County Championship Season review:
Gloucestershire’s season began with a 10-wicket defeat at Chelmsford against Essex and was followed by 3 drawn matches where bat generally held the upper hand over ball. In the first of these drawn matches, against Derbyshire, night-watchman Liam Norwell, who was due to bat at 11, not only survived but went on to score a maiden century (102) alongside Chris Dent who scored 180.
After the 3 draws the county secured its first win, beating Glamorgan by 125 runs at Bristol. Glamorgan needing 269 to win reached 87 without loss before crashing to 143 all out. Graeme van Buuren on debut picked up the first 3 wickets for 15, Craig Miles took the next 3 before Jack Taylor mopped up the tail finishing with 4 for 16. Cameron Bancroft reached 70, his highest score of the summer in what turned out to be his final innings before the return of Michael Klinger.
Klinger surprised no-one by scoring a century on his return in the drawn game against Northants and followed it up with another at Worcester to complete a five-wicket victory. Jack Taylor also scored a century as the pair saw Gloucestershire home in style. Graeme van Buuren proved his all-round worth with an unbeaten 172 in the 1st innings.
A high scoring draw at Leicester followed and Gloucestershire were still in contention for that 1 promotion spot when table toppers Essex arrived for the start of the Cheltenham Festival. Essex held a 1st innings lead and when Gloucestershire slipped from 228/2 to 290 all out it left Essex needing just 213 to win with plenty of time. Essex looked well set at 52 for 2 on the final morning but had slumped to 124 for 8 at lunch and they were bowled out for 151 soon afterwards. Craig Miles took an unusual hat-trick spread over 3 overs and 2 innings’.
The win lifted Gloucestershire to within 11 points of leaders Essex and 4 behind Worcestershire with a game in hand on both. That game was again at Cheltenham but the home county were unable to repeat the bowling heroics of the previous game in a low scoring encounter as Leicestershire reached 183 for 4 to win by 6 wickets.
Two games were played during August against other challengers in Sussex and Kent. These games were each lost by an innings with some brittle batting and wayward bowling at times seeing Gloucestershire well beaten in both. These disappointing results ended any realistic chance of clinching that one promotion spot.
The final four Championship matches of the season were played out during September with little at stake. Gloucestershire needed 262 on the final day at Derby but no play was possible, then Glamorgan were convincingly beaten by 10 wickets at Cardiff before defeat at Northampton and a final day rearguard action secured a draw against Sussex and 6th place with 4 wins and 5 defeats.
One Day Cup review:
Gloucestershire began the defence of their Royal London One-Day Cup at Taunton. Chris Dent scored a century and although the innings fell away a bit after that 260 looked to be a challenging total. Somerset appeared to have the edge though at 166 for 3 but fell away to 198 for 9 and it looked all over to most with another 63 needed. Jamie Overton and Tim Groenewald, not the worst 10 and 11 though, had other ideas and the runs flowed quite freely as they reached an unlikely victory target with 3 balls to spare.
Perhaps unsurprisingly after this disappointment, Gloucestershire went down to a 52 run defeat at Cardiff the following day, before losing again 2 days later at Bristol against Middlesex.
After 3 defeats qualification from the group looked unlikely but an entertaining win over Hampshire at Bristol did give encouragement. Chris Dent made 142 from 116 balls while Michael Klinger batted through the innings for an unbeaten 166, the pair adding 242 in 37.2 overs as Gloucestershire amassed 352 for 3. Hampshire finished just 10 runs short on 342 for 8 thanks largely to some late big hitting from Gareth Andrew.
Such is the nature of this competition and the English season in general that after playing 4 games in 10 days it was nearly 6 weeks until the next one when Sussex were the visitors to Cheltenham. Another win, this time by the more comfortable margin of 51 runs kept hopes alive.
Three days later it was off to the Oval to play Surrey, the beaten finalists on that memorable day at Lord’s the previous September. Surrey hadn’t started well either and the general feeling was whoever lost could wave goodbye to a return to Lord’s. Surrey’s 323 for 8 put them in the driving seat and the Gloucestershire reply never got going as they subsided badly, being bowled out for a mere 158, 165 runs short.
In the penultimate game at Canterbury, Kent eased past Gloucestershire’s modest score of 200 to win by 7 wickets before the final game against Essex was washed out bringing the 50 over campaign to a soggy and disappointing end with an 8th place finish in the group.
Gloucestershire’s campaign opened against Sussex at Bristol and the game ended controversially as the home side on 83 for 1 lost by 1 run on the Duckworth-Lewis method. Had the players left the field a ball earlier, when the rain appeared just as heavy, Gloucestershire would have taken the points. However, in saying that the Sussex total of 242 for 5 would have taken some overhauling had the game run its full course.
By early June Andrew Tye had joined up with his new team-mates for the two-day road trip to London out-grounds as the county took on Middlesex at Merchant Taylor’s ground, Northwood and Kent at Beckenham on consecutive evenings. Tye must have wondered what he had let himself in for as both games were played in cold, gloomy conditions. Gloucestershire batted last in each game and won both in the final over as darkness descended!
After defeat in the next game against Glamorgan, Gloucestershire went on an unbeaten run of 6 matches, winning 5 while the game in Hampshire was abandoned, before the 3rd and final group loss against Kent. The last 3 group games were then won with Gloucestershire topping the group convincingly with 10 wins, 3 defeats and a no result, securing a home semi-final in the process.
At the end of the group stages, Klinger was the competition’s leading run-scorer with 530, with Ian Cockbain second on 499. Benny Howell, bamboozling batsmen with his mixture of slower balls and cunningly disguised ‘knuckle balls’, was the leading wicket taker with 23.
After all this, the quarter-final turned out to be a bit of an anti-climax as Durham’s batsmen took the attack to the Gloucestershire bowlers scoring a formidable 180 for 5. Mark Wood, returning from injury bowled with real pace and alongside Chris Rushworth, the pair soon had the home side in trouble and at 61 for 6 with things looking a little bleak. It was only Jack Taylor’s 80 from 41 balls as he took the attack back to Durham that saved Gloucestershire’s blushes. There was an outside chance of pulling off a remarkable victory for a while but with partners running out he was run out from the final ball of the 19th over. Durham had won by 19 runs. In truth, Gloucestershire were largely outplayed and the wait for a third finals day appearance goes on.
Moment of the season:
The final afternoon at Worcester proved that Championship cricket can be just as dramatic as anything in the one-day game. Declaring 75 behind, Gloucestershire bowled Worcestershire out for 239 leaving them 315 to win in 70 overs. By tea, they had reached 139 for 4 and when Hankins was out in the over after the interval Jack Taylor joined Klinger. With light, an issue Taylor reached 50 in 38 balls and the pair added 100 in 17 overs. With 30 more runs needed the players went off for bad light but thankfully returned quickly with the loss of just 2 overs. The assault continued as Taylor reached his century from 71 balls with a 6 and hit another 6 next ball. 5 more were needed and Klinger hit a boundary to bring the scores level and then hit a 6 to bring up his own century and win the game. The pair had added 179 in just 24 overs and won with over 10 overs to spare, but with the poor light deteriorating rapidly, it is unlikely the game could have gone on much longer.
Chris Dent’s consistency was invaluable to the side. His 1336 runs at an average of over 47 stood out. He scored 3 centuries and was out 3 more times in the nineties and also weighed in with 2 more hundreds in the One Day Cup.
Low point of the season:
Despite the T20 defeat to Durham after dominating in the group the low point probably has to be letting Somerset off the hook in the first game of the defence of the RL One Day Cup. With more than a run a ball needed (63 from 52)when the final pair came together tight bowling and fielding could have increased pressure on them but the plan seemed to be to attack for the final wicket and runs came freely as Gloucestershire snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.
Ones to watch next season:
South African-born Graeme van Buuren looked a useful cricketer with bat and ball in all formats of the game before an injury ended his season prematurely. Scoring 2 unbeaten centuries in consecutive innings he also chipped in with useful wickets.
England under-19s batsman George Hankins showed his potential by scoring a maiden century against Northants in September and could be given more opportunities next season.
Matt Taylor developed well as a T20 bowler as well as becoming part of the competitive 4-day seam bowling attack and after recovering from injury setbacks will be hoping to progress further.
Where to strengthen?
With Hamish Marshall leaving and Michael Klinger intending to play only one-day cricket next season batting is the obvious area that will need addressing.
Word from the top is that Cameron Bancroft will be returning as the 4-day overseas player although at the time of writing there has been no official confirmation.
Phil Mustard has been signed permanently after a successful loan spell last season. Although he hasn’t played much red ball cricket at Durham lately and was seen as a one-day specialist there, his Championship century at Derby followed by an unbeaten 90 in securing a draw in the final match against Sussex showed what he can do. It will also help having a second experienced wicketkeeper, an area where the squad was light last season.
Hopes for next season?
With two promotion places available in the Championship again it would be good to see Gloucestershire making a strong challenge for promotion throughout the season. Realistically though it will be hard for smaller squads like Gloucestershire’s to challenge on all fronts and success in the one-day competitions may be easier to achieve.
With a good group of players and a good team spirit, a bit more consistency and luck with injuries and success is possible.
Describe last season in a sentence:
Plenty of promise and good cricket and a feeling of things moving in the right direction with a talented, well-coached squad that was sometimes let down by a lack of consistency and ruthlessness when it mattered.
By Jon Foster (@JonFoz1, part of the GlosFan page on Twitter)
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