Saturday, 6 August 2016

Critical game for the Shire sees promotion bid stall

Leicestershire 218 (Robson 62, Payne 5-36) and 181 for 4 (Horton 73, Cosgrove 56) beat Gloucestershire 183 (Taylor 51, Raine 4-57) and 215 (Klinger 54, McKay 3-43) by six wickets

Big games in the championship tend to be decided by experienced players. This was emphatically the case in the final Championship game at Cheltenham, where Leicestershire's senior pros guided them to a potentially tricky 3rd day chase without undue alarm.

We have previously written about how well Leicestershire recruited over the winter, bringing in Mark Pettini from Essex, Paul Horton from Lancashire and Neil Dexter from Middlesex.

Glos were put in under bowler-friendly skies on Day 1 and were dismissed for a disappointing 183, with only a battling Jack Taylor passing 50. By the close Leics were 122-5, only 61 behind with opener Angus Robson 49*. Leics reached 218 all out on Day 2, with David Payne finishing with an excellent 5-36. The lead of 45 proved important as the game progressed rapidly on the second day, with only Michael Klinger looking like batting for an extended period was possible. He ended the day 33* and a lead of 250 would surely have been hard work for Leicestershire to chase down against a strong Glos bowling lineup.

However, Glos slumped to 161-8 in the first session of Day 3 and only an unlikely partnership of 48 for the last wicket between Josh Shaw and Benny the Frenchman enabled us to set a target over 150. In the end, 181 proved inadequate, as despite losing Dexter and Robson early, the experienced Aussie duo of Horton and Cosgrove broke the back of the chase with a stand of 108 for the third wicket. Both departed before the end, but thew hard work was done despite a good performance in the field from the boys. Glos had bowled Essex out for 151 the previous week, but against a strong and experienced batting side you really need to set a target of at least 200 to have a chance, especially in a game which concluded with 15 overs remaining on Day 3.

A disappointing result to end the Championship portion of the Cheltenham festival, but onwards and upwards with 6 championship fixtures still to play, plus a T20 quarter final next Wednesday against Durham.

Day 1 highlights

Day 2 highlights

Day 3 highlights

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Glos book themselves a home quarter final in the T20 Blast

T20 Blast: Glos beat Essex by 9 wickets.

Essex will beat a hasty retreat from Cheltenham after a weekend of being mauled by a young and hungry Gloucestershire team playing some fantastic cricket.

Another T20 match brought more runs for Maxy Klinger (again the competition's leading run scorer - 517 runs at 57). More runs for Ian Cockbain (the competitions second highest run scorer - 457 runs at 65). More wickets for Benny the bowler (the competition's leading wicket taker - 20 wickets at 15). And most importantly, this particular win brings a guaranteed home quarter final at the start of August.

Batting first Glos got away to a good start with O'Mish delivering 43 runs from 28 balls to set a platform for Maxy and Cockbain to go to work. The impressive thing about these two has not only been the consistency, but the composure and ease they have with their own games. We have witnessed this throughout Maxy's time with the Shire. He has absolutely confidence in his own game to just ease up through the gears and to press the accelerate when needed, and not before.

This influence has very clearly rubbed off on Ian Cockbain. Cockbain is a player who until this season clearly saw himself as a bit of a biffer. A guy who hit a long ball. This season he has been the complete number 3, playing a variety of different styles of innings depending on what the game called for. His evolution has been extremely impressive and the Jessop Tavern is delighted for a player they have long been fans of.

Posting their highest total of the season, 212 for 1, Gloucestershire's bowlers then squeezed the life out of the Essex reply, taking important wickets at the right time, and never allowing the Essex run chase to even get started. Matt Taylor continued his fine form with 2 for 25. Benny the bowler continued his economic wicket taking with 3 for 27, and that was about that.

Gloucestershire are now 4 points top of the group with only one game remaining and are assured of a home quarter final. The Jessop Tavern is already looking into travel to Edgbaston.

Video highlights:

Glos launch improbable promotion bid

County Championship Div 2: Glos beat Essex by 61 runs.

Gloucestershire's remarkable season continued last week in the county championship as the Shire bagged a third win of the season to take them to within spitting distance of the summit of division 2. With a game in hand. In a year when only one team gets promoted, surely Glos aren't serious contenders? Well, on recent form, you wouldn't back against them.

Despite stuttering with the bat on day 1 to be bowled out for 255, and then collapsing on day 3, losing their last 6 wickets for only 62 runs, the young Glos pace bowlers ran through Essex to bowl them out for 151, claim a famous and improbably win, and allow the hospitality tents an afternoon of drinking without having the cricket to distract them. Win win.

Much like the entire season, Glos were indebted to crucial performances at crucial times. On day 1, Cragi Miles' 56 runs, alongside contributions from David Payne and Liam Norwell, dragged Glos from 140 for 7 up to a total that at least got them in the game. An important 4 for 72 from returning loanee Josh Shaw helped restrict Essex to a first innings lead of 78. Roderick and Dent then knocked off this lead with their opening stand in the second innings before Maxi Klinger prevented a complete disintegration with 53 not out as the tail fell away. Gloucestershire then finally saw the very best of Miles, Norwell and Payne bowling as a unit as they finished with 3 for 26, 4 for 65 and 3 for 40 respectively. Norwell, Payne and Miles have been Gloucestershire's leading seamers for a few years now, but it is difficult to think of another match in which they have collective worked together to run through a team. If we can keep them all fit then Glos will fancy their chances against most batting units.

Liam Norwell now has 30 wickets at 25. Craig Miles has 27 wickets at 30. David Payne has 20 wickets at 40. Fitness has always been the issue with all 3 of these guys, but Norwell is still only 24. Payne is 25. Craig Miles is just about to turn 22. The Shire have the making of a decent seam attack for quite a few years to come. At the start of the season the Jessop Tavern did ponder whether we might regret not attempting to sign a consistent, more mature fast bowler to provide a steady spine to the bowling. Yet again, another astute observation from the Jessop Tavern that has been rammed down its throat.

One observation that we are standing by is that we are still not convinced by Gareth Roderick opening the batting. This said Roderick is steadily working his way towards a very solid season. Coming off the back of his first hundred of the season he now has 638 runs at an average of 42. This also includes 6 fifties. This is a welcome return to the early promise he showed when first breaking into the team and averaging 44 and then 55 in his first two seasons. Last year's average of 32 looks to have been no more than a blip, and quite possibly the move to the top of the order has helped rejuvenate him.

However, the Jessop Tavern grew up in the era of Alec Stewart, and thus we refuse to break with the belief that opening, keeping and captaining is possible. Especially long term. However, as Roderick doesn't spend half his time at the crease twiddling his bat or walking into drives outside off stump and nicking-off it is possible that this was the real drain on Stewart's energies.

So, Gloucestershire now sit third in division 2. 11 points behind leaders Essex, and with a game in hand against Leicestershire. Can Glos continue this improbable charge to promotion? Can they continue to fight on both the 4 day, 50 over and 20 over front? Will injuries catch up with them at some point? Is promotion even a good thing? All this and more, in the next exciting few weeks.

Video highlights:
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Which way to Finals Day??

T20 Blast: Glos beat Glamorgan by 9 wickets

It is the mark of a very good side if they re able to shrug off disappointment and use defeat as the motivation to put in a performance that banishes any lingering disappointment. Glos did that, and then some, bouncing back from a close loss to Kent with their finest T20 victory of the season against table-topping Glamorgan on Sunday. Aided by a slightly strange decision by Glamorgan to bat first on a sluggish pitch.

You'd like to know what the Glamorgan lads thought when they rocked up in Cardiff to see that their groundsman had prepared an absolutely pudding for their 3 out and out quick bowlers to toil away on. A little bit like the groundsman at the Oval who prepared that absolute bunsen for Murali to bowl on all those years ago, Tait, Hogan and Van der Gutgen must have been wondered what the heck was going on.

Gloucestershire's attack duly licked their lips and set about applying their mixture of slower balls on a sticky pitch to utterly smother Glamorgan's batsmen. 'Jacques' van Buuren took 3 for 19. Tom Smith took 2 for 13. Benny took 1 for 13. All demonstrating that pace off the ball was the way to go. Thus potentially the performance of the day was Liam Norwell's 0 for 21 from 4 overs, demonstrating once again that Norwell is maturing into a very useful bowler in various formats.

Only Graham Wagg's 32 from 23 balls, including 18 from AJ Tye's final over got Glamorgan into triple figures. Whilst conditions may have favoured Gloucestershire's attack, it is hard to find any fault with such a fine bowling performance.

In reply O'Mish was out early which simply brought Maxi and Ian Cockbain together. 97 runs later Klinger and Cockbain walked off. Job done.

Maxi and Cockbain now sit first and second in the T20 run charts for 2016. They may have played a couple of games more than Joe Denly and Ross Taylor who sit third and fourth, but then again second placed Cockbain's 388 runs is over 50 runs more than Denly. Maxi incidentally has 422 runs. Maxy does what Maxy does. Both have identical strike rates of 128 runs per 100 balls. Phenomenal performances from both.

The superlatives for Maxy in this format ran out a while ago. For Cockbain this is new territory of consistency and quality. The Jessop Tavern have always rated Cockbain. Every year we wonder if he'll get a fair chance and every year he does, only for him to then average 25, usually with a hundred tucked away somewhere to tempt us with what he can do.

This year has been different. Given the responsibility of batting at 3 he has looked at ease with the position. A player reaching maturity and understanding how his game fits into the rest of the team and the position of the match. This season he has played biffing innings, taking the attack to the opposition. He has also played second fiddle, ticking over a polite 30 odd at a run a ball whilst O'Mish or Maxy run amok at the other end. He has also seen things through. 11 innings. 4 not outs. Batting at 3 that is an excellent return.

Gloucestershire now head to Cheltenham full of confidence. Top of the table with only two games remaining. A home T20 quarter final looks very possible, and from there anything is possible.

Monday, 11 July 2016

The art of the red inker

Leicestershire 334 (Dexter 136, McKay 55, Cosgrove 54, Norwell 4-72) drew with Gloucestershire 403 for 2 dec (Dent 165, van Buuren 121*)

In a game against a division rival in good form and where the best part of two days are lost to rain, the trick is to try to secure maximum bonus points. This Gloucestershire achieved comfortably on the 4th day, as the previously tricky pitch flattened out and only 2 wickets fell while 334 runs were scored. Chris Dent scored a fine 165, taking his tally to 805 championship runs at almost 58, with three hundreds to go with his two white ball tons in the Royal London Cup (remember that one?). 

Sadly this was not good enough form to get him into the England Lions squad, despite the fact that their game versus Pakistan A takes place during the Cheltenham Festival at a ground Dent knows very well. As we moaned in a recent tweet, could it be evidence of some mild selectorial bias against smaller Division 2 counties?

Another beneficiary of the benign batting conditions on the final day was Graeme 'Jacques' van Buuren, who emulated his illustrious compatriot Mr Kallis with a classic 4th innings 'red inker'. GvB has now struck a healthy 403 runs in just 6 championship innings and is averaging 100. He has also managed to score two unbeaten hundreds in those innings, hence the tasty average reminiscent of the great Jacques. To be more generous to GvB, he looks an attractive strokemaker (from the limited video highlights we've seen). He certainly takes a fierce toll on anything pitched too short and credit must go to the Glos management for identifying him as a potential signing given his recently-issued British passport.

Credit should also be given to the bowling attack, especially Liam Norwell who toiled away manfully in taking 4-72 from 32 over of hard graft against handy players like Neil Dexter and former Aussie (Kolpak?) Mark Cosgrove. Dexter struck 136 in a season which has revived his career after leaving Middlesex last season and along with Mark Pettini and Paul Horton has proved an excellent signing for Leicestershire who have been performing miles better this year than in recent seasons.

To conclude, a job well done in a game curtailed by bad weather which led in nicely to a series of 4 T20 games, 3 of which we've already recapped.

Day 4 highlights

Day 2 highlights

Day 1 highlights

Saturday, 9 July 2016

T20 roundup: Glos in a strong position after two wins from three

Three T20 fixtures since our last post saw Glos claim two wins to briefly go top of the South Group, before a close loss against Kent left the 'shire second with a crucial fixture against the Welsh county to come on Sunday.

July 1st
Gloucestershire 168 for 3 (Klinger 101, Overton 3-33) beat Somerset 167 for 7 (Jayawardene 41, Taylor 3-16) by seven wickets 

Michael Klinger reinforced his credentials as arguably the best three format batsman in county cricket with his 6th career T20 hundred (& 5th for the shire) as Glos completed the 'cider double' over local rivals Somerset.

Maxy's 101 from 71 balls was a typically chanceless innings and helped Glos overhaul Somerset's 167 with ease. Glos bowled really well to restrict a Gayle-less side to an underpar score for the Taunton road, with Benny Howell again impressing with 1-23 from his spell.

Klinger struck 4 sixes and 10 fours and his partnership of 107 with Ian Cockbain was enough to break the back of the chase after O'Mish fell cheaply at the start. A convincing win for the boys against a Somerset side who have been disappointing in T20 this season.

Video highlights:

July 6th
Gloucestershire 152 for 4 (Cockbain 73*, Dent 39) beat Surrey 151 for 9 (Sibley 32, Finch 31, Tye 3-16) by six wickets 

Glos again triumphed comfortably in a game weirdly lacking a Cricinfo write-up, despite being televised live on Sky. This was the 'Shire's 5th T20 win in a row and left them temporarily top of the South group ahead of Glamorgan.

Another fine bowling and fielding effort restricted a dangerous Surrey batting lineup to 151, with Tye taking a Glos-best 3-16 from 4 overs. It was noticeable that Glos managed to prevent the Surrey batsmen from hitting boundaries after the departures of Aaron Finch, Chris Morris and Sibley and it was only a later flourish from the Curran brothers which saw Surrey even pass 150.

The target proved no problem for an in-form Glos batting side, with Ian Cockbain looking especially good as he hit an unbeaten 73 from number three. O'Mish and Klinger (to a great catch by Finch) departed relatively cheaply after getting starts, but the Liverpudlian hit the ball well throughout. His stand of 78 with Chris Dent was sufficient to see us most of the way to another deserved victory.

Video highlights:

Kent 148 for 7 (Denly 51, Howell 3-29) beat Gloucestershire 145 for 8 (Klinger 42, Howell 37) by three runs 

A disappointing result in a tight game with Kent brought the boys back to earth after consecutive wins. This loss sets up a decisive game with Glamorgan in Cardiff on Sunday, with the winner securing a quarter final place and likely going a long way to winning the South Group with only 2 fixtures remaining after the Glamorgan game.

Kent looked to have been restricted to a moderate total, with only Joe Denly with 51 really getting to grips with a parsimonious Glos bowling attack. However, Glos lost wickets with regularity while chasing and only Klinger and Howell really managed any sense of permanence in scoring 42 and 37 respectively. The middle order played some poor shots to get themselves out (Gourmet-Burger in particular slogging brainlessly with Howell well set) and Howell and the tail were left a stiff task at the end.

Benny will doubtless be annoyed at failing to get us over the line in the final over- he was run out attempting to sneak two (after being caught) off a Mitchell Claydon no ball which saw him removed from the attack. This left Griffiths to bowl a free hit dot ball and then complete the over, leaving Kent the winners by just 3 runs. Frustrating not to win after another excellent job in the field, but qualification still remains in our hands.

Video highlights:

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

A view outside the Shire: Tymal Mills

Everyone knows that the good people of the West Country are parochial folk. We don't like venturing too far from home. We aren't often concerned about the goings on any further than the end of our road. But the Jessop Tavern is about breaking boundaries, forging ahead into untried territories, so for the first time in 6 years, a piece about something outside the Shire.

Tymal Mills. Congenital back condition. 90mph speed merchant. T20 only. England call up.

At the start of the month Tymal Mills was given his first call up to the England T20 squad. Mills had been touted for England before. Before the last ashes tour he was mentioned as the English equivalent of Mitchell Johnson, despite having only played a handful of first class matches. Such is the desire for fast bowlers who can top 90 mph consistently. Last year Mills had to call time on his first class career at the tender age of 23 due to his back condition. Since then he has set his sights on forging a career in T20 cricket, with a doctor's note tucked firmly in his pocket should Andrew Strauss start tutting once again.

Mills has essentially become cricket's Ledley King. He plays one T20 a week and bowls a few 5 over spells in the nets. If bowling is all about rhythm and getting overs in you then Mills is a very modern anti-tradition practitioner. How workable this is as a way of managing his body could have interesting implications for the old boy coaching manuals.

So it was with interest that the Jessop Tavern took its seat at Arundel and watched Mills get to work. Over the years we have seen plenty of young tearaway quicks. The Jessop Tavern has fond memories of an entertaining West Indies A game at Cheltenham many moons ago that featured a small, fiery kid called Tino Best. Tino roared in, had a follow through that ended past the stumps at the batsman's end and literally terrorised every Gloucestershire batsman who faced him. Tim Hancock took to 'giving himself room' outside leg stump every ball. Quite a long way outside leg stump as well.

So how quick was Mills? Well, disappointingly slow if we are honest. Even on a sluggish wicket you would expect him to still generate enough pace through the air to get the crowd oohhing and aahhhing. Not really. Mills did seem to have a steady diet of slower balls, bowled in a few different ways. All of which the Jessop Tavern was picking from its seat at backward square leg. There were wides. There were byes. There was Benny launching him over the hospitality tents. Twice.

In short the Jessop Tavern was left slightly disappointed by England's latest T20 discovery. Less Mitchell Johnson, a bit more Jade Dernbach, but with less hair.

The Jessop Tavern is now heading back indoors having taken its first foray into looking at the outside world. Deep breaths. It'll be fine.