CB40: Gloucestershire 268-4 beat Northamptonshire 186-9 by 82 runs
Glos take final CB40 win at Wantage Road. Essex win knocks them out. Snowy analyses the county fixtures structure.
Gloucestershire produced their best complete one-day performance of the season but Essex's victory saw the West Country side complete a miserable week by going out of the Clydesdales Bank 40 League.
With so many results going against them, and their season being effectively put to bed, it has been a week to forget for Gloucestershire.
James Franklin and Chris Taylor shared 207 for the fourth wicket - comfortably a record stand against Northants and equalling the all-time List A-best for the fourth wicket - as the visitors racked up an excellent total on a sluggish pitch. The target was more than enough to defend easily.
It was superb batting. Control was provided after Gloucestershire were struggling slightly at 61-3 and then the accelerator was pressed at the perfect stage: 46 came off the powerplay. But Essex coasted to a win over Yorkshire to scupper Gloucestershire's hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals.
The cricket produced was more frustrating than enjoyable because Gloucestershire only have themselves to blame for not qualifying for the semi-finals. They were abject with the ball at Chelmsford earlier in the season and with the bat at Bristol in the recent crucial televised match. Two comprehensive defeats to Essex leaves Gloucestershire with no complaints as to who deserved to qualify.
But Alex Gidman's men had another chance - at Headingley, again on television. This was a game they were in touch with and needed to navigate through but they missed their chance: really good sides find a way to win those types of games.
One does hope the format of the Clydesdale Bank 40 League is changed for next season. One qualification spot from seven teams is very unfair and leaves teams with very little margin for error - Gloucestershire only lost three out of 12 matches and had a record far better than most teams in the competition, yet still didn't qualify.
The format also leaves scope for plenty of dead rubbers - that is never a good thing for counties trying to attract crowds, especially for Saturday matches in the football season.
The Unicorns experiment definitely worked so I would keep them in the tournament but ditch the Netherlands - they weren't much competition and the hassle of traveling was a nuisance. 20 teams; four groups of five; eight matches; the top two teams in each group qualifying for quarter-finals to retain an attractive knockout element to the competition; and a Lord's showpiece final in September.
That would be a competitive, compact tournament. Four home matches for each county is a good number to market properly. Sunday afternoons should be the primary matchday with a regular night for floodlit matches also an option. This format could work equally as well with 50-over cricket should the counties want to revert back.
The 40-over competition should be played in the latter half of the season. Better pitches, generally better (certainly warmer) weather - conditions to attract people out for an afternoon. Eight rounds of matches in eight weeks during July and August, with the knockout stages extending to the end of September.
T20 could then take prominence during May and June - the format can survive colder weather and compulsory off-field entertainment of jugglers using flaming cricket stumps should warm everyone up sufficiently. Or maybe the ECB can use their SkyTV money to afford patio heaters for every ground.
Ten T20 matches spread over eight weeks is enough, any more and the cricket is devalued. The difficult part is placing the T20 finals day. It's a great spectacle for the sport and can generally grab headlines at the start of August - interrupting the one-day tournament is probably unavoidable.
The County Championship should remain as it is. 17 rounds of matches - including a University/Tour match for each county can be spread across the season to provide necessary breaks for midweek one-day matches and rest. Early season matches should have a Sunday-Wednesday window - yes, people do want to watch championship cricket, they just never get the chance to do so - with T20 on Thursday, Friday or Saturday. Later in the season championship games can switch back to Tuesday-Friday with one-day cricket on a Sunday.
Regularity to the fixture list is essential to attract supporters - I'm sure Sky Sports will disagree. Regularity to a fixture list is impossible when a match has to be played every night of the week: the commentators actually have the audacity to bemoan poor crowds at their televised games. A shambles that needs sorting.
The key is to arrange test cricket and ODIs in a sensible manner so that county cricket has to do as little schedule-filling as possible to avoid the fixture list becoming another mess.