Gloucestershire joined Nottinghamshire in the RLODC semi- finals after an exciting four wicket win over Hampshire at Bristol with just six balls remaining.
In a game reduced to 34 overs per side, Hampshire posted 217/7, Jimmy Adams top- scoring with 97. Gloucestershire successfully chased their target mainly thanks to a superb 87 from captain Michael Klinger and some heroics at the end from big- hitting all- rounder Jack Taylor.
After heavy overnight rain play didn’t start until 1.45 when Gloucestershire won the toss and invited Hampshire to bat. The visitors made the worst possible start. With his third ball James Fuller had Michael Carberry caught at second slip before a run had been scored. In the next over Adam Wheater, swinging at David Payne, top- edged to third man and Hampshire were 1/2 and the hosts buoyant.
James Vince and Jimmy Adams set about rebuilding until Vince was third out, caught at long- on in Jack Taylor’s first over for 31 at 69/3 in the sixteenth over. Liam Dawson, Hampshire’s leading scorer in this competition, never really looked fluent apart from a slog sweep over the square leg rope off Liam Norwell. In attempting a repeat from Benny Howell he holed out to deep square leg for 21. Sean Irvine joined Adams at 119/4 in the 25th over and he soon got one that stuck in the pitch to be caught by returning bowler Fuller.
Will Smith joined Adams in a sixth wicket stand of 76 in six overs, full of exciting white- ball improvisation, before Adams was run out with a direct throw by Fuller three short of what would have been a century of immense value to his side. Smith played an equally valuable role with a dashing fifty from just 25 balls only to be caught at long on from the last ball of an innings which closed on 217/6.
Hampshire will have felt reasonably satisfied with their total, which seemed about par, after a shaky start, while Gloucestershire too should have been happy with some excellent bowling and fielding. Taylor and Fuller both bowled the allocation of seven overs, with the off-spinner claiming 1/30 and the in- form Fuller 1/39, both demanding respect from the Hampshire batters.
When Gloucestershire batted Klinger could have been caught first ball at short mid- off. But Chris Dent was soon out, scooping Fidel Edwards to fine leg. The chase progressed steadily to 54 in the twelfth over when Liam Dawson’s introduction accounted for Gareth Roderick, the young South African wicket- keeper playing all round a full, straight one. Hamish Marshall never settled before he was caught at short mid- wicket.
At 80/3 the game was nicely balanced with the enthusiastic crowd paying rapt attention to every ball, in particular those faced by Klinger- on whom the outcome of the game surely depended.
The reintroduction of Chris Wood at the Ashley Down End accounted for Howell, bowled for 9. Meanwhile Klinger carried on, playing with supreme assurance. But soon the dark clouds rolled in, the rain started, and looking at the D/L deficit brightly illuminated on the board, Klinger and Jones changed gear.
But the game wasn’t to be won by Klinger this time. On 87 he skied a catch to Adams from veteran Yasir Arafat to leave Gloucestershire 163/5 with 33 balls remaining. Hampshire sensed victory but they reckoned without Jack Taylor, so often this season the batting star in the late stages of games. The young all- rounder set about a brutal assault on the Hampshire bowlers, hitting 34 in 17 balls before he too skied to the long on boundary with just 10 needed from 11 balls.
Geraint Jones, unbeaten on 39 and Fuller saw Gloucestershire home to a narrow but deserved victory and left Hampshire to reflect on a game which at one stage they looked to have won. Indeed, had all the bowlers exereted the control of Dawson (1/33 from seven overs) and Chris Wood (1/27 from six) they may well have won. Fidel Edwards, in particular, bowled with a marked lack of discipline conceding two no- balls and two wides in his six overs which went for 50.
Gloucestershire now can look forward to a semi-final appearance against the winners of tomorrow’s tie between Essex and Yorkshire while Hampshire have the consolation of another appearance at T20 Finals Day at Edgbaston on Saturday.