Monday, 22 July 2013

Professional and patient. Young Gloucestershire look like the real deal.

Gloucestershire beat Worcestershire by 6 wickets.

Living at the other end of the country leaves the Jessop Tavern View with few opportunities to watch the Shire, particularly in the 4 day game. Thus a period of glorious weather and a couple of cheap flights took the Jessop Tavern View down to Cheltenham for the weekend to stake its claim as genuine cricket watchers, rather than grumpy old men who moan about performances analysed through dodgy video clips and cricinfo scorecards.

What the Jessop Tavern View saw was very impressive.

On a dry, flat pitch and under the baking sun Gloucestershires young bowling attack stuck patiently to their task of taking advantage of the 150 run lead they had built up from the innings.

Only 53 runs came before lunch as Gloucestershires seamers stuck manfully to their task of building pressure by drying up the runs. This eventually came to fruition either side of the lunch break as 4 quick wickets fell to a combination of tight bowling and excellent fielding. O'Mish took a very alert catch at short leg to get rid of Moeen Ali, whilst James Fuller produced an excellent piece of ground fielding to run out Alex Kervezee.

Sri Lankan Thilan Samaraweera then demonstrated why he has a test average of almost 50 by helping himself to some elegant shots all round the ground. Any man who presumably spent a considerable portion of his career facing Murali in the nets was unlikely to be troubled by 18 year old Miles Hammond and Samaraweera was particularly harsh on the young off-spinner. Despite a 5th wicket partnership of 109 Glos stuck to their task, bided their time, made sure that the scoring rate never got away from them and then struck with the second new ball. Will Gidman, Craig Miles and James Fuller all bowled wicket taking spells at the end of a long hot day in the field to leave Gloucestershire in a strong position at the end of day 3. Tom Smith then polished Worcestershire's resistance off quickly on the fourth morning leaving Captain Klinger to knock off the 194 runs required for victory with a brisk 92. 194 is potentially a niggly sort of total to chase, but Klinger and Dent got Glos off to the perfect start with an opening stand of 95. These two in particular have enjoyed a bountiful festival opening the batting. Chris Dent was seen with a spade attempting to dig up the Cheltenham square so that he could take it with him.

So, having now seen the boys up close this season what does the Jessop Tavern View make of it all?

In a word, excellent.

Chatting to a wise old sage during yesterdays t20 match it was observed that this Gloucestershire team now look very much like a John Bracewell team. Bracewell is a typical kiwi in that he is very good at making the best of what he has and pulling together a team that it is greater than the sum of its parts. It was a skill that was obviously enormously successful during Bracewell's first stint at the club. Whether he can bring the same sort of silverware to Nevil road during this tenure is unlikely. That side of the late 90's early 00's contained more players of genuine class than this incarnation. However, considering what he has been given to work with, and the enormous financial restraints imposed, King John deserves tremendous credit.

Take for example Middlesex loanee Tom Smith during last weeks match against Worcestershire. Smith is a 25 year old slow left armer who before coming to Gloucestershire had 12 first class wickets at an average of 81 in 5 seasons. Admittedly he approaches the crease looking more like a medium pacer than a spinner, and this may explain his lack of success. Last week Smith took career best figures of 4 for 91 in Worcestershires second innings. Did he spin us to victory? Hardly. But as much as we would love to have a match winning spinner who could turn it square and run through sides it is unlikely that you pick up these sort of bowlers in a mid season loan deal. What Smith did do was bowl tightly and get enough turn to take 4 key wickets. This is pretty much all you can ask your spinner to do during a second innings on a crumbling wicket. It's a very Bracewell induced performance we suspect. Similarly Will Gidman is another player, unwanted at Durham, who has become a very useful performer under King John.

What struck the Jessop Tavern View most all though was the intelligence of the cricket being played by these young bowlers. They all realised the situation and bowled accordingly. Not one of the seamers got frustrated and tried to bowl 'magic' balls. They all ground away knowing that chances would come.

We'll admit we were a little surprise to see this, but surprised in a very good way.

Gloucestershire are quickly approaching a very important August placed 4th in the championship table with fixtures against all 3 of the teams above them (Lancashire, Northants and Essex) remaining. Couple this with crucial YB40 matches against Somerset and all is still very much to play for over the closing couple of months of the season.

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