who is trying to convert himself into a top order batsman who scores runs consistently. That leaves only Dent, Bracey and Van Buuren as specialist batsmen. Of these 3, Dent has 152 runs in 4 matches and Van Buuren has 108 runs in the same number of games. Bracey has been a star, and his 327 runs at an average of 54.50 places him 4th in the division 2 run scorers charts.
How can the Shire rebalance this? Well, the mystery selection of Noema-Barrett continues to flummox us. In this game he scored 6 runs and bowled 7 overs, this despite the opposition racking up 455 for 8 declared. Surely if we need to find 7 overs of gentle seam up from someone then Benny can provide this? Remove Noema-Barrett, install another specialist batsman (Will Tavare?) and then allow Jack Taylor to slide into his more natural position at 7. Maybe there is some cunning plan with the Gourmet Burger that we are yet to be made aware of, but bloody hell it must be very cunning!

Batting averages after 4 matches:Dent 152 runs @ 19
Howell 214 runs @ 30.57
Roderick 179 runs @ 22.37
Bracey 327 runs @ 54.50
Van Buuren 108 runs @ 15.42
J Taylor 122 runs @ 15.25

It is only the first month of the season, and these will surely pick-up, but Van Buuren and Jack Taylor must be glancing slightly nervously over their shoulders.

The bowling also looks as though it is really lacking Norwell’s cutting edge. Craig Miles seems to be  struggling for form and rhythm. Higgins, Worrall and Matt Taylor have 18, 16 and 15 wickets respectively. Throw in a Liam Norwell and this unit looks far healthier. Next up for the Shire, the start of the one day cup.

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Glass half full or half empty after Hove draw, and what constitutes an achievable run chase for the Glos batting unit

Gloucestershire 183 and 108 for 6 (van Zyl 3-16) drew with Sussex 145 and 204 (Finch 48, Worrall 4-45 )

The Shire were denied another early season victory by a washed out final day in Hove. The Shire were saved from a demoralising defeat by a washed out final day in Hove. Glass half full, or half empty.
2018 will definitely not be the day of 4 day cricket for this Gloucestershire team as they roll back the years to 3 day county cricket. Cold weather, green pitches, wet outfields and a squad built around seam bowlers means that Glos seem destined to a summer of the shortened form of the game. Given that the modern construct of county cricket forces counties like Gloucestershire to emphasise white ball cricket's revenue over the traditional championship format, we might not notice the difference if the red ball stuff starts to merge with the white ball format.

It is difficult to know what to make of this draw with Sussex. The Jason Gillespie-led south coasters are undoubtedly one of the favourites for promotion this season, so an away draw is definitely a good result.

Ryan Higgins again demonstrated what an excellent signing he has been claiming another five-for in the first innings. Dan Worrall again looked decent, especially in the second innings. Wickets are not a problem for this Gloucestershire team who, lest we forget, are missing last year's main man Liam Norwell and his sidekick David Payne. Craig Miles still appears to be MIA, but Higgins and Worrall, accompanied by Matt Taylor, are picking up the slack.

The batting though is now a major concern. In 3 matches this season the Shire have compiled innings totals of 110 and 108 for 5 against Kent. 236 and 372 against Glamorgan (on a pitch where Glamorgan batted only once and made 526-9 dec) and now 183 and 108 for 6 against Sussex. yes, we know early season conditions don’t make batting easy. Yes, we know that in those games against Kent and Sussex the opposition also struggled. But pretending that it isn’t a concern is definitely ignoring an obvious issue.

Our best batsman and captain, Chris Dent, has started the season with scores of 0, 6, 6, 12, 14, and 13. We are sure he will be saying he just needs to get in, but that is a disappointing run for a man of his capabilities. Graeme Van Buuren last scored a hundred in June 2016 against Leicestershire. Since then his run of scores has gone 13, 25, 10, 3, 4, 1, 10, 3, 79, 0, 23, 15, 0, 0, 88no, 14, 1, 0, 2, 9, 10, 5, 21 and 9. If that isn’t a concern we don’t know what is.

We are happy to support the boys and keep our fingers crossed, but with batting coach Chris Rogers now back in Australia it will be interesting to see how coach Dawson extracts more from this unit.
Which brings us back to the washed out final day at Hove. Would Glos have won? Set 167 to win in the final innings should mean you win. Reaching 69 for 1, definitely means you should. However, that final day would have seen Glos needing 59 more runs with only 4 wickets remaining with Sussex definitely favourites.

We know that batting had been hard throughout the match. We know Sussex are a good team with an excellent coach. But when part time seamer Stiaan Van Zyl is the man who rips the heart out of your middle order with 3 for 16 in 17 balls you worry. We copped some abuse on twitter for thinking that 167 was a fairly straighforward chase, and one we should expect to achieve. If 167 isn’t something we should expect to be able to chase down, then what is?!

Tuesday, 24 April 2018

The wheels come off the Gloucestershire promotion bandwagon

Glamorgan 526 for 9 dec (Lloyd 119, Marsh 111) and 85 for 4 beat Gloucestershire 236 (de Lange 5-62) and 372 (Bracey 120*, Higgins 61, Worrall 50, Carey 4-105) by six wickets

The procession towards promotion is off. The champions elect have stumbled. The wheels are off the bandwagon before it even started rolling. Gloucestershire’s winning start to the season came unstuck in round 2 of the county championship as the lack of batting application and a re-injured Liam Norwell enabled Glamorgan to win despite some plucky fight from the Shire.

Being asked to bat first on a cloudless first day in Bristol should have offered Gloucestershire’s new-look top order the opportunity to shine. Instead a lack of application from the main men left the lower order with a repair job that proved too much to come back from. Captain Dent would have loved to have stamped his authority on this side with an early season big score, instead he again struggled here and has only posted double figures once in his four knocks this season. If not quite a concern just yet, but certainly something he will want to put right soon. We suspect that the experiment with Benny at the top of the order will flatter to deceive as long as it is persisted with. 

From 86 for 5 on the first morning, a final first innings total of 236 can be viewed as a small victory. Ryan Higgins enhanced his repuation with a decent knock of 43 to go with his five-for last week. The Gourmet Burger and overseas pro Dan Worrall also contributed late on to at least give the bowlers something to play with.

Day 2 thus represented an interesting opportunity for this bowler heavy Gloucestershire squad. Last week the theory of loading your squad with seamers proved dividends. This week less so. Not helped by Liam Norwell re-tweaking his hamstring after only 9 overs, the attack plugged away manfully, and never really lost complete control.

This said, Glamorgan did declare on 526 for 9, so nobody covered themselves in glory. We are not going to go so far as to call Shaun Marsh a ‘test quality’ batsman, but any many who can score a test hundred is certainly too good for division 2 county cricket. His 111 on debut enabled David Lloyd to pile on the misery with a hundred of his own. Declaring with a lead of 290 and 4 sessions to bat, the Shire’s under pressure batsmen would have it all to do.

And so it seemed. Day 3 ended with Glos reduced to 133 for 5, with only young James Bracey and Ryan Higgins providing any sort of resistance. Defeat seemed inevitable. Scoring at a brisk rate on the final morning Ryan Higgins backed up his first innings batting effort with a maiden first class fifty before falling for 61. Bracey was soon joined at the crease by Dan Worrall with Glos still trailing by 85 runs. Dan Worrall had a first class batting average of 9. No career fifties. Definitely time for Glamorgan to start the coach. Amazingly though Glos continued to fight. First Worrall added 50 runs in quick time. Then Matt Taylor also hung around to add 77 for the 9th wicket. Suddenly, Glos had not only made Glamorgan bat again, but they had a total that meant time was now an issue for Glamorgan. Sadly it was not to be. Glos were dismissed for 362. Glamorgan had 21 overs to score 83. A fair challenge 30 years ago. Not so much today. Glamorgan eventually winning by 6 wickets.

The stand-out performer for the Shire was James Bracey who has cemented himself into the number 4 position and confirmed the potential he showed at the end of last year. His old fashioned hundred took 274 balls and almost saved the game. A solitary contribution from someone else in the top 6 would have got Glos off the hook.

So a mixed bag for the Shire. The bowling went from fire and brimstone to pop-gun. This said, they did lose key strike man Liam Norwell and so battled on as a depleted unit. Why Norwell was rushed back into a bowling unit who had just decimated Kent the previous week now looks questionable. Such is the advantage of hindsight. The batting of Bracey makes it appear that the Shire may have unearthed a real talent. The rest of the top 6 looks in need of runs to build confidence.

Can anyone tell us what the Gourmet Burger is bringing to the side? He bats at 8 and despite us being a bowler light, he only bowls 7 overs that go at 6 an over? We presume that the old classic excuses that “He’s good in the dressing room” or “Looks good in the nets” are being trotted out. We just see little use for him when we are so light in batting. If you need extra overs from someone then surely Benny does this job? Will coach Dawson replace him with a batsman? Move Jack Taylor down to his more natural number 7 position. Higgins at 8. We still get 3 main seamers and Van Buuren’s spin. Solved. Easy.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

The promotion bandwagon is up and running

Gloucestershire 110 (Roderick 51, Stevens 3-19) and 108 for 5 (Howell 52*) beat Kent 64 (Taylor 4-20, Miles 3-11) and 153 (Bell-Drummond 61, Higgins 5-22) by five wickets

Crucial fifties from former skipper Gareth Roderick and newly-minted opener Benny Howell, saw Gloucestershire defeat Kent in a low-scoring game completed in under three days, despite the loss of day 1 to a wet outfield following heavy rain.

This was a wild game, with many crazy statistics, including Glos winning despite not scoring over 110 in either innings, only three individual scores above 50 and 17(!) LBWs from 35 wickets, all in under 3 full days of cricket.

Day 1 at Canterbury was lost to a wet outfield and Gloucestershire were always likely to bowl first, given the overhead conditions. A four man attack without Liam Norwell, who was rested after a pre-season injury, meant debutant Ryan Higgins provided seam backup to Worrall, Miles and Matt Taylor. We also had Benny and Gourmet-Burger in reserve, although as events transpired they were in selected the team as batsmen only.

Glos ripped into Kent in favourable bowling conditions on Day 2, reducing them to 29-6 on the way to 64 all out. Matt Taylor showed why the shire's seam attack is potentially one of the division's best, removing Bell-Drummond, captain Joe Denly, the dangerous Stevens and former Jessop Tavern favourite Will Gidman on the way to 4-20, He was ably supported by Miles with 3-11 as Kent were skittled in 18.5 overs.

By the close of play, the match was halfway done, with Glos handily ahead at 110-8. Despite numerous low scores, largely brought about by the seamer-friendly conditions, Glos managed to close with a lead of 46, thanks to a gritty half century from keeper Roderick. This was the knock of the match, a fact acknowledged by coach Richard Dawson who rated it worth a hundred in any other game.

Day Three began in familiar fashion, with Glos dismissed in the first over of the day without adding to our overnight total. This left u with some work to do, as batting conditions improved somewhat on Sunday morning and the dangerous Bell-Drummond got going. He struck 10 fours and a six in a rapid 61 as Kent moved ahead of Glos for the loss of Dixon. Joe Denly arrived and looked to have been caught for a golden by KNB, but refused to walk and was reprieved by the umpire. The crucial moment of the innings was yet another LBW, as Higgins snared a well-set Bell-Drummond bang in front with the score on 75 and the lead just 29.

Kent slipped to 89-5, before recovering at the hands of Gidman, who put on 43 with Rouse before nicking off to Roderick for Miles' solitary wicket of the innings. Higgins showed real potential with the ball, nipping it around at a handy pace to take his maiden first class five-fer as Kent were dismissed for 153.

This left us 108 to win and with conditions still tricky, new skipper Dent was castled by a jaffa from Kiwi Matt Henry bringing Roderick in again with over a hundred still required. The two saw us through to an early close due to bad light at 61-1.

This left a nervous Monday morning for those sitting in the office listening on the BBC. We questioned Benny's move to opener in our season preview last week, but were delighted to see the Frenchman score a crucial fifty of his own as Glos won by 5 wickets. Benny's positivity, hitting 9 boundaries and facing only 90 balls, was a welcome counterpoint to the uncertainty shown at the other end, with 4 wickets falling in knocking off the 47 runs needed. Jack Taylor's second poor dismissal of the match, leaving a straight one from the wily Stevens to be plumb LBW was a bit concerning, given that the vice-captain's runs will be needed given he's set to bat at in the top 6 this season.

So, what does this all mean, ahead of tomorrow's home opener versus Glamorgan? Clearly the boys have a quality seam bowling attack, as evidenced by bowling Kent out cheaply twice, despite being without last year's leading wicket-taker Liam Norwell. Taylor bowled well on D1 and Worrall is clearly going to be a factor in Division 2, having taken 4-55 on his Shire debut. Higgins was a pleasant surprise and if he can function as a 4th or 5th seamer alongside the established attack then we could have a really handy attack this year.

The batting remains a bit of a concern. We said on Twitter that a lot of the dismissals in the first innings were down to playing across the line or missing straight deliveries. We may have been a bit harsh, as listening to 'Pasty' during his BBC commentary stint, he claimed most of the LBWs were due to late movement rather than poor choice of shot, aside from Roderick who admitted he made a mistake in the first innings. We'll give the boys the benefit of the doubt for this one, but with an equally handy Glamorgan pace attack rolling into Bristol tomorrow, we will need to see improvements if the Shire are to continue their momentum into the first home game of the year.

Still, a first win in the opening game of the season since the heady days of 2011 is not to be sniffed at. Let's hope that another good performance can help the Jessop Tavern View recapture some of the heady optimism of 2011, our first season blogging here. We can't promise you 25 posts in April like our first year of blogging, but more wins like this will certainly inspire us to fire up the laptops more often!

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

2018 Preview: Part 2 - Green tops for Nevil Road

Our 2018 season preview concludes with a look at the bowling. Young pups Norwell, Payne, Miles and Matt Taylor should surely form a tasty, locally-reared quartet of a pace attack. Throw in the intriguing overseas signing of Dan Worrall and the Shire really should be a dangerous proposition with the ball.

Presumably the groundsman at Nevil Road is going to allow the short mower to go rust in 2018 as there doesn’t appear a spin option worthy of the name. The sight of opposition players scratching their heads, wondering where the strip is on a lush, grassy Bristol square should become a familiar sight in 2018.

Dan Worrall (Career average: 29.61 with 136 wickets in 35 fc matches at a strike rate of 55.94 and 5 five wicket hauls; One day average: 39.21 with 28 wickets in 24 matches)

Worrall represents something of a throwback signing. An overseas player, here for the entire season, which we reckon can only be a good thing. His career stats aren’t anything too exciting, but he has clearly shown enough signs of talent back in Oz to have found international recognition in the ODI setup.

He is coming off the back of a successful 17/18 Sheffield Shield season where his 34 wickets meant that only 5 men took more first class wickets down under this winter. All of this does point towards a shrewd signing by the Shire. However, we have seen one too many Shabbir Ahmed’s over the years to know that for every Courtney Walsh there is an Ashley Noffke!

Liam Norwell (Career stats: 248 wickets @ 26.89, including 10 5 wicket hauls and 3 10 wicket matches)

In 2017 Norwell took 59 wickets at 18.11, including 5 five-fors and twice he took 10 wickets in a match. We were about to write that this was a career year for the ginger paceman. But it wasn’t particularly. In 2015 he took 68 wickets. In 2016 he took 44. For the last 3 seasons he has been one of divisions two’s prime strike men.

Fitness issues dogged the early part of his career, but hopefully the decent strength in depth in the seam bowling department this year will mean his workload can be properly managed and 2018 will see him develop further....and then inevitably bugger off to Somerset next year!

Craig Miles (Career stats: 199 wickets @ 28.26, including 11 five wicket hauls and one 10 wicket match)

Come back the 2015-16 version of Craig Miles! Admittedly, the Jessop Tavern can never type Miles’ name without picturing 78 year old Azhar Mahmood dispatching a final ball bouncer over deep square leg for the 6 that was needed to win the match in a T20 blast match, but that version of Craig Miles at least had some spunk. Was 2017 just a blip?

The lack of news provided to long distance fans means that we are never entirely sure how injuries play out in the distant, unreported, galaxy that is division 2 of the county championship. Whatever the issues in 2017 the Shire will be hoping that the still only 23 year old can return to the sort of form that saw him take 50 wickets in consecutive seasons, and earn a call up to the England Lions.

David Payne (Career stats: 198 wickets @ 32.96, with 3 five wicket hauls. In List A cricket he averages 22.76)

David Payne will sit out the first part of the season recovering from recent ankle surgery. His quick recovery will be vital to the Shire’s success when the white ball cricket gets underway. In recent seasons the limited overs stuff has been Payne’s chance to come to the fore.

His championship work often goes unnoticed. His awkward left arm pace providing a nice counterpunch to the more orthodox angles of Norwell and Miles. His 28 first class wickets in 2017 might not look spectacular, but are the perfect ballast for other guys to work around. We wish him a speedy recovery.

Matt Taylor (Career stats: 67 wickets @ 41.83)

David Payne’s injury represents an opportunity for the only remaining bowling version of the Taylor brothers to stake a claim to become more than the squad bowler he has been since making his debut in 2013. At only 23, time is still on his side to develop on the potential that has been glimpsed at times.

However, a bowling average that has never dipped below 40 in first class cricket (and in List A it actually sits around 50!) does not lie and it will be a big step up for Taylor to be a regular contributor. Injuries and the need to rotate the seamers will give him his chance. Hopefully he will have the talent to grasp it.

Chris Liddle (Career stats: 46 wickets @ 48.41....ouch! In List A he has 97 wickets @ 26.60)

Liddle was a strange signing last year. The 34 year old journeyman arrived as a white ball specialist, yet found himself in the 4 day team for a greater number of games than expected. His contribution in the Royal London Cup was a very handy 18 wickets, but in the T20 Blast he made less of an impact with only 6 wickets in the competition despite playing every game. What his role will be in 2018 is unclear. Presumably a return to being a white ball cricketer.

Tom Smith (Career Stats: 74 wickets @ 49.20 in first class cricket; 55 wickets @ 39.63 in List A and 106 wickets @ 22.43 in T20)

Let's whizz through this quick. Glos won’t be spinning any webs in 2018. Smith has been a solid pro for the Shire since his arrival from Middlesex. However, his best moments have been reserved for the short form of the game and he represents nothing more than a man who can get through some overs waiting for the new ball.

Miles Hammond (Career stats: 1 wicket @ 196.00 in 3 matches)

The only other spinner listed on the Gloucestershire first XI page of the website (so not necessarily the only other spin option!) the 22 year old from Cheltenham has a long way to go. His 3 games actually came back in 2013, although he is a former England U-19 international.

Potentially the most interesting thing to watch with regards to Hammond in 2018 is whether his profile exists on the Glos website due to lazy updating by whoever runs the site or whether he is actually a legitimate member of the squad. We know where our money is.

So there we go. The 2018 season can officially get underway. The boys start with an away trip to Kent, so all is left is to wish them well and to hope that it's nice and overcast on Friday morning for our seamers to run through them before the sun shines for the rest of the match.

Good luck to all of the boys for this season. Our enthusiasm is high at the moment so let's see if you can keep us blogging through to September!

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

2018 Season Preview - 1,000 runs anyone?

The Jessop Tavern is back! Blink and you may well miss us. The Jessop Tavern’s enthusiasm is quickly drained and a recent recap of our blogging history indicates that we are very much fair weather bloggers. The Shire’s success each year is very much monitored in when our last post was for that season. In 2017 it was May. Enough said.

So what can Gloucestershire fans expect in 2018? Wisden reckon we are set for an 8th place finish in the championship and a quarter final appearance in the T20 Blast. What they reckon the odds are for Alfred the Gorilla making it. A hat-trick of finals day mascot race wins is unknown. Would that be success for Glos? Clearly it isn’t too much to aspire to, but then what should Gloucestershire’s aim be for this season? We’d settle for being competitive in the championship until September, with an entertaining cup run in either the T20 or 50 over competition. With Bristol missing out on one of the forthcoming franchises for the new T20 competition cricket in the west country will face uncertain times. An inspiring 2018 campaign would go some way to looking to the future with more hope.

We will write this season preview in two parts, with the batting first. On paper, the batting looks thin. Very thin. No batsman in the squad passed 1,000 runs in 2017. For what feels like the better part of a decade Glos have recruited an overseas batsman to bolster the weakest part of their squad. Williamson, Klinger, Handscomb and Bancroft have all done this job, with varying degrees of success.

In 2018 coach Richard Dawson has gone for a bowling overseas player, Dan Worrall. What impact this has on the Shire’s ability to score enough runs remains to be seen. The boys shouldn’t have too much trouble taking 20 wickets. Worrall, Norwell, Miles and Payne look a handy attack if they can all be fit. Whether they spend the bulk of the summer grumbling about batsmen failing to do their job will be the critical aspect of the 2018 campaign.

Chris Dent (Career average: 38.07; 2017 average: 44.45 with 2 hundreds)
New club captain for 2018, Chris Dent has all the tools to be a plunderer of division 2 runs (as well as a fine one day player). Will the captaincy inspire him? Time will tell. It is hard to knock Dent’s output over the last 5 years. He has hit 1,000 runs in 3 of those 5 years and scored 11 hundreds. However, he failed to crack what should be an automatic thousand runs in a season in 2017 and his conversion rate of 2 hundreds for 10 times going passed 50 is the real source of frustration for fans.

Dent has never been the main man in the Gloucestershire batting, mainly due to Klinger and others being present. In 2018 he will be the key wicket for teams, along with being a first-time captain. Its a big ask for Dent in 2018 and one he will need to be up to if Glos are to have an even semi-respectable season.

Benny Howell (Career average 28.29; 2017 average: 68.00 with 1 hundred in 2 matches)Is Benny the answer at the top of the order? We vaguely remember Benny arriving at the Shire in 2011 as this French opening batsman which prompted us to imagine a bloke who stood square-on the bowler and tried flicking all balls over his head to the boundary. Sadly this wasn’t the case, although Benny’s batting has been of the boundary hitting variety, usually some lower order biffing, and mainly in one day cricket.

Of course, Benny has turned himself into one of the county circuit's best one day bowlers, but opening the batting in the championship? At the end of the season Benny did hit a very fine 163 against Glamorgan. But is that enough to build a batting line-up around? This was only his second first-class hundred, and an average that has never gone above 30 in each of his 6 full seasons at the club means this is a risk to rely on his runs.

James Bracey (Career average: 41.41; 2017 average: 41.41 with one hundred in 9 matches)Is Bracey our new hero? The 20 year old left-handed keeper batsman appeared on the scene in 2017 and took to first-class cricket immediately. 3 fifties and a maiden hundred (in the same match that Benny scored his ton) is a solid return for a young man coming into the team. Whether building your batting lineup around an end of season performance against Glamorgan is a policy for success remains to be seen. However, Bracey is the future and let's hope he can push on and develop this year.

George Hankins (Career average 26.42; 2017: 26.23 with no hundreds in 12 matches)Hankins made his debut in 2016 and seemed to grow into that season with his maiden hundred coming at the tail end of that campaign. 2017 was, therefore, a disappointing ‘growing’ season for the 21 year old, with no hundreds and just the 4 fifties.

The Shire seemed determined to provide him with experience in all formats, although how much Hankins enjoyed his 7 T20 matches, where he scored 17 runs at an average of 5, is in doubt. It is hard to know which way he will develop as a cricketer in 2018. Glimpses of potential are well and good, but in a side that looks pretty thin in the batting department, it is hard to believe that this is the ideal environment in which to grow.

Graeme Van Buuren (Career average: 46.28; 2017 average: 22.33 with no hundreds in 8 matches)Arriving from South African on his pet hamster's passport in 2016, Van Buuren immediately looked a very handy pick-up. 2 hundreds in his 7 games in 2016 at an average of 45 seemed to herald a very useful middle order player. Injury then ravaged his 2017 campaign, so not too much should be read into last year's stats. So can Van Buuren bounce back? Along with captain Dent he represents the experienced heart of the batting, so he will need to find his best form early if Glos are to put up a fight.

Gareth Roderick (Career average: 38.79; 2017 average: 33.58 with no hundreds in 9 matches)Another South African import whose 2017 season was ruined by injury. Former club captain Roderick has struggled in recent seasons to back-up the impressive start he made to his Gloucestershire career. 2 hundreds and an average of 44 in his debut season of 2013 was built upon by an average of 58 in 2014 before his season was ruined by injury. Since then Roderick has never averaged above 33, nor scored more than one hundred or gone over 800 runs. Again, more will be needed from a player with the ability to score runs at this level.

Jack Taylor (Career average: 32.89; 2017 average: 41.00 with 2 hundreds in 15 matches)Crowd favourite, and new vice-captain, Jack Taylor will have all of 2018 to focus on his batting after his season-long bowling suspension. Whether Taylor ever goes back to bowling will be interesting. That Steve Smith bloke seems to have done ok having ditched the lollypop spin bowling to focus on scoring runs with an unorthodox technique!

Where Glos choose to unleash Taylor’s unique batting talents will be a test of coach Dawson’s improvisation. The feeling that Taylor is better utilised as a match-changing lower order biffer is hard to refute, and he may find number 7 his ideal position. Whether that is too low for a guy in the team solely for his batting will be the question? Modern cricket is all about momentum and innovation, and using Taylor in this way will allow him to play his natural game that has brought great success over the last few years.

Will Tavare (Career average: 31.63; 2017 average: 31.29 with 2 hundreds in 11 matches)
2017 was hardly a vintage year for Tavare, and the feeling exists that his place in the pecking order has gone to the likes of Bracey and Hankins. You suspect that Tavare will get his chance again and it will be up to him to take it. This is a man who in 2014 topped 1,000 runs with 4 hundreds. Even last year, which was hardly his best, he managed two hundreds, as many as Chris Dent.

Ian Cockbain (Career average: 30.15; 2017 average: 27.00 in just 1 match)

Jessop Tavern View favourite and T20 specialist Ian Cockbain will presumably be overlooked for the championship games and instead will be utilised as a one day specialist. His T20 epiphany in 2016 resulted in a more modest return in 2017 (252 runs at 25 in the T20 Blast) but in the 50 over game Cockbain was the only real bright point for Glos with his maiden one day century and an average of 59 across the 7 matches.

Kieran Noema-Barnett (Career average: 27.05; 2017 average: 22.38 with no hundreds in 11 matches, bowling: 23 wickets at 32.04)The gourmet burger should really be a Jessop Tavern favourite. A sort of Jackson Thompson cricketer. A Mike Gatting style of buffet eater who was sponsored by a gourmet burger restaurant, what’s not to like? Well, his figures for starters. No not his figure. And no, not those types of starters. 
We just struggle to see what he brings to a team. In 2017 we saw far more of Noema-Barnett with the ball in hand than is good for any side. We saw it as a sign of how much the Shire were struggling, and the same will bne the same in 2018. This said, there is still time for him to turn this around. Adopting the big man with big bat and big biffing would be the place to start. Less of the Jesse Ryder opening the bolwing sort of stuff, and more of the Jesse Ryder in nightclub toilets would be the other way to go.

Ryan Higgins (Career average: 24.71 in 5 matches; 2017 average: 18.42. Bowling; 12 career wickets at 23.41)It’s hard to know anything at all about this winter’s 'big' signing. The Zimbabwe-born man signed from Middlesex and has such a limited first-class record that it's hard to try and make sense of what Glos fans might expect from him.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

A new hero of the Jessop Tavern steps into the light

Glos, 275 for 8 (Klinger, 134) beat Kent, 264 for 9 (Liddle, 5 for 36) by 11 runs.
Glos gave themselves a fighting chance of at least making it interesting for the fans over the final round of matches in the RLODC with a tense 11 run victory at home to Kent. It was a fairly improbable victory, and one that coach Richard Dawson admitted himself that he didn't know how it had happened.

The victory was all about one man. No, not that man. Michael Klinger scoring one day hundreds for Gloucestershire are exactly the same as Chris Dent scoring pretty little 30s. Not particularly worthy of comment. This victory was about a new hero. A dashing, exciting new prospect, tearing in with his left arm medium plodders. This victory was about a 33 year old man showing its never too late in the day to put in match winning performances when everyone has given up on you. This was a victory about Chris Liddle.

The mighty Liddle. Brought in from Sussex last year as a one day specialist. A man who disappeared. A player we didn't even realise was still on the books until he appeared on the team sheet at the start of the year. An unlikely hero if ever there was one. In fairness, Liddle has been our most consistent one day bowler in the competition. He has 12 wickets in 4 matches at an average of 13 and an economy rate of below 5. That places him second in the wicket taker's table. One behind Durham's James Weighell (yep, we've never heard of him either)

After Klinger's fine innings of 134 was squandered by Glos' inability to push on in the final overs, the game looked done as the impressive Daniel Bell-Drummond looked as if he was coasting to his third hundred of the competition. Kent were sitting pretty on 200 for 2 from 39 overs when Liddle began his second spell. Cometh the hour, cometh the 33 year old journeyman. Liddle removed both Bell-Drummond and Sam Northeast to give the Shire hope, and then proceeded to remove Stevens and Blake to turn a hopeless situation into one that even Glos couldn't find a way to lose.

Liddle's story at Glos is slightly clouded in mystery. We aren't entirely sure what the problems were last year, but maybe he is now finding his feet again. The Jessop Tavern queried at the start of the season whether Gloucestershire should have tried to draft in an experienced campaigner to provide a bit more depth to the bowling, and a bit of experience. We weren't really thinking that Chris Liddle was this man. In fairness he may be 33, but has only played 29 first class and 67 list A games. Maybe Richard Dawson is a canny assessor of talent. Or maybe there was no one else.

Glos now find themselves in mid table in their South Group, 3 points behind third place Sussex, but with a game in hand. Admittedly Hampshire are between Glos and qualification, having played the same number of games, but the Shire have a fighting chance as they prepare for a must-win game against table topping Somerset on Friday. The Royal London Cup has finally captured our imagination prior to a trip to Lords being on the table!