It’s the biggest night of the summer in west country cricket. On Friday around 8,000 spectators with fill the Bristol County Ground for the T20 derby between Gloucestershire and Somerset.
All the talk for the past month has been about West Indian batsman Chris Gayle arriving at, playing for, and generally throwing himself into life at Somerset. He, though, has left after just three appearances. Gloucestershire meanwhile, have their own rather less heralded run machine.
Michael Klinger is the complete opposite to Gayle. While the Jamaican was described by team mate Peter Trego as “a one man carnival”, Klinger is a gritty, nuggety Australian, a family man, and a subtle a deflector of attention on his own performances. It’s reflective of his batting – efficient accumulation with the minimum of fuss.
2015 is his third summer with Gloucestershire, and his recent innings in the Nat West T20 blast have prompted some supporters to refer to the team as “Klingershire” – a play on the “Proctershire” analogy from the 1970’s when the South African all rounder was the team’s leading light with bat and ball.
While Gayle’s three highly lauded innings for Somerset in T20 saw him depart with an average of 328, Klinger’s name didn’t even appear until last Sunday tea time.He didn’t have an average after four appearances so far this season in which his scores were of 126*, 69*, 104* and 104*, the last two hundreds on successive nights when Gloucestershire were beaten by Essex and Glamorgan respectively. After making only 10 in the win over Middlesex, his seasonal average is 413.
It’s not form which has been a flash in the pan either. In 91 innings across all formats for Gloucestershire since 2013, he has scored 3,874 runs with 12 centuries and 17 fifties. His Gloucestershire first class average is 43, his List A average for the team is 77 and yet he remains uncapped by Australia despite a solid career for Victoria, South Australia and now Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield. Klinger will be 35 in July. True, Chris Rogers played in the 2013 Ashes series at that age, but he did at least have one previous cap to his name.
Klinger, for all the merits of his cv, therefore looks set to miss out on that particular cricketing duel, but in miniature Gloucestershire against Somerset will be no less atmospheric.It’s a fixture Gloucestershire haven’t won since 2011, when Muttiah Muralitharan was meant to be the star turn.
Instead, he was upstaged by a youthful all rounder, Jack Taylor taking 4-16 and then making 38 with the bat as Gloucestershire won by 2 wickets. Four years later, Taylor has had to re-model his bowling action but he remains a regular in the one-day side.
“It’s always a good contest and as players we look forward to playing Somerset” he told me. “They’re always a strong team, so we’ll just be looking to play our best cricket. We’ve won games chasing this season, but also setting a target and squeezing the opposition in the middle of their innings. Tom Smith has done really well for us, and Benny Howell bowls at a different pace to his spells in four day cricket and has a few variations. There is only two points on the game but Somerset bring a lot of supporters and evenat Bristol they can get on your back a bit so it would be nice to beat them.”
“Michael has been in ridiculous(sic) form lately, and it’s almost as if he’s been playing a different game. It’s been a pleasure to watch him and he’s obviously trying his hardest to win matches for the team. People like David Payne and myself have been playing for a while now and we’ve got to make sure we back him up to get us over the line.”
In Taunton, the gale has blown through. In Bristol, Gloucestershire have their own version of the West Indian star, and, fair to say, he’s going down a storm.
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