4/16/2018 0 Comments
By Mark Kidger (@MarkFromMadrid)
It took Gloucestershire under 10 overs – in fact, 58 balls – to finish off victory in their opening fixture against Kent at Canterbury. Despite fears about the outfield, play started on time and Benny Howell and Gareth Roderick set about their target with a will, with Benny Howell determined that the bowlers would not get a chance to settle.
They took their partnership to 75 before Gloucestershire produced the sort of wobble that set the supporters’ nerves on edge and imbued Kent with a belief that the miracle was possible. Gareth Roderick was first to go – yet another LBW – to New Zealand’s Matt Henry. Bracey, who has had such an extraordinary start for Gloucestershire fell three balls later for a duck and, when vice-captain Jack Taylor fell to the evergreen Darren Stevens, three wickets had fallen for 2 runs in seven balls. Howell and van Buuren settled nerves and, when van Buuren fell, bowled by Stevens, Gloucestershire were just six runs short. Ryan Higgins saw out the over before Benny Howell finished it off with a crunching cover drive to the boundary off Harry Podmore in bright sunshine.
Nineteen points to the Shire and second place in the initial Division 2 table.
How big a deal was this? Gloucestershire met Kent in the first round of games in 2017 and lost by a huge margin, having been dismissed cheaply twice. They have not won their opening Championship fixture since 2011 – the year when they went so close to promotion – and have not won an opening fixture away from Bristol since 1996. No one believes that Gloucestershire will still be second come the end of May but, for one of Division Two’s poorer counties, this was as close to a fairy-tale as you can get.
No such drama at Edgbaston, where the two sides ground out a draw. Had the first day not been lost this could have been an excellent finish, with Sussex desperate to improve on a very disappointing 2017 and return to Division 1 but, as it was, with Sussex starting at 194-6 and still 105 behind, the only way that a result seemed likely was an almighty clatter of wickets. That Sussex might find an alternative route to a result seemed unlikely in the extreme and more so when Ollie Robinson fell to the tenth ball of the day, but Brown and Wiese combined for a partnership of 155 in under 30 overs. Wiese was brutal scoring 106 at better than a run-a-ball from #9 and battering 14x14 and 3x6, ably supported by Brown, who deserved a century of his own. Such was the rate of scoring that a fifth batting point and a significant target for Warks to avoid an innings defeat looked to be on. In the end, though a lead of 75 was not enough for the “Route One” win and, with only 50 overs remaining, Sussex were always going to be up against it to bowl Warks out in time to allow a chase. Ollie Robinson got Will Rhodes early but, at 45-1 at Tea, all Rhodes were heading to a tame draw, with just the nine wickets required in the final session in the one match in which wickets were not falling like confetti. Even two quick wickets for Inshant Sharma after Tea were not enough to produce more than a flutter in the serene progress to a draw and a 10-11 split in points.
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