Where: Bristol County Ground, Bristol
Ins: Cameron Bancroft (Overseas, Aus), Michael Klinger (Overseas, Aus, One-Day competitions), Andrew Tye (Aus, T20 Blast) and Phil Mustard (Durham)
Outs: Hamish Marshall and Tom Hampton (Both released)
Key man: Liam Norwell
2016 season: Championship 6th, RLODC 8th, T20 Blast Q/F
2017 Odds: Championship promotion: 14/1, RLODC: 20/1, T20: 16/1
Jon Foster from @Glosfans looks ahead to a competitive looking season for Gloucestershire but hopes his side can sneak into finals day after missing out last season in the last eight.
The County Championship looks to be very competitive, even with two promotion places available again. For Gloucestershire to be successful and challenge for promotion the squad would probably have to remain relatively injury-free and be more consistent with both bat and ball.
Without Klinger and Marshall, the batting will lose plenty of experience. Chris Dent (1243) is the only available batsman who scored over 1,000 Championship runs last season and will be looking for more of the same, while others will need to become more consistent.
Cameron Bancroft, with the prospect of a full season of Championship cricket this time, will have the task as overseas player of attempting to fill Michael Klinger’s sizeable boots! He did look to be adapting to early season conditions in his short spell last season, although it is a lot to ask.
The arrival of Phil Mustard, who scored steadily last season, including a century, after rarely featuring in the Championship side for Durham, could allow Gareth Roderick to discard the gloves and concentrate on his batting and captaincy of the four-day side.
Without a specialist batsman brought in to replace Marshall, this should allow opportunities for other batsmen to stake a claim, in particular, George Hankins, who after being named England’s player of last season’s Under 19 series against Sri Lanka went on to score a maiden Championship century and show plenty of promise.
Graeme van Buuren in his first season of county cricket adapted well and was scoring consistently as well as picking up wickets until an injury ended his season prematurely and he should feature strongly again.
A return to fitness and form for Will Tavare who had an injury plagued season last year would be an added bonus, while Ian Cockbain and Benny Howell, who have become more one-day specialists recently, may also be given more opportunities in the longer format.
On the bowling front, a lot looks to depend on the pace quartet of Matt Taylor, who spent the winter at the England pace bowling Academy, Liam Norwell, David Payne and Craig Miles. While Matt Taylor was injured for much of last season the others all picked up plenty of wickets, but they will probably need to fire as a unit more consistently, without so many off sessions/days, if Gloucestershire are to mount a serious promotion challenge.
Jack Taylor and Graeme van Buuren who should both be included as all-rounders are the most likely spin options in four-day cricket.
The Gloucestershire squad probably looks better suited (on paper at least) to achieving success in ‘white ball’ cricket, particularly in the shorter T20 format.
In defence of 2015 One Day Cup, the county got off to a poor start in the 2016 group stages losing the first 3 games a start that the club never really recovered from and finished a disappointing 8th in the group. With a better start, this season the county should be looking to reach the knock out stages again.
In last season’s T20 competition Gloucestershire topped the South Group with 10 wins before a disappointing defeat to Durham in the home quarter-final. They will be looking to qualify from the group again and then hope to go one better this season and reach their first Final’s Day since 2007.
Gloucestershire’s strength in One Day cricket over the years has been built on team spirit, rather than individual ‘stars’, with all being capable of playing their part when it’s needed and with the fielders backing up the bowlers and putting pressure on the opposition. While this applies very much today it would be surprising if Michael Klinger, after another successful Big Bash and now concentrating on white ball cricket, didn’t score heavily again. One day specialists Ian Cockbain and Benny Howell, after a winter in the Bangladesh Premier League, will also look to feature strongly again as will the big hitting Jack Taylor. Andrew Tye will bring his Aussie winning mentality to the T20, while Matt Taylor also developed well and proved to be a more than capable bowler in the early power play overs and ‘at the death’.
While Gloucestershire will look to be competitive in all competitions, with a relatively small squad, the T20 competition might be where their best chance of success lies. After dominating the South Group last season before falling at the quarter-final stage there could be more emphasis and a desire to go further this time.
Championship – 4th or 5th
RLODC – Quarter Finals
T20 – Final’s Day, then anything can happen!