In a match remarkable for its evenness so far Gloucestershire replied to the Lancashire first innings of 275 with 277, the visitors ending the day on 14/0 in their second innings.
Watching the two days has given the impression of two middle- distance runners who have completed half the race, and are neck an neck. It remains to be seen which of them will pull away in the second half of the game and push for victory.
Certainly it didn’t look as even at lunchtime today as Gloucestershire were poised dangerously close to collapse at 89/5. That they ended up with a first innings lead was due to their two senior players in this match: Michael Klinger and Geraint Jones. They shared a superb stand of 167 for the sixth wicket with Klinger making 102 and Jones 88.
Gloucestershire began the day on 15/2, 260 behind the visitors’ first innings score with night-watchman Craig Miles and Klinger the not out batsmen. Kyle Jarvis quickly accounted for Miles, bowling him middle stump for 12. When Gareth Roderick, fit to bat after yesterday’s thumb injury scare, was taken at slip by Paul Horton of Tom Bailey without scoring Gloucestershire were in trouble at 27/4.
With careful batting by Klinger and Ian Cockbain the game took on the same highly attritional nature of the first morning. Excellent opening spells by Kyle Jarvis and Tom Bailey gave way to the veteran Glen Chapple and Australian left-arm quick James Faulkner. Chapple, in particular, troubled both batsmen with pronounced away movement.
At the start of the match Chapple needed 25 wickets to achieve one thousand first-class victims. It became 24 when Cockbain’s stubborn resistance ended with his score on 28. His off stump was uprooted with him playing no shot to a Chapple in-swinger. That this occurred in the 35th over with the score on 72 says much about the difficulty the home batsmen had scoring against a potent Lancashire attack.
At lunch Gloucestershire had reached 89/5 from 41 accurate overs, adding just 74 in the session for the loss of three wickets; just 15 more runs than Lancashire totalled in the morning session of Day One.
After lunch Klinger and Jones picked up the pace and in the 48th over Klinger reached his 50 scored from 105 balls, 25 before lunch from 88 balls and after lunch 26 from 27. With runs flowing more freely with the softer old ball Jones followed Klinger to 50 scored off 66 balls with 7 fours.
As Klinger elegantly square cut Tom Bailey for three, the senior Gloucestershire pair had put on 102 for the sixth wicket in a highly valuable partnership. In the same over the Australian on drove Bailey to the ropes to push the score on to 179, doubling the lunch score in just 18 overs.
At tea the home side had reached 228/5 from 74 overs with Klinger three short of his first Championship century of the summer in his second game and Jones 79 not out. The session had clearly belonged to the Nevil Road side who had grasped the initiative from Lancashire to restore the game to the parity with which it started at the beginning of the day.
It had been an entertaining session which yielded 139 runs without the loss of a wicket. As with the morning session it mirrored the visitors’ batting effort yesterday afternoon when they scored 125 after a pedestrian morning.
Klinger reached his 20th first class century, and his seventh for Gloucestershire, in the second over tea, from 205 balls with 15 fours and one six. Soon after he was brilliantly caught one- handed by Alviro Petersen from the off-spin of Steven Croft at deep long-on for 102 with the total on 239. It was an innings of two halves – the patient watchful Klinger of the morning contrasted starkly with the dashing stroke play of the afternoon.
Without him Gloucestershire would have struggled to approach the Lancashire first innings score. As so often happens the second partner in a large stand soon followed his partner when Jones was bowled by Bailey for 88 in the 81st over with the total on 246, the first with the new ball. Jones too played superbly, albeit not quite with his partner’s panache. But his contribution was similarly valuable.
At 246/7 the question became could Gloucestershire equal the visitors’ 275. When last week’s centurion Jack Taylor became Bailey’s fourth victim pulling carelessly to square leg for one on 257 it was in the balance.
Benny Howell added a useful 19 before he gave Jarvis his third wicket, falling into the bowler’s trap by hooking a short ball to a grateful deep square leg with the deficit just 9. Jarvis took the final wicket when Matt Taylor was out fending off a short one with the Gloucestershire lead just two runs. At five first innings points each the game could hardly have been more even.
The Lancashire opening bowlers Bailey and Jarvis bowled excellently throughout the innings sharing eight of the wickets. Preston born Bailey, in only his 11th first class match took 4/52 from 21 overs while Zimbabwean Test player Jarvis recorded 4/67 from 23.3 overs.
Lancashire were left 12 overs to negotiate until the close, in much the same way as their hosts had ten overs to face last night. But this time no wickets were lost as Paul Horton and Karl Brown sensibly left any balls that didn’t need to be played, of which there were too many, to finish on 14 without loss.
Later Klinger and Lancashire coach Ashley Giles confirmed that in the afternoon sessions batting had appeared so much less troublesome was due to the softer ball. Klinger though it was a ‘new ball pitch’ and paid tribute to the excellence of the Lancashire seam attack.
The feeling still persists that batting in the fourth innings could see the best batting conditions. Both previous games at Bristol have seen the sides batting last (Derbyshire and Kent) chasing successfully, albeit modest targets. Tomorrow should tell us which of these two sides will push for victory.