Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Another day, another Championship match begins- Leics v Glos 'preview'

This doesn't really count as a match preview, as by the time we realised there was a match on today, it had started and Leicestershire were already 35/4! This is arguably the battle of the wooden spoon contenders and you would think Glos would put out our strongest possible side in an effort to beat some fellow muppets of Division Two. With this in mind, it's not exactly encouraging to Benny Howell's name popping up at first change on Cricinfo. He has already taken 2 for 3 though, so it could be a masterstroke by King John and Corporal Klinger.

Not a huge amount else to say, other than the fact that Craig Miles has been drafted in to replace the crocked Liam Norwell. The rest of the side remains the same as the one who lost to Northants. We say this a lot, but it's time for Alex Gidman to hold his hand up, build on last week's 80-odd and score some blooming first innings runs in this match. You could hardly pick an easier side to score them against either. If you think we're bad, bear in mind that Leics lost to Leeds/Bradford MCCU in their match last week! They have a mediocre batting line-up and are missing seamers Matthew Hoggard, Nathan Buck and former Glos sprayer, Anthony Ireland due to injury. They do however have two decent spinners in leftie Claude Henderson (now 40 years old!) and off-spinner Jigar Naik. We have never heard of their other bowlers, Ollie Freckingham and Robbie Williams, although we're hopeful that the latter is the former Take That man. The Stoke lad always looked as if he had a fast bowler's arse and if so, he could prove a like-for-like replacement for Hoggie.

So, it's the battle of the dross in Division Two. Who will triumph? The Jessop Tavern View feels there are two likely winners, apathy and mediocrity. Reader predictions, as always, are welcomed!

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Michael Klinger: No runs, but good common sense

Day 4: Northants beat Gloucestershire by 7 wickets.

There were no miracles today as Northants predictably wrapped up victory just before lunch. Glos could add only 19 runs to their overnight score but did then manage to take 3 Northampton wickets which, if nothing else, will make the defeat look less comprehensive in Wisden next year.

Speaking after the match, captain Klinger said that Gloucestershire need to learn from Northants 'mature' brand of cricket. Fair point. He praised the way that Northants bowled in pairs and made sure that they never lost clusters of wickets when batting. As much as these are good points, they are also the sort of points that you shouldn't really need to point out to professional cricketers.

If the result wasn't disappointing enough, injuries prevented both Benny Howell and Liam Norwell from taking the field in Northants second innings. Benny apparently has a bruised hand; Norwell has a groin strain. Both are doubtful for Wednesdays trip to Leicestershire (on a completely different point; isn't it nice that championship games have fixed start days) Back to injuries. Before this season started we noted that the squad was painfully thin. Injuries to Ian Saxelby and Paul Muchall and now Benny and Norwell. Those are the sorts of things you can't afford when you are struggling for a quality first xi. Presumably Ian Cockbain will be on stand by for Benny and young Craig Miles will take Liam Norwell's spot. Norwell's injury is a particular concern given his fragile body over the past couple of seasons.

As much as Michael Klinger might be talking common sense perhaps we can add a few extra things that he didn't actually say, but is probably now starting to think. "Christ mate, I wish we had some bloody mature gritty county trundler who can run in all day and put the ball on the spot". Gloucestershires most experienced bowler is Will Gidman, a man with only two full seasons under his belt. Compare this to Northants who can add the grizzled Andrew Hall and test credentials of Trent Copeland to their young stud, David Willey. Anyone know whether John Lewis is bored of playing in Surrey's 2nd xi?

Next week Gloucestershire travel to Leicestershire. Does county cricket have the equivalent of the relegation six pointer?

Friday, 26 April 2013

Northants close in on victory

Day 3: Gloucestershire 192 and 280 for 9 lead Northants by 68 runs.

So, let's cut to the chase and consider the question that all Gloucestershire fans will be wondering; what's the chance of rain tomorrow?

Sadly, not great if the weather channel prove to be correct.

Unless something remarkable happens, Northants will wrap up a thoroughly deserved victory. Glos will go and dwell on a few positives from their second innings fight. At 109 for 4, and opening game centurions Dan Housego and Hamish O'Marshall joining captain Michael Klinger back in the pavilion the odds were on for a dispiriting innings defeat. Instead, lead by former skipper Alex Gidman, Glos fought back to at least take the game into a fourth day and make Northants bat again. When you finish bottom of the county championship you have to take whatever small victories you can.

The disappointing aspect of today's batting effort was that several plays got themselves into a position to play the sort of knock that could have seriously given Northants the jitters. Sadly neither Dent, Gidman or Benny could convert their half centuries into anything more meaningful. Young Cameron Herring also displayed encouraging signs of his potential with a second half decent contribution of the match. Gloucestershire will now rue the lack of runs in this match from messers Housego, Klinger and O'Mish who contributed only 44 runs in 6 innings between them. When half of your batting lineup scores less than fifty in the entire match you ain't going to win many matches.

Northants close in on comprehensive victory

Day 2: Glos 192 and 34 for  1 v Northants 404.

Call off the champagne. Cancel the double decker bus victory parade. Gloucestershire aren't going to cruise to promotion and glory. After the positivity of the opening game, the Jessop Tavern View is now feeling as hesitant and unsure as Alex Gidman's footwork about what this season has in store.

Gloucestershire were rolled over by a very handy Northants attack and then conceded a first innings lead of 212. It could have been slightly different. At one point during the afternoon Gloucestershire had Northants at 283 for 8. Had they managed to finish the job and only concede a lead of around a hundred then the picture would be very different. As it is, with captain Michael Klinger already back in the hutch and appearing to have begun this season as he finished the Sheffield Shield, the question really is when will Northants win, rather than if.

King John sums up what went wrong with the bowling very nicely:

All of these young bowlers have, in the past few seasons, demonstrated that they have ability. However, bowling is all about consistency and it will be a long season if this isn't rectified. The absence of Ian Saxelby is particularly hard felt. Saxelby offers the Glos attack a little bit more experience and that all-important consistency.

What happens today will show us a lot about the Gloucestershire side. Do the boys have the application to bat all day and at least make Northants bat again? We remember having these crucuial moments at several points last season. Not so much crucial in terms of the result, but crucial in building confidence and demonstrating fight. We don't mind supporting a crap cricket team as long as it shows a willingness to fight.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Match Preview: Glos v Northants

Gloucestershire return to action today after a well earned week off following their encouraging start to the Championship season against Essex. They welcome to Bristol a Northants side who seem to have banished last year's demons and are fresh off giving Essex a good old spanking last week by an innings and 9 runs. As comprehensive as this result seems Northants first innings did include a slightly improbable-sounding 228 runs for their last two wickets.

Northants seem to possess a nicely rounded bowling attack. Trent Copeland might be one of a handful of quicks Australia have used over the last few years, but he has played test cricket without humiliating himself and so will pose a threat. He is complimented by the ageless South African grinder Andrew Hall and young up and coming left armer David Willey who took  8 for 110 in the match last week. Compare this attack to Gloucestershire's threadbare one and this is presumably where the game will be won or lost.

Gloucestershire have opted to pick 3 seamers and Jack Taylor as their attack after James Fuller broke his finger against Essex. It will be a real test for this unit to take 20 wickets agaianst an experienced Northants batting lineup.

Glos also choose to go with young Cameron Herring behind the stumps. We'd didn't hear any grumblings about his keeping in the opening match which we presume is a good thing. Interestingly both of Gloucestershire's other stumpers, Richard Coughtrie and Gareth Roderick, scored hundreds for the 2nd XI this week. Competition can only be good for what has been a problem position for Glos in recent seasons.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

John Bracewell: Introducing new terminology for winning

King John clearly has a very different strategy in mind in order to get the best out of the Gloucester youngsters this year; talking nonsense.

In an interview with BBC Radio Bristol, John described our bowling at Chelmsford last week as

"We're probably slightly short of a trot on our bowling combinations but we've probably learnt more positives than negatives."

What the hell does that mean? What is a 'trot'?

We're aware of using the word trot in regards to a period of time (i.e. Alex Gidman is going through a bad trot) but this doesn't really make any sense in the context of what King John is saying. but then maybe this is the point. Has Bracewell decided that with such a young squad, packed full of players who only know how to speak in text speak and struggle form sentences of more than 140 characters, that the best way to motivate the lads is to invent words to make them feel better.

Essentially Bracewell is saying 'we didn't have much depth to our bowling after we'd made the early breakthrough with the new ball'. However, to not dispirit the boys he is going to come up with his own phrases to throw them off.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Relegation issues

Continuing on from our mutterings regarding the pointlessness of drawing matches in division 2, the excellent blog, 99.94, thinks slightly differently and criticises the spinelessness of division 2 sides for failing to produce any positive results in last weeks matches. In all honesty, it's fairly lazy writing, as of the four games in division 2 last week, Hampshire very definitely would have won but for rain and Northants had Glamorgan by the throat. Both games had no play at all on the final day. Gloucestershire and Essex were locked together on a very placid pitch and Lancashire and Worcestershire looked fairly evenly poised. Both of these games also lost considerable time to the weather. So much for the negativity.

As we explained in an earlier post, there are only three points available for a draw, and therefore the only real benefit in playing for a draw is to prevent your opponents from gaining maximum points. With no relegation there really is nothing to be achieved by being conservative in division 2.

Yet 99.94 suggest that it might be about time to introduce promotion and relegation to division 2, with the minor counties being the beneficiaries. They argue that since the counties make no money from 4 day cricket it wouldn't be that much of a loss as long as they could still compete in the one day competitions.

Of course to say that losing out on 4 day cricket is purely a financial consideration is ridiculous. How would a county side relegated to minor county cricket expect to keep its players? If Gloucestershire had been relegated last season would the established pros hang about? And what about the youngsters? Would Chris Dent, James Fuller, Liam Norwell and David Payne, all pretty much regulars in the first XI be willing to suffer a season in minor county cricket as long as they could play in the one day competitions? It's unlikely. The result would be the ruin of the club.

Let's hope that the ECB at least realises this.

As for negativity, or "ducking the ruthlessness required for history" as 99.94 actually phrases it, perhaps this can be put down more to the lack of quality than anything else. Christ, we'd all love to have a bowler who sensed when it was time to go in for the kill and then actually had the skills to take 4 or 5 quick wickets. Until one of those bowlers comes along, we'll have to make do with 'negativity' masked as lack of quality.

Division three table toppers

Day 4: Glos 409 for 5 dec v Essex 353 for 6

Only 51 overs were possible on the final day of play at Chelmsford as Gloucestershire's opening match of the 2013 season petered out into a draw. Tom Westley went on to complete his hundred after a let off from older Gidders in the second over of the day. Gloucestershire thus had to settle for 9 points and a highly encouraging start to the season, and certainly better than last year's debacle in the opening round of fixtures.

Scoring over 400 after being put in speaks for itself, and heres to hoping that the batting continues to produce the runs that, on paper, it really should be producing. The bowling on the other hand; well, it's hard to read too much into things. Fuller looked dangerous with the new ball, but it must be a slight concern that both Norwell and Payne went round the park a bit. Still, it's early days, and both of these bowlers have shown enough over the last few seasons to mean this isn't too much of a concern.

After the match Essex coach Paul Grayson made the point that he was happy with the squad he had assembled at Essex for this campaign. Added to the team for this match can be international cricketers such as Owais Shah, Ryan ten Doeschate and Saj Mahmood along with promising youngster Reece Topley. This perhaps emphasis' exactly how tough things will be for Glos this season. Paul Grayson's quote perhaps sums up the challenge best,

"If you achieve things it's not down to 11, 12 players, it's down to 15, 16. We might have to use a rotation system at some time, if guys are a bit tired we might be able to rest one or two at certain periods, especially with one-day cricket. But I'm pleased with the way the squad is shaping up."

So who are Gloucestershire's 15 or 16? Of the squad members who could be added to the XI that played here only Ian Saxelby would walk straight in. Ian Cockbain represents decent batting cover, but the only other players who might be considered are the two spinners, Jack Taylor and Ed Young. It's a painfully thin squad, and represents the difficulties Glos face this season.

We also enjoyed Alex Winter's creation of the new county championship division 3 in his match report.

"Realistically, they are part of an unofficial Division Three with Glamorgan, Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. Bettering those three sides this season would be a start but Klinger will have seen enough talent on show in the opening game to suggest Gloucestershire can secure a mid-table finish."

Excellent! After round one of matches, Glos sit proudly atop the newly formed division three.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Musings on what could have been

Days 2 and 3: Glos 409 for 5 dec v Essex 177 for 3.

The weather and a stubborn knock from Tom Westley have surely put pay to any thoughts Gloucestershire had of starting the 2013 campaign with a win. Despite James Fuller's early salvo of 2 for 22 from 4 overs at the end of day 2, play only resumed again at 3pm on day 3 and Tom Westley and former Gloucestershire star (!) Ravi Bopara shut the door firmly in Gloucester's face with a stand off 116.

James Fuller's efforts on the evening of day two confirmed last seasons impression that Fuller is a real wicket taking bowler. Without having seen too much of him it is difficult to know whether this wicket taking ability comes from genuinely good deliveries, or whether he sprays the ball around so much that batsmen are drawn into daft dismissals. We've all played against these sort of guys. They run in at a hundred miles and hour and terrify the life out of you, not because of their quality, but because you know that they have absolutely no control over where the ball is going. The ball is as likely to be fired directly at your head, as fired 6 feet down the leg side, or ripping out your off stump. We are not suggesting Fuller doesn't have quality, but his previous misnomers for beamers suggests he has something of the maverick operator about him.

Rolling back to day two, O'Mish and Housego both moved their scores to 149 and 150 respectively, and Benny Howell gave the scoreboard the acceleration it needed in posting a declaration. Howell is an interesting selection. Last season he appeared far more comfortable in the shorter form of the game, and his innings here seems to confirm this. When he walks in with the score on 351, as he did here, you feel he is more suited than facing down a crisis. Still, a little bit of competition between him and Ian Cockbain can only be a good thing.

Listening to BBC Essex's coverage on day one the point was made about the how much worth there is in playing for a draw in division 2. With no relegation and with only three points differential between a loss and a draw, how much do you really gain from drawing a match. Contriving results is hardly a new thing in county cricket, but usually these things happen towards the end of the season. Looking at the weather forecast for the final day it seems unlikely that there will be enough play to manufacture a result anyway, but it would interesting to see how each team view the possibility of creating a result so early in the season.

Finally, as always Alex Winter's match reports for this game have been excellent, and well worth checking out. Today he makes the point about the high turn over of youngsters that Essex have had to endure over the last few seasons. Varun Chopra, Chris Wright, Tony Palladino and Adam Wheater have all left over the past few years. That's quite a useful group of players. Of course this is always likely to be a problem for counties who, like Essex have struggled, during this time period. However, it did make us think again about the Gloucestershire youngsters and how much interest their has been in them over the winter. Did any of the bigger counties enquiry about Chris Dent or James Fuller, and if not, what does this say about the quality of these guys? It's a theme that the Jessop Tavern View has touched upon before. Time will tell exactly how good these kids can become. After such a positive start to the season, our glass is a lot closer to half full.

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Fire up the promotion bandwagon

Day1: Glos 300 for 3 (Housego 124*, Marshall 120*)

Somebody get on the phone to the builders at Nevil Road and tell them we're going to need a bigger trophy room. It's 2013 and the Shire's youngsters are heading for fame and glory. Promotion is as good as done and the only question is exactly how many double decker buses the boys need for the victory parade.

Removing the hyperbole; Gloucestershire started the 2013 season in frankly extraordinary fashion. Put in to bat by Essex the boys got off to a solid enough start before three wickets fell before lunch leaving Glos delicately poised at 71 for 3. Dan Housego, who endured something of a working over by veteran chugger David Masters when he first arrived at the crease, then proceeded to steady the ship with an innings of tremendous responsibility and poise. Hamish O'Marshall, coming in at what looks a more comfortable number 5 position added the acceleration and Gloucestershire's 2013 campaign was off and running.

O'Marshall hundreds are something like London buses. You wait three years for one, and then two come along....in successive seasons! More tellingly, Gloucestershire scored only 7 hundreds between them last season. After day 1 of the new season they already have two. O'Marshall, like older Gidders, has too much quality not to be scoring big runs regularly in division two and let's hope this is the start of a big season for the wee Irish man. Dan Housego, on the other hand, showed glimpses of quality last season, but never really put together a run of scores. Let's similarly hope that this is the start of his breakthrough year.

Essex went for the quick pairing of Maurice Chambers and Tymal Mills, neither of whom managed to impress the BBC Essex crew. New signing Saj Mahmood didn't make the cut after apparently being overbowled in pre-season. You really do know you've fallen a long way if you go from being an England sprayer to someone who was so overbowled in pre-season that they still got sent away to turn their arm over for the second XI. Exactly why England Lion Reece Topley isn't playing we can't tell you. Until Glos have a bowl its hard to tell precisely how poorly Essex bowled. You'd like to think that in early April Gloucestershire's seamers would find something more than the Essex attack managed.

Glos v Essex: Let the games begin....

New season. Same useless Gloucestershire website.

Gloucestershire take on Essex today in the first day of the 2013 season. Unsurprisingly Gloucestershire name an all seam attack, with Jack Taylor being let out.

More surprising is the debut of 18 year old wicket keeper Cameron Herring. Naturally there is no official word on this decision. Nor, is there much information regarding young Cameron's potential. Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised.

Ian Cockbain has also been left out, with Benny Howell filling the 6th batsman spot. Again, no explanation. Considering that Cockbain demonstrated genuine potential last season this is another surprising omission.

Presumably these decisions will be explained by the club.......oh, if only.

If anyone feels so inclined, please feel free to tweet the officially Glos twitter account (@Gloscricket) and ask them about these selectorial decisions. Just don't hold your breath for an answer.

Season preview: The only way is up, up, up.....

We're sure we are not the only ones, but with the weather still freezing, we're not exactly in the mood for the start of the county championship. still, we are nothing if not professional so we'll grit our teeth, fire up the heating, and have a think about what we might expect from Gloucestershire this year.

We still feel that last year's wooden spoon wasn't quite as terrible as it would appear on paper, and that there were definitely enough positives, or perhaps more accurately, glimpses of positives, for us to move towards the 2013 season with a little bit of optimism.

The only major new signing has been the appointment of Aussie Michael Klinger as captain. Klinger doesn't exactly come in on a wave of great form, his 330 runs at an average of 19 during the recent Australian season is a slight worry. His one day average of 42 suggests his preferred format, and also points towards where Gloucestershire's focus is for this season. Still, he represents an experienced new face, and whilst he isn't in the class of Kane Williamson he fills the troublesome openers berth.

Other than that, what would represent success for Gloucestershire?

Promotion will of course be talked about, and whilst this is a fairly obvious goal it would be nice if Gloucestershire could at least be in the mix come the final month of the season. The squad looks painfully thin, and only an injury free season would really allow the Shire to seriously push for promotion. As already mentioned, the signing of Michael Klinger probably means that our main focus will be on the one day competitions. Last year saw the green shoots of recovery in both the t20 and the 50 over competition. The signing of t20 specialist Dan Christian will provide the batting firepower that has been lacking in the past few years.

On paper, Gloucestershire's strength would appear to be in the batting. Klinger, older Gidman and O'Mish should all be targeting 1,000 runs. Chris Dent, Dan Housego and Ian Cockbain will all be looking to break away from their 'promising' tags and really put down a marker that they are real players of substance. Last year only one Gloucestershire batsman posted more than a solitary hundred. That man was Kane Williamson.

The bowling again appears to be a worry. The continual injury woes of Ian Saxelby puts into doubt exactly where the wickets will come from. Saxelby and Will Gidman have been consistent performers for Glos over the last two seasons. They are backed up by Liam Norwell, David Payne and James '38' Fuller. All three of them have shown promise. The question is, can one of these make the next step and become a 40 wicket a season bowler? One of them will need to. We are going to ignore the spin option. Let's just say that the Nevil Road groundsman won't be digging out the short blade on the mower and he can leave the rake at the back of the shed.

Who keeps wicket is anyone's guess. Richard Coughtrie's lack of runs seemed to see him fall from favour at the end of last season. The door is therefore wide open for youngsters Cameron Herring and Gareth Roderick. Lets just praise the Lord that it won't be Jon Batty.

King John has repeatedly made clear that it is no longer acceptable for the team to hide behind the 'inexperienced' tag. Whilst this remains a young squad, all of the youngsters now have a good two seasons behind them. If these young guns are to be the future of Gloucestershire cricket then it is time for them to stand up and be counted.