A trophy, at last!
At just after 6pm on the last Saturday of the county season Surrey captain Gareth Batty pulled a ball from Gloucestershire’s David Payne to the mid wicket boundary in front of the Grandstand.
As all the West Country fans held their breath Jack Taylor accepted the catch with calm assurance. So ended eleven years of under-achievement at Nevil Road with the winning of the Royal London 50-over competition. It ended a remarkable campaign in the competition in which four of their matches, including the final against Surrey, ended in last over victories – two of them going to the final ball.
This ‘never know when we are beaten’ attitude, typified in the final when they were coming second for virtually the whole match, speaks volumes for a county with a small squad consisting mainly of young players who, for the most part, have grown up together in the county’s academy. It is also a testament to coach Richard Dawson and his assistant Ian Harvey who have fostered a togetherness which built upon the work of their long-serving predecessor John Bracewell.
Much of the publicity surrounding the Lord’s Royal London One-Day Cup win centred on captain Michael Klinger and retiring former England and Kent wicket-keeper Geraint Jones. While this was understandable, as Klinger had a marvellous season and Jones an illustrious career, there were younger players on view who contributed much to the success of the team. It was a splendid achievement.
There were also signs of white-ball improvement in the Natwest T20 Blast, the county winning seven of their games to finish in fifth spot in the South group, missing the quarter-final stage by one point. The ability to add just that extra effort and quality to turn evenly balanced matches into wins, so evident in the 50-over game, was not always evident in the 20-over format. This was most notably on show in the home game with Sussex where a score of 185 was defended unsuccessfully due to a Luke Wright onslaught and some indifferent Gloucestershire bowling.
However, Dawson and his charges will have been disappointed with sixth place in the Championship. While promotion was never a realistic proposition, given the gap that Surrey and Lancashire sustained throughout the summer, the failure to win a match at Bristol in the red- ball game was a worry. Set against this was the winning of both Championship matches at the Cheltenham festival and away wins at Chelmsford, Swansea and, most notably, Old Trafford.
LV County Championship: 6th, Division Two
Natwest T20 Blast: 5th, South Group
Royal London One-Day Cup: Winners (2nd in Group A)
Leading LVCC run-scorer: Chris Dent, 1062 runs
Leading LVCC wicket-taker: Liam Norwell, 61 wickets
Win % (all comps): 47.5
Player of the Season
Michael Klinger‘s form in 2015 was remarkable, so much so that at the recent PCA award ceremony he won prizes for the outstanding cricketer of the season in both one day competitions. He topped the county’s batting averages in all three competitions, scoring 1563 runs, 1185 of them in 20 innings.
All this from a player who didn’t arrive in England until late May, and promptly scored a century two days after his arrival in a T20 game with Essex. A fitting finale to a wonderful summer for the Australian would have been a century in the RLODC final at Lord’s to follow a magnificent ton in the semi- final at Headingley. But in the strange way that sport plays strange tricks, he was out for a third-ball duck.
With a young squad, many of whom were approaching a key season in their development, this could have been any one of half a dozen players. However, the progress Benny Howell made, particularly in white- ball cricket was outstanding for a player who didn’t feature in first team selection at the beginning of the season.
In all competitions he scored 868 runs and took 52 wickets. But statistics don’t tell value of the former Hampshire all- rounder to the team. He has the ability to score runs quickly and perform a ‘squeezing’ role with his naggingly accurate meium- pace, paticularly in tne mid innings phase of white- ball games.
Could have done better
Much was expected of Kiwi all-rounder Kieran Noema-Barnett in his first season for the county. But it was a disappointment. He scored less than 400 runs in all competitions, averaging just over 20 in the Championship and less than 20 in the white-ball competitions. His return from his medium pace was a similarly unimpressive with 20 wickets in all three formats. A talented cricketer with a respectable record in New Zealand cricket, he needs more time to adjust to the demands of the county game.
Need to work on
The retirement of Geraint Jones and the departure of James Fuller to Middlesex leaves two gaps in an already small squad. In some respects Jones unexpected retirement leaves the bigger hole as he played for Gloucestershire as a specialist batter occupying the number five slot. This signals a busy period for Dawson searching for a replacement. Fuller’s loss is also a blow as he was showing signs of developing the consistency which eluded him in the early part of his career. Support for Miles, Liam Norwell and David Payne as the key pace bowling trio is essential.
Tweet of the Season
— Royal London Cricket (@RL_Cricket) September 21, 2015
A year ago Gloucestershire fans were understandably despondent at the departure of the Gidman brothers, Alex and Will, to Worcestershire and Nottinghamshire respectively. Both had given terrific service to the county and the feeling was that Will, in particular, since he was in the prime of his career, would be sadly missed.
In the event Klinger’s runs more than compensated for Alex’s absence and the advancement of the quartet of quick bowlers meant that Will’s absence was not the disaster some pessimists feared.
The season ended on a high. Optimism is in the air at Nevil Road for the first time for some seasons. It is justified. This group of players should improve further and build on the RLODC triumph of 2015 with more success to follow. A Championship challenge in 2016 may not be beyond them and further white- ball success will be expected. 7/10.