Honours were just about even at the end of the first day of this Championship match at Nevil Road. Leaders Lancashire, having been put in by Gloucestershire, scored 275 in their first innings, and then reduced the home county to 15/2 at the close.
It was an absorbing and highly competitive day’s cricket played in warm sunshine with some praiseworthy batting, in particular by Karl Brown and Steven Croft, who both scored half-centuries for the visitors and excellent bowling by Gloucestershire paceman Craig Miles and Matt Taylor.
Having restricted the Red Rose county to less than 300 Gloucestershire will be disappointed that both openers, Chris Dent and Will Tavare fell in the ten overs which Gloucestershire were left to negotiate before the close.
On a lovely sunny morning Gloucestershire won the toss and decided to bowl first. It seemed that captain Geraint Jones’ decision may have been influenced less by the greenish tinge in the pitch than the feeling that recent Bristol pitches seem to flatten out as the match progresses.
After a quiet start Paul Horton was the first to go driving at Craig Miles to be caught at gully by Benny Howell for four. Progress was limited in the first hour against some accurate home bowling with only 23 scored from 16 overs. Opener Karl Brown and Alviro Petersen survived some scares against in-form seamer Liam Norwell.
Both batsmen looked to be settling when the left-arm medium pace of Matt Taylor was re-introduced at the Pavilion End to have Petersen lbw for 20 in his first over with the score on 55. Ashwell Prince soon followed, clean bowled for a single by the returning Craig Miles from the Ashley Down End: quickly 55/1 had become 56/3.
At lunch Lancashire were 65/3 from 31 overs, with the honours going to the Gloucestershire bowling attack. The young bowlers had performed with great accuracy and sustained hostility to restrict the visiting batsmen and take three key wickets.
After lunch Karl Brown reached a highly creditable half-century from 99 balls before he played on to Craig Miles for 57 with the score 106. Lancashire skipper Steven Croft partnered by wicket-keeper Alex Davies markedly increased the scoring rate as the lunch score doubled in just 13 overs as the bowling, particularly from Norwell who tended to over-pitch, lacked its pre-lunch consistency.
With the score on 146, Davies became Matt Taylor’s second victim, as he was trapped lbw for 11. Once again it was the first over of a new spell by Taylor, younger brother of off-spinning all-rounder Jack. Aussie James Faulkner, taking on the overseas slot from fellow Australian Peter Siddle, soon announced his arrival with a thundering cover drive for four off Norwell. But there was to be no repeat of his maiden first-class century against Surrey last week when he slashed wildly at Miles in the first over of that bowler’s new spell to be caught behind for nine by Jones, deputising for Gareth Roderick who had injured a thumb in the morning session
Meanwhile Croft reached an enterprising 50 from 68 balls with nine fours. His position at the crease, with feet wide apart and bat raised, is not the most elegant but he had given the Lancashire innings a momentum it lacked before lunch. In the penultimate over before tea Croft became Miles’s fifth victim, lbw to a ball which seemed to keep low for 62 with the score on 190, the eventual tea score after 64 overs.
After tea Jordan Clark and Tom Bailey batted securely to take the score to 239 before Benny Howell took two wickets in the 79th over getting Clark caught behind for 35 and Kyle Jarvis caught at cover for a duck. Glen Chapple, playing his first game of the season in place of Simon Kerrigan, batted cheerfully and was 29 not out including a lustily hit six to long-on, when Tom Bailey was last out, bowled by Matt Taylor for a valuable 30.
Gloucestershire bowled with purpose and consistency for most of the day on a pitch which seemed to pose less problems for the batsmen as the innings progressed. The opening pair of Craig Miles and Matt Taylor deserve particular praise, sharing eight wickets, Miles taking 5-61 and Taylor 3-67.
Gloucestershire had to face a difficult ten overs before the close and in the sixth over Chris Dent became Jarvis’s 39th victim of the season when he nicked an away-swinger to wicket-keeper Davies for two with the score on four. Miles joined Will Tavare as night- watchman but Tavare soon followed Dent to the pavilion, lbw to Bailey for four.
Afterwards Lancashire’s Brown told the county’s website that he was “reasonably happy” with their total and with the two wickets taken tonight.
“The two wickets tonight have put us in a great position for tomorrow. We got some valuable runs down the order, which has been happening for most of the season. It makes a big difference when lads at nine, ten and eleven are coming in with thirties and forties.
“It’s one of those pitches that if you get it in the right areas, it’s done a bit, and it has all day. It’s also a pitch that if you stray from a good line and length, it’s easy to put away. I think it’s a good cricket wicket.”
Gloucestershire must be concerned about the fitness of Roderick and his availability as a batsman in this game. Captain Geraint Jones later confirmed his thumb will be checked in the morning.