After three keenly fought days’ cricket this game is delicately poised with Gloucestershire on 26/1 are chasing a target of 252 to beat Division Two leaders Lancashire for the second time this season.
The third day was as even as the first two as the ball dominated the bat, largely as a result of some high-quality seam bowling by both sides. Although the hosts will have been pleased to have bowled out the Red Rose county for under 300 twice, they will feel apprehensive going into the final morning if the Lancashire pace attack bowls with the same verve and accuracy as they displayed tonight.
This morning Lancashire resumed their second innings on 14/0 just 12 ahead of Gloucestershire. Horton was out in the third over lbw to Craig Miles for 6. Miles took his second wicket with a less impressive delivery as Alviro Petersen wafted a half-volley lazily to cover point for 6 with the visitors on 40/1.
After an hour the morning session was progressing in the same way as the previous two morning sessions as only 34 had been added in 14 overs against a ball which was only 12 overs old at the start of play.
Batting appeared as tricky as it had been on the previous mornings against some focussed home quick bowling but Karl Brown, together with Ashwell Prince, was applying himself with the same diligence he had displayed first time around.
Both batsmen were tested by Miles and Liam Norwell, the latter bowling an excellent spell from the Pavilion End, on occasions testing both batsmen with sharply rising deliveries off a good length. They bowled 11 excellent overs each, with Miles taking 2/13 and Norwell 0/25.
As the front line Gloucestershire bowlers were replaced by the medium-pace of Benny Howell and off-spin of Jack Taylor, batting appeared a little easier and Lancashire went to lunch on 93/2. Brown had battled his way to 42 and Prince, showing increasing signs of fluency was 30 not out.
After lunch the total moved to 117 when Prince pushed forward at Norwell, called for a sharp single and was smartly run out by a Miles direct hit. In the next over captain Steven Croft was lbw to Miles without scoring.
At 117/4 Gloucestershire will have felt that they had their noses in front. Soon after Karl Brown moved to a patiently compiled and valuable half century from 166 balls with nine fours. However, he was soon out, playing an indeterminate shot outside the off-stump to Howell and was caught behind by Cameron Herring, the hosts’ third keeper in this match after the injury to Gareth Roderick, for 56 at 138/5.
James Faulkner soon followed Brown to the pavilion, brilliantly caught one-handed by a diving Benny Howell at extra cover for 4. At 152/6 Lancashire badly needed the 117 runs their last for wickets provided in the first innings if they were to set their hosts a competitive target in the match’s fourth innings.
At tea Lancashire were 197/6 from 76 overs with both Alex Davies and Jordan Clark on 26. With the new ball due in four overs the crucial part of the match was imminent.
Immediately after tea Davies scooped Howell to Tavaré at short mid-wicket for a well made 28 to make the score 200/7. When the new ball was taken by Miles and Norwell they bowled with less accuracy than earlier in the day so Norwell was rather fortunate to dismiss Jordan Clark for an enterprising 48 as he slashed a wide ball to second slip on 235/8. Tom Bailey was dropped at slip by Klinger in Miles’s next over but there was to be no repeat of Glen Chapple’s batting success in the first innings. He pulled a Miles long- hop to deep mid-wicket to be out for six with the score 252. Kyle Jarvis was last out without scoring when Miles produced a rising ball to have him caught behind.
Tom Bailey was left 27 not out in Lancashire’s total of 253. In truth neither side played particularly well after tea. The Gloucestershire bowling with the new ball was often misdirected and the Lancashire dismissals were the result of poor shots.
Craig Miles claimed the honours with the ball taking 5/60 from 24 overs after his 5/61 in the visitors’ first innings, giving him his first ten wicket haul in first-class cricket. This is his first full season in Championship cricket and the time he spent in South Africa this winter with the England Performance programme seems to have paid dividends. He has a smooth, athletic run up and whippy action which generates pace which should increase as he matures. The Swindon-born quickie is not yet 21 and is a marvellous prospect.
Gloucestershire chasing 252 for victory began their second innings in the worst possible way, Will Tavaré playing on to Jarvis’s second ball with no runs on the board. Bailey and Jarvis subjected Chris Dent and Michael Klinger to a thorough examination, Klinger being fortunate to survive, playing and missing to some excellent bowling from Bailey from the Pavilion End.
When the opening pair was replaced by Chapple and Faulkner they had bowled 12 excellent overs between them for 21 runs, and will have considered themselves unlucky to have claimed just the one victim. To their credit Dent and Klinger clung on to the end, Dent on 10 and Klinger 15.
At the close Ashwell Prince told the Lancashire website that he felt his side were a bit unlucky not to pick up more wickets tonight and that ‘tomorrow if we bowl like we did in the 15 or so overs tonight..they will have to play well to win’.
Tomorrow should be a fascinating day. At the end of the second day Michael Klinger said that he thought chasing 240 would put his side in a strong position. With a fine day forecast what seems certain is that this very even match will produce a winner.