On a perfect summer’s day at the Cheltenham festival, Gloucestershire completed a remarkable two day win over Northamptonshire by nine wickets. Leading by 126 runs from the first innings, the home side then bowled Northamptonshire out for 160, scoring the necessary 35 to win for the loss of one wicket.
At 108/6 this morning in pursuit of the visitors’ first innings total of 246, such an outcome seemed impossible. But that was to reckon without outstanding performances by two of Gloucestershire’s highly promising young guns: all-rounder Jack Taylor and quickie Craig Miles.
Taylor rescued the home innings with a magnificent 156 not out, his highest score in Championship cricket and second century of the summer. He was helped by Benny Howell (36) and Miles (41) in hundred partnerships for the seventh and ninth wickets as Northamptonshire’s efforts became increasingly dispirited. When the visitors batted second time around it was Miles who starred with the ball, returning 5/28 with a brilliant spell of fast-medium right arm bowling.
Gloucestershire began the morning on 86/4 with Hamish Marshall (29) and captain Ian Cockbain (6) the not out batsmen. It was a big day for Liverpudlian Cockbain as the captaincy opportunity presented to him by Geraint Jones’s resignation also meant a chance to cement his place in the red-ball side. Marshall soon departed, caught by Alex Wakely at second slip for 34.
It should have been 106/6 when Northamptonshire missed a golden opportunity to run out Howell but the visitors only had to wait until the next over when on the same total Stone produced a ball which bounced and moved away from Cockbain to have him caught at second slip for 11.
Howell and Taylor mounted a spirited recovery, both batters depositing Graeme White’s slow left arm into the hospitality tents in one over. Taylor was particularly aggressive, reaching his 50 from 43 balls with one six. He had been in poor form since getting his maiden Championship century at Derby early last month.
But this was an opportune time for him to recover his touch. The pair put on a priceless 115 for the seventh wicket before the Stone-Wakely combination produced another wicket when Howell was out for 36. What seemed a precarious position for Gloucestershire at 106/6 had a much healthier appearance at 225/7 from 54 overs with Taylor unbeaten on 74.
Taylor continued on his swashbuckling way after lunch and was seven short of his century when Fuller, on 13, tamely scooped a catch to short mid-wicket from Rory Kleinveldt at 258/8. But any thoughts of him running out of partners were banished in typical fashion as he took on Kleinveldt with two fours in an over to reach his second Championship century. The second summed up the way the young Oxfordshire born all- rounder plays as he reached three figures with a dashing ramp shot to the boundary. Taylor is very much the modern cricketer.
Faced with something of a crisis when he came in he responded with a series of white-ball shots, always giving the bowler a chance, and succeeded in gradually taking the game away from the visitors. It was great entertainment for a crowd, much healthier in size than yesterday’s, who basked in the warm sunshine. Moreover, they were even able to applaud Taylor’s century at the correct time as it coincided (unusually) with a point when the two scoreboards at the College were working, and in sync.
As the Gloucestershire middle order had taken control of the game it was evident that Northamptonshire choice of only two frontline quick bowlers in this match may be costly. This impression was compounded in the 67th over (45 of which had been bowled by Kleinveldt and Stone) when third seamer Steven Crook had to go off mid-over after falling and appearing to hurt a knee.
Taylor and Craig Miles turned the screw as the Northamptonshire bowlers became more ragged to the extent that 104 were added for the ninth wicket before Miles, who recorded his highest score at Cheltenham last season, was out edging Keogh to Kleinveldt at slip for 41. When Norwell was last out, swinging wildly to be caught behind off Kleinveldt Gloucestershire were all out for 372, a lead of 126. At 106/6 such a lead was unthinkable and it was largely due to the superb effort from Taylor who scored 156 not out from 125 balls with 14 fours and five 6s.
When Northamptonshire started their second innings Stephen Peters added to his first innings misery when he bagged a pair, again the victim of Miles who clean bowled him fifth ball. The highly – rated young Gloucestershire quickie was on fire when he snared Ben Duckett, caught at slip for 5. James Fuller got in on the act to capture first innings centurion, skipper Alex Wakely for a duck to have Northamptonshire reeling at 5/3. Rob Keogh became the fourth wicket when Fuller trapped him in front for 1 to make the visitors 18/4.
In more sedate times dour application from the batsmen would have been called for but Adam Rossington’s response to the situation was the exact opposite as he skied a mistimed pull to mid- on in Norwell’s first over to make the Wantage Road side 38/5, still 88 in arrears. Richard Levi was batting in his usual positive fashion and together with Josh Cobb pushed Northamptonshire to 77 when Cobb was sixth out, lbw to Benny Howell who had replaced Miles at the College Lawn End. Levi completed his 50 from 56 balls with nine fours but in the next over Crook, batting with a runner, was caught behind off Norwell for 13 at 97/7. Kleinveldt hit 37 from 39 balls including two sixes but was Miles’ third victim when he bowled him with the first ball of a new spell from the Chapel End.
Two balls later White was caught behind and Miles wrapped up the Northamptonshire innings when he had Levi caught at second slip by Dent for 64 to give the young Swindonian the outstanding figures of 5/28 from 10.1 superb overs. Miles, at 21, is one of the most highly- rated quick bowlers in the country. On this form it is easy to see why.
Gloucestershire took only six overs to reach the target of 35 to seal their third win of the season but lost Chris Dent bowled by Stone for six. It was left to Will Tavare (13) and Michael Klinger (12) to finish the job.