4/28/2018 0 Comments
BY Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
The games at Grace Road and Wantage Road have now had consecutive wash-outs. Hopefully, both will start tomorrow, but with no chance of a result. Play was also washed-out at Lord’s despite the fact that it was dry most of the day: morning rain did too much damage and, after inspection after inspection, play was finally knocked on the head in the late afternoon.
The game at Hove though more than compensated. If you want some manic action, you could do worse than to follow Gloucestershire. When Sussex started the day at 86-0, you had the feeling that this was the Glamorgan game all over again. Gloucestershire had used the new ball wastefully on the first day and were facing both barrels loaded for bear. For four overs there was no hint of what was to come as Wells and Salt played themselves back in, adding six, cautious runs. The ghosts of the game at Bristol were doing a haunting as bad as anything in the cinema of terror and the bullishness of Gloucestershire fans from the first round was evaporating like snow in an oven. However, it seems that Gloucestershire have found a solution: where there are ghosts “who you gonna call?” HIGGINS! Yes, even Middlesex fans are beginning to wonder what on earth they were thinking to let him go. Wells, Salt and van Zyl went to Higgins before Worrall joined the fun. Suddenly Sussex were 117-8, had lost 8 wickets for 25 and were in the most desperate straits. Luke Wright – remember when, many years ago, we thought that he would bat at 3 for England and play as fourth seamer? – added a few, vital runs with Danny Briggs, but Higgins was not to be denied and ended with 5-21. He now has 14 wickets in 5 innings for Gloucestershire and has scored vital runs too. After 5-22 against Kent, 5-21 here has set up the chance of another extraordinary win (we seem to be using that word a lot in these first rounds of games) for the Shire. However, to do that, Gloucestershire need to get some runs and, this season, as last, that has been an issue. Chris Dent is, frankly, all at sea this season and with Gloucestershire persisting with the experiment of Benny Howell opening and Gareth Roderick taking the gloves and batting at 3, the batting foundation does offer the stability of blancmange. However, while Benny Howell is there he is not going to die wondering. He scored 7x4 in his 37 and, with Roderick seemed to be batting Gloucestershire into a position of complete control. At 69-1 Gloucestershire were almost halfway to a first-innings lead and sitting pretty. That said, the middle order has been a real issue since Maxi Klinger left the side and one wicket rapidly became six. Bracey could not repeat his heroics of Bristol. Even Ryan Higgins cannot be expected to don on his Superman cape every time and 129-6 left the unpalatable prospect of Sussex getting a first innings lead. There is though, another superhero in the Gloucestershire dressing room and it is the least expected person possible. Were it not for injuries and Jack Taylor being banned from bowling, Kieron Noema-Barnett would probably not be playing in the 1st XI, however, just occasionally, he shows why Gloucestershire persist with him. After a start so slow that the fans were wondering if he had nodded-off at the crease – remember that Bob Hunt, Gloucestershire commentator and the only person in the world who knows where Forest Green is, claims that if Noema-Barnett were any more laid back he would fall asleep – woke suddenly from his slumber as wickets tumbled and briefly smote the ball to all parts with some effect. One could be uncharitable and say that when the leg-spinner comes on with the precise aim of trying to make him do something stupid, to try to hit his first ball for another six is not quite Mensa level thinking, but with 31 runs and after helping the Shire to a lead of 38, one has to be charitable. Wiese took 5-48, Ollie Robinson 4-67 and Sussex were batting again long before the Close. It is a measure of how Ryan Higgin’s stock has risen that he took the new ball. It was also no surprise to see him deliver with it, bowling Salt with just his second delivery. Sussex though took the lead and seemed to be heading calmly to the Close, before Gloucestershire’s other caped crusader – Kieron Noema-Barnett – bowled Luke Wells with the last ball of the day. At 51-2, effectively 13-2, this game could well end tomorrow. The first session will be critical for both sides as Gloucestershire know that they should win this one, but Sussex know equally that if they get 200 ahead, they have the attack to close the match out fast.
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