Gloucestershire got their NatWest T20 Blast campaign off to the best possible start with a compelling batting performance that saw them win by seven wickets with an over to spare. This was a match between two teams who both disappointed in the NatWest T20 Blast in 2014 and were desperate to make a good start this year.
Middlesex were put into bat and their total of 175-3 looked to be possibly slightly above par on a pitch where timing the ball wasn’t always easy. Their innings was built around a sparkling T20 best of 78 for Nick Compton, made off 67 balls with nine fours. He was well supported by Paul Stirling’s 39 and an unbeaten 31 from Adam Voges in his only T20 Blast appearance this season.
Compton showed a range of shots that will have surprised those who remember his earlier incarnation for Middlesex as a sound but unadventurous batsman.
The Gloucestershire bowlers were pretty steady and didn’t panic when the initial six powerplay overs went for 63. In the next four overs, they conceded just 16 runs, thanks largely to the Taylor brothers. In retrospect, this was a crucial shift in momentum where Middlesex lost the initiative.
Gloucestershire had only mixed help from their fielders. The ground fielding was good but two skied catches and an easy stumping were missed. Overall, the consensus view at half time was that Gloucestershire were facing a tough task.
What started as a fine evening degenerated into a drizzly gloom at the change of innings. Messrs Duckworth and Lewis were warming up in the dug-out but fortunately were not needed. If anything, the gloomy light and the drizzle worked in Gloucestershire’s favour as fielders struggled to pick up the ball, sometimes slipping on the increasingly greasy outfield.
Nothing, however, should be taken away from the performances of Hamish Marshall and Ian Cockbain. Marshall is always likely to dazzle with his strokeplay but it was Ian Cockbain, brought in to captain the side in the absence of Michael Klinger, who was the big surprise of the night. His highest ever T20 innings of 91 not out was scored off just 49 balls with nine fours and five sixes, the last of which took Gloucestershire to a deceptively easy win by seven wickets with a whole over to spare.
Marshall’s 56 came off 38 balls with six fours and two sixes and Geraint Jones, whilst struggling to time the ball, accompanied Cockbain in an unbroken stand of 61. The only disappointment was the failure of Australian Peter Handscomb whose career T20 average tumbled from an absurd 171 to a mere 86.
For Middlesex, Steven Finn’s 2-29 off his four overs was a vain attempt to stem the tide. James Harris, Harry Podmore and Neil Dexter all went for more than ten runs per over and Ravi Patel’s spin never threatened. It was all the more surprising, therefore, that skipper James Franklin didn’t give himself or Paul Stirling an over or two as the game slipped away.
Overall, Gloucestershire will be delighted with their winning start but it’s back to the drawing board for Middlesex.
Man of the Match – Ian Cockbain (Gloucestershire): As acting captain, Cockbain really stepped up his game, top scoring for his side with his highest ever T20 innings and steering his side to victory.