Saturday, 21 May 2016

Glos lose opening match of a competition that seems to begger belief in its lack of any structure

T20 Blast: Sussex 242 for 5 (Taylor 93*) beat Gloucestershire 83 for 1 (Klinger 42*) by 1 run (D/L method) 
Gloucestershire were cruelly denied in their opening T20 Blast match against Sussex as rain brought to a halt a potentially thrilling run chase with Glos 1 run behind the Duckworth-Lewis target.

In fairness, after Sussex racked up 242 in their 20 overs, with Kiwi Ross Taylor butchering 93 from 48 deliveries, they were firm favourites to take the spoils. Chris Liddle marked his Glos debut with 2 uninspired overs that went for 35. David Payne also struggled going for 15 runs an over. Tom Smith and Jack Taylor kept some measure of control, but the tiny boundary on one side made boundary hitting only a mistimed, toe of the bat prod away.

The good news for Glos was that Michael Klinger looks to still be batting like it's 2015. His 42 runs came off only 24 balls and you suspect that with him still at the crease Sussex would have been delighted by the rain.

And so Glos get off to a losing start, albeit in entertaining and dynamic fashion.It is now back to 4 day cricket for the next few weeks. The less said about this the better.

Actually, no. What is the point of having a cricket blog if you can't moan about absurdities. The T20 Blast should be English cricket's premier way of attracting new fans to the domestic game, and in turn creating a strong grassroots infrastructure to feed into the national team. England have just enjoyed a fantastic last 12 months of one day cricket, culminating in a hugely exciting and newsworthy loss in the final of the World T20 just a few weeks ago.

So therefore why do we have the T20 Blast being launched during an England test match? In May. With only 1 England player from the World T20 final on display over the opening weekend. With the IPL still blazing away in India. And with many teams playing their opening match of the competition and then going immediately back to 4 day cricket for 2 weeks. How is any of this conducive to putting together an exciting competition that captures a little bit of the excitement of other far more successful competitions around the world?

The T20 Blast will likely never become as big an event as say the Big Blast until the bullet is finally bitten and city franchises are created. But couldn't we at least try? Why couldn't we ring fence a period in the summer for the competition? Why couldn't we do this in July and August when the weather is better and kids are on holiday, along with the IPL having finished.

Would it be too hard to make sure that the England boys are also partially available, particularly at the start of the competition in order to attract attention? The test team contains only 4 of the lads who played in the World T20 final. It always feels like such a wasted opportunity. Every year. Oh well.

Video highlights

New spin twins bring unlikely first victory to the Brightside Ground

Gloucestershire (21pts) 262 and 336 (Bancroft 70, Roderick 67, Marshall 58, Hogan 4-68) beat Glamorgan (6pts) 330 (Lloyd 99, Bragg 70, Wagg 55 ret hurt) and 143 (Taylor 4-16, van Buuren 3-15) by 125 runs

A rather incredible afternoon at the Brightside ground saw Gloucestershire's spinners (yes, you read that right, Gloucestershire spinners!) run through Glamorgan on a 4th day pitch to bring victory from what looked like impending defeat. So sure was the Jessop Tavern that defeat was on the way that they had begun their rain dance. Needing less than 200 in 60 odd overs, and with all wickets in hand, Glamorgan proceed to unravel when faced by Gloucestershire's latest spin twins, Jack Taylor and Graeme van Buuren.

So, 5 matches into the new season, and with their first win of the season under their belt, Gloucestershire sit 4th in Division 2, even on points with 3rd placed Leicestershire, and only 3 points behind 2nd place Kent.

The victory against Glamorgan was a true team effort. From the very first morning when Gloucestershire were reduced to 5 for 85 and then 8 for 169 the Shire were always second favourites. The fact that they even managed to stay in the game on the first day was testament to 19 year old George Hankins' first first class 50 and then a stand of 90 for the 9th wicket between Craig Miles and David Payne. Not for the first time this season did Gloucestershire's lower order come to their rescue and keep them in a game.

Some welcome wickets for Craig Miles, including the delivery that forced the unfortunate Graham Wagg to retire hurt, then allowed Glos to stay in the game by bowling Glamorgan out for a lead of just 70 odd. A borderline lead that gave Glos hope but put Glamorgan in the driving seat.

On the day that Michael Klinger arrived for the summer, stand-in Aussie Cameron Bancroft final found his feet with a well constructed 70. He was ably joined by the in form O'Mish and the gritty Gareth Roderick, who despite making 67 seemingly still seems to be searching for his best form. However, with Michael Hogan running in from one end Glamorgan were frequently taking wickets and by reducing Glos to 271 for 8 they really were in the driving seat.

Cue Craig Miles. Again. Miles made 39 not out whilst enabling Glos to add 65 for the final 2 wickets, crucial runs that pushed Glamorgan's run chase above 250. Miles, Payne and Centurion Norwell have all performed heroics with the bat for Gloucestershire this season and with the explosive Jack Taylor at number 8, Glos have the making of a very stout rearguard and full credit should go to the young bowling unit for developing their games to such a level.

In their run chase Glamorgan looked comfortable at 87 without loss, and although requiring 3 an over on a slightly sluggish pitch, a draw would really have been the best Glos could have hoped for midway through the afternoon.

Enter Graeme van Buuren, part-time left arm spinner, albeit with a first class bowling average of 25 (but with only 68 wickets in 53 games). In fact, van Buuren is a statistical curiosity. He averages 50 with the bat in his 53 games which makes him look like the second coming of Jacques Kallis. Presumably this says more about the standard of first class cricket in South Africa, although here's hoping he backs these stats up as Glos will have picked up a very handy player)

We digress. van Buuren, who had fired in leg stump darts in the first innings, removed Glamorgan's top 3 for just 11 runs being added. In his 10 overs he ended up with 3 for 15, before taking his cap and handing over to Jack Taylor to finish the job. Taylor duly obliged by running through Glamorgan's bottom order to win the match for the Shire. Glamorgan went from 87 without loss in the 22nd over, to 143 all out in the 48th. A collapse not uncommon at the Brightside Ground, but with Gloucestershire batsmen usually the ones walking back to the pavilion.

And so this most unlikely of wins suddenly sets Gloucestershire up quite nicely. The squad seems to be taking shape. Klinger is back. van Buuren could be an excellent signing. O'Mish has 2 hundreds and almost 500 runs to sit 4th in the division 2 run charts. Chris Dent isn't too far behind with 444 runs. Craig Miles has returned. The lower order can all score runs.

Most excitingly, Jack Taylor has developed into a very dynamic, match-changing, 4 day player to complement his already proven prowess in the shorter forms of the game. Taylor has 387 runs at an average of 48, and 12 wickets at an average of 28. All in the county championship. A far cry from the last few years when he has struggled with his action and not looked close to the 4 day team. The coaching team are clearly doing something right!

Now it is on to the T20 Blast. But only for Friday. Then back to 4 day cricket next week. Oh English cricket. Will the nonsense ever end.

Day 1 highlights

Day 2 highlights

Day 3 highlights

Day 4 highlights

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Taylor resilience epitomises Gloucestershire spirit

Photo from the Gloucestershire official site
Gloucestershire (10 pts) 337 (Marshall 112, Taylor 52) and 211 for 8 (Taylor 46*) drew with Kent (12pts) 478 for 8 dec (Northeast 189, Latham 90, Stevens 54)

Gloucestershire clearly aren't the most talented team in Division Two. We don't have a great bowling attack and our batting remains flaky at times. However, we're invariably a tight unit in the field, have great spirit in the squad and we routinely battle hard from less than promising situations.

The Kent game began in such a fashion, with a nightmare early start seeing us slip to 14-4 after 17 overs of parsimonious Kent seam bowling. In the past we could easily have subsided to 150 all out from here, but a gritty ton from O'Mish (his second in consecutive matches) rescued the innings and enabled us to recover to 296-9 at the close. The last wicket pair of Payne and Shaw extended this to 337 on the second day, a thoroughly respectable effort in the circumstances.

We also have some really talented younger players who are starting to deliver. Chris Dent has a quiet match after his previous good run of form, but Jack Taylor continued his good form with the bat with two important knocks in this match. After Kent racked up an imposing 478-5 in response to Glos' total, the boys were in a world of trouble on Day 4 as we slumped to 158-8 after Miles was bowled by the wily Darren Stevens. Taylor's response was not to shut up shopm in the hope of seeing us to the close, but to play his shots in trademark fashion. His unbeaten 46 saw us safely past Kent's total to the close. The innings even impressed the watching BBC commentary team who described it thus:

'Gloucestershire really do have a terrific young talent in Jack Taylor. Predominantly an off-spinner, the 24-year-old knows how to hold a bat as well as he launches Darren Stevens for six before hitting Mitch Claydon for three fours in an over.'
Well-deserved praise for Jack, who despite going for nearly 6 an over from his 16 overs with the ball, also  managed a handy fifty in the first innings in partnership with Marshall. While we clearly still lack the ability to bowl decent sides out we are gritty and hard to beat. The bowling attack will surely improve as Miles reaches match fitness and you can imagine a full strength seam attack with Norwell and Payne joining Miles as being capable of causing problems on more favourable surfaces.

Cameron Bancroft's poor form remains a concern however. He's averaging just 16.71 from 7 completed knocks with a high score of 41. The limited amount of footage we've seen on YouTube seems to show a mix of bad luck and poor shot selection. He's obviously new to county cricket and English early season pitches, but plenty of other people are scoring runs around the country and you really need your overseas player to make a difference in Division 2. So far he's not looked up to the job as an opener and the sooner that Klinger arrives the better.

Glamorgan up next at Bristol in the battle of two teams still looking for their first win.

Day 1 highlights

Day 2 highlights

Day 3 highlights

Day 4 highlights

Draw-ja vu all over again

Worcestershire 411 (Clarke 135, Moeen 74, Cox 69) and 210 for 4 (Moeen 136*) drew with Gloucestershire 380 (Marshall 135, Noema-Barnett 84, Dent 59, Shantry 4-89) and 382 for 7 dec (Dent 138*, Taylor 105, Cockbain 67)

After a heavy opening round defeat to Essex, Glos have rebounded nicely with two fairly healthy draws against Derbyshire and Worcestershire than demonstrates that whilst the squad might be light on top class match winners, it doesn't lack for heart.

At the start of the season we called for Chris Dent to make this the season that he starts to stamp his class across Division 2. So far he has 402 runs from 5 innings at an average of 102. Minus Michael Klinger, this is exactly what Glos needed from their most talented batsman. Gloucestershire supporters have glimpsed Dent's considerable talents a few times over the last few years without him ever going on to have a truly dominant year. Dent should be setting his sights on 5 or 6 hundreds and heading towards 1400 runs in the championship.

What else to say about this game? Lots of runs were scored on another flattish deck. O'Mish scored an invaluable hundred when Glos were in trouble in the first innings. Gourmet-Burger belied our frequent criticism to support him in an important partnership, before promptly throwing it away with a slog in the first over on Day 2. Jack Taylor also impressed with the bat in hitting a violent 105 in the third innings. He took a heavy toll on their spinners, especially Moeen. Ali then struck a typically attractive unbeaten hundred of his own on Day 4, including some meaty 'revenge' blows off Taylor.

The game was drawn and we moved on to Canterbury to face Kent. A good start from the boys although we're clearly going to struggle to bowl sides out until Miles returns.

Day 1 highlights:

Day 2 highlights:

Day 3 highlights:

Day 4 highlights