Friday, July 29, 2011

Lewis departs as Glos fight back

Day 3, Close: Gloucestershire 249-4 & 286 lead Surrey 423 by 112 runs (PTS: Glos 5, Surrey 8)

I'm sure a lot of people, including myself, would have taken day three at Cheltenham if offered. Gloucestershire fought back, if not with a vengeance, but with some heart. A maiden first-class century for Chris Dent was a delightful way to improve the mood of many after the news that Jon Lewis will leave Gloucestershire at the end of the summer.

It was heartbreaking news. Lewis has served 17 seasons at Nevil Road and been one of the greatest performers in the club's history. Even at 35 and shorn of the help of Steve Kirby this season he has performed brilliantly and is on course to eclipse 500 runs in a season for the first time.

But everyone needs to look to their future after sport and Lewis will have coaching opportunities at Surrey. More to the point, his immediate future is now secure. Gloucestershire still have to wait to September 7 for the planning application for the ground redevelopment to be heard. There is much financial uncertainly with other senior players, Hamish Marshall and Chris Taylor, yet to have been offered a new deal.

But for the time being, Gloucestershire have a handy advantage and still with wickets in hand. The fear of a collapse was allayed by Chris Dent's chanceless innings. He was patient and played attractively - exactly what Dent is capable of and a performance to make everyone feel much better about the future.

His partnerships, worth 94 with Alex Gidman - who remains 57 not out - and Kane Williamson - who threw away his wicket with a poor stroke - have given Gloucestershire a fighting chance with all three results still technically possible tomorrow. But Surrey remain favourites.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Coughtrie miss a killer for Glos

Day 2, Close: Surrey 392/8 lead Gloucestershire 286 by 106 runs (PTS: Glos 4, Surrey 7)

Catches win matches. That could be the end of the blog because that sums up the first two days of this match. A very even game save Mark Ramprakash's 141. Dropped on four by Richard Coughtrie. Such a shame for the young man; anyone can drop a catch; we all make mistakes - just some of the catchphrases that matter not one jot. It is a miss that will probably cost Gloucestershire this match.

That may be a touch pessimistic but it will take the best performance of the season with the bat to save the game. Surrey possess a superb bowling attack and more importantly, a batting line up than can score so quickly.

The innings run rate is nearly four-an-over. Even if Gloucestershire made 400 in four sessions, Surrey could easily chase down 300 in the final two. It is a very long way back for Gloucestershire.

What also hurt the home side was the partnership of 126 for the eighth wicket. Gloucestershire had chipped away well all day and limited the partnerships. But for such a large stand to come so late in the innings was a big nuisance. It turned the match squarely towards the visitors.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Unexpected win for Glos

CB40: Gloucestershire 196-6 beat Essex 195 by four wickets

Unexpected because of the results in the competition so far and the X1 that Gloucestershire fielded - again packed with youngsters, including a return to action for the now 17-year-old Craig Miles.

Miles looked a much better prospect watching him bowl from side on, on a good hard deck. From the top of the Jessop stand in April there was definitely a sense of what's-the-fuss-about. But today his potential was evident. Plenty more growing to do and already capable of picking up 2-fors in first team cricket. Impressive.

Impressive was also another controlled innings from Ian Cockbain. It wasn't the innings of a finisher but that of an opener whose knock the total is built around - he should be pushed up the order. He won the game today and could have won yesterday's game too.

But this game was more lost by Essex. They were outrageously poor in simply not sticking around. Seven down in the 13th over was pathetic. Once batsmen got settled - Phillips, Napier and Wright - they proved how profitable the College can be with two record partnerships for Essex against Gloucestershire.

Their battling nearly set something up for the visitors as Gloucestershire again lost too many wickets too soon but Cockbain and Kevin O'Brien, who was unusually but welcomingly sensible, found the partnership that won them the game.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Glos fail in modest chase

CB40: Nottinghamshire 266 beat Gloucestershire 247-9 by 19 runs (PTS: Notts 2, Glos 0)

Well you can't complain when the sun shines at Cheltenham and over 500 runs are scored in 80 overs but it was certainly disappointing that Gloucestershire never properly challenged only a par score.

The ridiculously inexperienced bowling attack - James Fuller in his fourth match and Matthew Taylor, brother of Jack, on debut - did exceptionally well to bowl Notts out. It was a great comeback from the blistering start the visitors made, fast even for the College.

Fuller, save the the first ball falling over at the bowling crease trick, looks a very good prospect. He has a strong arm action and bowled with pace and hurried the batsmen. Taylor was only military medium and often bowled to the wrong field.

But the bowlers stuck to their task well and Jack Taylor, Ed Young and Kane Williamson bowled to decent plans and contained the scoring.

With the bat, Gloucestershire had more than the ammunition to knock off the runs but less than a combined 50 from Hamish Marshall, Alex Gidman and Chris Taylor wasn't good enough. They needed to be counted as senior players and the latter two gave their wickets away.

Kevin O'Brien once again proved what a hit-and-miss-miss-miss player he is and there wasn't much else. Ian Cockbain played the innings that would have won the match at number two.

But Glos were almost out of the competition anyway so a good game in the sun should have been good enough for the punters.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Sweet relief as Glos win at Cheltenham

LVCC: Gloucestershire 515 beat Kent 205 & 168 by an innings and 142 runs (PTS: Glos 24, Kent 3)

When umpire Martin Bodenham raised his finger to send Robbie Joseph back, Cheltenham College erupted like never before. There was an outpouring of such delight and relief and a celebration of a thumping win - 55 years on from Gloucestershire's last success over Kent at Cheltenham, also by an innings.

David Payne wheeled away and his team mates formed a jumping, dancing huddle. Alex Gidman stood alone at first slip, both arms raised. A 10-year demon had been exorcised.

Only Chris Taylor from the current team had played in the previous win back in 2001 - he made a century in that match against Sussex and that same year he made 196 against Nottinghamshire.

And disastrously, he made 196 again. The first ball of the day was dispatched to the cover boundary; the second edged behind. There was a collective pang of anguish around the ground as Taylor hung his head and walked off slower than any batsmen. It was such a shame and made you think that his career was never destined to include a double hundred - hopefully he'll get one more chance.

But that disappointment was replaced an hour later as Gloucestershire got among the wickets and Kent rolled over so weakly - it was awful cricket from the visitors. Only one man - David Balcombe, on loan from Hampshire - showed the necessary heart.

Gloucestershire were rampant. The Churchdown Club struck up a few drolling notes of "Glaaawwwssssttterrrrrr", previously only reserved for late on Sunday afternoons following a one-day win. The ovation was tremendous. Players milled around with the spectators and wandered off towards the Montpellier wine bar, beers in hand. It was a jolly good afternoon at Cheltenham.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Taylor dominates day two

Day 2, Close: Gloucestershire 486-7 lead Kent 205 by 281 runs (PTS: Glos 8, Kent 3)

When Chris Taylor scores eight more runs tomorrow morning - heaven forbid he's denied his first double century - it will surely go down in the great Cheltenham innings. The entertainment he provided was wonderful.

He played within himself - only one reverse sweep showing the extrovert side of his batting. He drove beautifully, cut superbly and defended properly by getting himself into line. The only chance was a late cut which emerged from the gloom and cannoned off Martin van Jaarsveld's face at first slip.

All day the bowling was manouvred around with ease - Kent failed to gain any control and the scoring rate was high even for Cheltenham. Robbie Joseph was unbelivable in sending down 16 no-balls, without once remarking his run-up.

Discipline was all that was needed to score runs and Alex Gidman resisted until one swipe across the line saw him fall far short of a big score he should have made.

Dare we talk of the V word? Not since 2001 has that occurred here but Kent are so awfully demoralised - their body language in the field was outrageously poor - that batting for even a day will be a major challenge.

LIVE ball-by-ball coverage continues tomorrow on

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Sorry it's been a while...

Day 1, Close: Gloucestershire 107-3 trail Kent 205 by 98 runs (PTS: Glos 3, Kent 2)

...but i've been rather busy. But nowhere better to blog than from the Cheltenham College pavilion balcony. This place is just truly wonderful and nothing replaces the anticipation on the first morning of a festival - particular when the opposition are a team that should be beaten.

Kent are a side horribly out of form. Rob Key also failed a fitness test this morning. At 59-6 I thought this was it, 90 at the most. But in Darren Stevens Kent have a quality campaigner who has guts. He's also bang in form.

Guts is what you need on the first morning of a match when the ball is wobbling slightly - and only slightly under heavy cloud; the pitch is a belter. Kent simply didn't play well enough and Gloucestershire, chiefly Will Gidman, put the ball in the right zones to force mistakes.

And it looked as if the game was already over at 91-1. Before a pesky rain break. A rain break that wouldn't have even had umpires considering interrupting play at any other standard. But first-class cricket demands the best so off they went for 15 minutes and it's amazing what happens to the brain when one breaks out of the zone.

Hugely disappointing for two players who looked a million dollars - Kane Williamson in particular. But to no avail, Gloucestershire are still well placed for 300 +.

LIVE ball-by-ball coverage continues tomorrow on
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