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!

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Glos looking likely to have been spun out of the RLODC by Crane and Dawson

Hampshire 239 for 3 (Vince 89*, Alsop 53) beat Glos 237 ao (Jack Taylor 63, Dawson 3-30) by 7 wickets
Gloucestershire's chances in this years Royal London One Day Cup took a considerable battering by a Hampshire side that looked superior in all departments over the weekend. Glos have made a habit over the years of making themselves add up to more than the value of their parts. On Sunday Hampshire totalled up their own parts, decided they were significantly better than the men from the west country, and then exhibit the extra class that the names on the scorecard suggested was there.

Winning the toss and electing to bat first Glos actually got off to a fairly fluent start. Klinger, the Colonel and Dent all got starts before the introduction of one-time England spinner Liam Dawson and Aussie Shield cricket star Mason Crane spun the Shire into a hole that they never looked like climbing out of. Dawson and Crane bowled beautifully, especially in their first spell when 10 combined overs of spin went for only one boundary. Jack Taylor and Benny at least got Glos into the game with a 6th wicket stand of 70, but 237 always looked an under-par score.

And so it proved. Needing early wickets and control Glos got neither. Instead pretty much every Hampshire batsman looked very comfortable. Young Tom Alsop continued his fine 50 over form from 2016 in setting a nice platform with fellow opener Jimmy Adams. Even after these two departed, Test rejects George Bailey and James Vince had far too much for a Glos attack that has struggled for penetration in this competition.

In fairness Glos do a very good job at preventing this sort of match from happening too often. Running through the two sides prior to the match Hampshire's contained 6 players with international experience, two young players in and around the England Lions set-up, and a high-class county stalwart. In this case the class shone through. In a scenario like this Glos do become very reliant on Michael Klinger to fight fire with fire. On this occasion he wasn't able to and Glos suffered.

Glos now sit bottom of the South Group. Their 2 points is 6 adrift of leaders Somerset. Even 4 victories on the bounce would still struggle to see them qualify. The 4 games so far have just demonstrated the class difference between the top teams and Glos. Admittedly they were unlucky against Glamorgan, but subsequent stand out performances from Alastair Cook and James Vince have been enough to see Glos rooted to the bottom of the table. It's just one those things. No one has performed particularly badly, Glos have just looked a little bit short at this level this year.

Sunday, 7 May 2017

Put up or shut up for Glos in the Royal London One Day Cup

For many years rugby's Heineken Cup stood as the pinnacle of how a successful sporting competition should be run. High quality teams with small groups and a tough qualifying requirement of finishing in the top two to progress to the next round meant that the intensity of the competition existed right from the start. Compare that to the nauseum of football's Champion League group stage and you know what we mean. Right from the start of a competition winning should be imperative. Bizarrely, given their love of 100 game seasons in othe sports, the American NFL has this balance right as well. 

Enter the Royal London One Day Cup. A competition that, this year, potentially feels like it has found its feet. Both Glos and Hampshire begin today knowing that they realistically have to win to stay in contention. Both teams have one win from their three matches. Lose today and one them will be staring down the barrel of an early exit. However, the structure of the competition does now mean that their would still be the possibility of Michael Klinger making some sort of Aaron Rodgers-style 'run the table' quip and potentially a third place finish could happen. To us, this makes for a good competition. The fact it is being played out in chunks also makes it easily engaged with. The fact no one else is watching is irrelevant! We're enjoying it, and as people who write a blog merely to entertain ourselves, we've never be much interested in whether other people are also on board.

Glos find themselves in this position after a disappointing defeat to Essex at the end of last week. We say disappointing mainly because if Alastair Cook is your main one day tormentor then you feel like you could have done better. Cook's hundred proved the difference between the two sides. Cook made a hundred. Phil Mustard could only make 90, and Ian Cockbain fell for 79. If either of those two had been able to reach three figures then the Shire might have squeezed home.

The other curiosity from the Essex match was the sudden re-emergence of the Gourmet Burger. Having not featured in any of the previous matches this season, Gourmet Burger was drafted in to replace the unwell Graeme Van Buuren. Fair enough. Last minute illnesses mean that it isn't always possible to have like for like replacements. What seemed fairly inexplicable was that Glos seemed to think they had the second coming of Gary Sobers stepping into their team. Noema-Barnett was brought on first change, given two overs, was butchered round the ground and taken off. He was then thrown in to bat at number 5. Ahead of Benny and Jack Taylor, who have both been in the runs recently. He made an 8 ball duck. Hopefully a lesson has been learnt.

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Match Preview: Gloucestershire v Leicestershire

Ed's note. We originally meant to post this ahead of the Leicestershire match, which in the event we won handily. The only reason to post this now is our continued frustration with the lack of information available on the respective county websites. See the last two paragraphs. Maybe Will Brown subscribes to our posts and will do us a favour and get the website sorted. However, having just read the latest 'team update' online, we're not sure we should be crossing our fingers. Let's hope Gareth Roderick is ok and will be back to 1st team action soon.

The rebound match. For both sides, as Glos, fresh from being skittled for 61 in their opening game, welcome Leicestershire, bundled out for 83 in their opening game, to the Brightside Ground.

Both sides were given a taste of how hard life will be for them in division 2 this season in the opening round of victories, and so this game already has the feel of a real 32 pointer. Division 2 already seems to have a very real clear split in terms of the quality of the teams, and both Glos and Leicestershire will consider this season a success if they can be mixing it at the top end of the table. This game will go along way to providing one or other of them with the chance to get their season up and running. For the loser, well the one day cup starts soon.

We'd love to bring you some team news, heck, even some squad news. But county cricket refuses to enter the 21st century in the way that it communicates with its fans and so we have no idea what either team are planning. Will Glos name an unchanged squad? Is captain Roderick likely to be fit? Will we trust only 5 batsmen, or will one of either Chris Liddle or Jack Taylor make way for an extra run scorer? Only those turning up at the ground this morning and buying a scorecard are likely to know these answers. The idea of posting this sort of info on the web seems alien to both Gloucestershire and Leicestershire.

The Jessop Tavern is well aware that this is a moan we have had for many years, but in a month in which we have seen the ECB begin to launch the new franchised T20 competition, with the aim to attract new fans, is it any wonder that fans are turned away from supporting teams who refuse to engage with them via the modern world.

Would it really be that difficult for someone to ask Richard Dawson for the squad and a short press release ahead of a fixture? Pop this on the website. Tweet it. Job done. Presumably the counties have noticed that not many people arrive at the grounds, so why not make it as easy as possible for those following online to find out as much relevant information as possible before the live BBC commentary feeds start at 11 am? Cricinfo do a sterling job, but understandably, the focus of their daily live blog is the Division 1 teams and matches. The smaller counties may protest lack of budget, but they can and should do more to make their supporters' live easier.

Rant over.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Super Cockbain and Benny salvage the Shire's one day campaign

Glamorgan 277-7 (Liddle 2-51, Howell 2-54) beat Glos 232 -8 (Klinger 78, Van Buuren 51, J Taylor 51) by 18 runs on D/L
Glos 257 - 5 (Cockbain 108*, Howell 86*) beat Middlesex 256 - 9 (Norwell 5-36) by 5 wickets.
This season the Royal London One Day Cup has very sensibly been allocated a 3 week block in which to play through the entire group stage. Players will have the opportunity to concentrate on one set of skills and fans will have a chance to engage in the competition without constantly switching back and forth to championship and T20 matches.

It's hardly the work of scheduling genius, but given this is the ECB we are talking about we shouldn't be surprised that such a move has taken over 50 years to be put in place. (If one day cricket has ever been allocated 'blocks of time' in the championship schedule then we are happy to be corrected here - potentially the RLODC now resembles the old Benson & Hedges? But we are pretty sure that old tournament still used to fit in around 4 day cricket).

The structure of the one day cup has had the flaw for a number of years that a couple of early defeats essentially end your interest in the competition before it is even up and running. With only 3 teams from each 9 team group progressing the need to get off to a winning start is imperative.

On Sunday afternoon Glos sat poised on the precipice. Ian Cockbain was joined at the crease in the 22 over by Benny Howell and both men stared up at the scoreboard, passed the rows of empty seats, and took deep breaths. 65 for 5. Klinger, gone. The explosive Jack Taylor, gone. In Thursday's opening match loss to Glamorgan Cockbain had made a 5 ball duck. Benny faced only 8 balls for his 4 runs. Neither man had played a championship match. Both new that another loss would pretty much spell the end of the Shire's involvement in the competition. It was a time for heroes. And in the spirit of true heroes of the Jessop Tavern, they delivered.

Our love of Cockbain has already been discussed. It defies logic. His hundred yesterday was his first white ball hundred. He's supposedly a white ball specialist. No logic. Our love for Benny is more born out of fear. His open tirade against us on Twitter a few years ago still hurts. Since then he has become the country's most-feared T20 bowler. We like to think we played a small part in this rise. We love him for this. And the fact he is French. Not enough French cricketers.

Looking back over the first two games the situation probably should be even better for Glos. Despite losing early wickets in pursuit of Glamorgan's 277, captain Klinger and Van Buuren rebuilt and then were casually accelerating towards their total when the rain and bad light came. By the time they resumed and D/L had got involved the game had changed. Both Klinger and Van Buuren fell straight after the resumption and this essentially ended Gloucestershire's chances, despite some lusty hitting from Jack Taylor at the death. Had the rain not intervened the game may have had a different complexion.

Heading to division 1's title winning team, and the home of cricket, wasn't the most straight forward assignment for a must-win match. Liam Norwell did his best, tearing in from the Pavilion end for 10 straight overs to take 5 for 36 and reduce Middlesex to 97 for 5. Although the home side recovered to 256, it was a total Klinger and Co would definitely have fancied. However, at 65 for 5 the game looked up but for the Jessop Tavern's heroes.

Cockbain in particular really has developed into a very fine, mature, one day cricketer with an astute one day brain. He very much mirrors a lot of what Michael Klinger does so well. He can play multiple types of innings and backs himself that if he bats for time he will have scored at the appropriate rate. This was noticeable in the T20 Blast last year where he finished as the third highest run scorer, and with an average above 50. He can be a blaster, but his game has many more parts than that now.

Glos will next travel to Essex and Hampshire later this week as their one day campaign picks up pace. This Glos team again looks well set up for one day success, although a few less top order slumps will be needed moving forward. Klinger continues where he has been for the last few years. A class apart at this level. If Cockbain and Dent can contribute in the middle order, then Benny and Jack Taylor's explosiveness should provide a match winning lower order twist.

The bowling is nicely balanced, although it would be nice to see Matt Taylor find his feet again. 0-74 was not a strong argument for him to being the man to oust Chris Liddle. Speaking of which, his 2 for 51 against Glamorgan was respectful enough, although he sat out the Middlesex win with a 'tweaked' muscle. Gloucestershire refused to comment on which 'muscle' it was.

Video highlights from the Middlesex game below: