So, farewell to first class cricket in England until next summer. For some it will be a relief. I saw one Leicestershire fan say on social media that he struggled to remember his team being so poor in the last 40 years. Having failed to win a Championship game in Division 2 in 2013, he may have a point. By contrast Durham, with limited international calls, carried off the Division 1 title in a year where coach Geoff Cook suffered a heart attack mid season. There can be no better example of “doing it” for someone.
At the County Ground Bristol, Gloucestershire’s end of term report to members will be one of cautious optimism. Not only is the ground development taking serious shape now, with the Pavilion open and the framework of the apartments at the Ashley Down end of the ground in place, the team looks to have some foundations too.
The Professional Cricketers Association run a points system to assess a player’s value across the season in all competitions, and skipper Michael Klinger is comfortably in the top 10. With over 1000 one day runs and another 1000 in the Championship, he was an astute signing, and that’s before you add in his leadership. He refused to let games drift and on several occasions negotiated positions which produced results. The decision to engage him for two years was a wise one.
By and large the top order took confidence from Klinger’s heavy scoring. Chris Dent, his regular opening partner, also passed 1000 runs, as did Alex Gidman and Hamish Marshall. There were 17 Championship centuries, and only promoted Northants, in April, prevented Gloucestershire taking at least one batting point. Six times they made over 400, and a key decision going forward will be Gareth Roderick’s position in the batting order. His two centuries in August suggest elevation from number eight, and it’s for coach John Bracewell to decide if he can combine that with keeping wicket.
The permanent signing of Tom Smith from Middlesex after his loan spell ticks another box after a year where Gloucestershire lacked a front line spinner of their own. He may not threaten to run through teams but Smith will offer variety and, as John Bracewell put it “control on the scoreboard.”
With the new ball, teenager Craig Miles suprised several teams in between the May showers, and to take over 40 Championship wickets shows his promise. Later, he at times appeared to try and bowl too fast and too short, but he’ll have learned a huge amount. Will Gidman reached 50 wickets again on the final day, and both were probably helped by being left out of the bulk of the one day matches.
All rounder Benny Howell was useful back up, and the busiest player, bowling, as he did, in all formats. Indeed, Howell, Marshall and Alex Gidman played in every first team game, and Dent and Klinger missed only one.
If Miles continues to develop, the role of the third seamer is the one vacant spot. Liam Norwell, James Fuller and David Payne bowled over 600 overs between them, but their 46 wickets have cost 45 runs apiece.
Norwell has just signed a new contract, and with Ian Saxelby hopefully returning to full fitness, there is pressure on the other two if they are to be more than limited overs selections. Batsman Ian Cockbain has also signed up along with new recruit Will Tavare, so Dan Housego will also feel competition for his place too.
The one day landscape for next season bears little resemblance to the one just finished. The T20 has only two groups, not three, as does the new 50 over competition which replaces the YB40.
In both instances Gloucestershire play six teams who were not in their respective pools in 2013, and in the T20 they start with a 2 point penalty for a sub standard pitch in a match at Cheltenham. The greater number of group games at least offers more chance to claw back those points, but it’s still a matter of debate as to whether the club will see a specialist T20 signing as value for money given the handicap they are faced with.
I said at the start of the summer that it would take all John Bracewell and Michael Klinger’s know how
to keep Gloucestershire competitive with only a sprinkling of experienced players, but T20 aside, they managed it. Only 4 Championship defeats, and a chance of reaching the YB40 semi finals until well into the last round of group matches. With some good winter work and the bulk of the Nevil Road development done by the spring, members will hope things can be nudged forward again next year.
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