Tuesday, 4 April 2017

2017 County Championship Season Preview: What constitutes success for a county like Gloucestershire?

It's early April, so all cricket fans now know that its the time of year that they suddenly wonder how 3 rounds of the championship and 2 Royal London One Day cup games some how get crammed into the month of April. As a Gloucestershire fan writing a season preview there is the ominous thought that before the sun even starts to melt our Easter eggs our season could be done.

But spring is a time of optimism, and whilst the Jessop Tavern View has perhaps struggled to sustain this optimism through the summer, the 2016 season held enough positives to suggest that 2017 should at least be a fun season.

It has been the case for a while now that 4 day cricket isn't the priority in Bristol. Whilst the Jessop Tavern will always cling to hope that a crop of genuinely exciting and high quality youngsters will force this to be changed, we can also recongnise that concentrating on one day cricket is a wise business decision. It won't stop us moaning though. Our love of 4 day stuff runs confusingly deep.

So what can Gloucestershire fans expect in 2017?


Glos had a mixed closed season in terms of off-season squad management. It was already known that O'Mish was retiring, and that Maxy Klinger would only being coming back for a bit of limited overs slap and tickle. This represented Gloucestershire's two principal totems of experience in the top order.

In replacement up step Cameron Bancroft and Colonel 'Phil' Mustard. Bancroft had a taster for big woolly jumper cricket in 2016 (192 runs at an average of 21, with only one fifty) and is coming off a fairly average looking Sheffield Shield campaign down-under (536 runs at an average of 28, with two centuries). The Colonel batted his way into a contract at the end of last season with 447 runs at 55 (with 1 hundred and 3 fifties) in 6 games. A career first class average of 30 with 7 hundreds is probably more inline with what we can expect from the 35 year old looking to add a few extra years to his career in the cosy world of division 2. Clearly the two guys stepping in have big shoes to fill.

Maxy has been our best batter since joining the club, and O'Mish, whilst maddeningly inconsistent, was always good for his career average of 36 (incidentally, O'Mish did manage to retire with his Test average greater than his first class one. Always the sign of a very good player!) So the batting looks flimsy. Bancroft will presumably open with Dent, and how these two go will determine much on how Gloucestershire's batting takes shape. Dent is coming of the back of a career best year of 1200 runs at 47. Converting more of his fifties into hundreds would be nice, but ultimately he will need to produce this sort of form again in 2017. Graeme Van Buuren came from out of nowhere to look like a solid county pro. If he can average his 2016 figure of 45 over the course of a full season then the Jessop Tavern View will enjoy rolling out its bottomless pit of Jacques Kallis jokes.

Where will the rest of the runs come from? Can Captain Roderick settle into a more consistent run scorer? 725 runs averaging 32 in 2016 was respectable for a first time skipper. 6 fifties but only one hundred demonstrates that hitting 1,000 runs shouldn't be beyond him. The other 'batsman' to contribute significantly in 2016 was Jack Taylor. Of his 860 runs (average of 35, with 2 hundreds) the majority of these came as a biffer batting at 7 or 8. The experiment of playing him as a batsman during his bowling suspension seemed to confuse Taylor and inhibit his explosiveness. Gloucestershire will need him to continue his development as a batsman to add a game-changing dimension to our lower order.

Finally, Glos will almost certainly need the bowlers to continue their fine 2016 form with the bat. David Payne and Chris Miles averaged 27 and 25 respectively. Liam Norwell averaged 18 whilst also scoring a memorable hundred as night watchman. All 3 of these will need to continue these contributions as that top order looks shaky to say the least.

Who else looks likely to breakthrough in 2017? George Hankins is the young hope. He stuttered his way through 9 games in 2016, but a hundred late in the season against Northants suggested he was finding his feet. Other than Hankins the other two options are perennial Jessop Tavern View favourite Ian Cockbain, and Will Tavare. Neither fills you with hope, although our blindness to Cockbain's awful first class record means we are always willing to give him another chance to biff people around like he does in one day cricket.

A likely lineup for the batting seems to be; 1. Dent 2. Bancroft 3. Van Buuren 4. Roderick 5. Mustard 6. Hankins 7. Taylor

The problem piece from this lineup is the lack of depth. Colonel Mustard at 5?! This will leave coach Richard Dawson debating whether one of the 'allrounders' is needed. Benny and Kieran Gourmet-Burger again appear the only two options and neither really have the quality with bat or ball in 4 day cricket. This said, 2017 is still full of optimism at this point!


Is this Gloucestershire's strength in 2017? The core attack of Miles, Payne and Norwell has been a group for a number of years now and, if they can remain fit, all are good quality division 2 seamers. 2016 brought 52 wickets for Miles, 43 for Payne and 39 for Norwell. Good enough for all 3 to be placed in the top 15 of division 2 wicket takers. Yorkshire loanee Josh Shaw also contributed 32 scalps in 2016 and it will be hoped that his wickets can be picked up by young Matt Taylor.

The spin department again looks fairly worrying. Jack Taylor took 22 wickets at 45, with a bowling action-related suspension thrown in for good measure. Tom Smith appears to have become entirely a one day cricketer. Graeme Van Buuren looked like he could get through a few overs, but essentially the seam attack will need to carry the burden in 2017. Is there much depth behind those mentioned? It doesn't appear so, a fact fairly worrying considering Miles, Payne and Norwell have all had their injury problems.

What constitutes success?

Promotion from division 2 is now harder than ever, particularly with Durham joining the mix for 2017. Realistically it would be nice to see competitive cricket and with Glos still in the mix come September. Possibly not mixing it right at the top, but entering September knowing that a run of victories would make things lots of fun. We presume that the lack of activity in signing more players to broaden the squad (surely 1 bowler was an option?!) means that there are a few young guys ready to go. It would be nice to start to see the next group of bowlers starting to come through to support Miles, Payne and Norwell.

2017 looks more like a fingers crossed campaign, but with enough genuine hope to make us  not feel that Glos have completely given up on 4 day cricket.

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