Stumps, day three: Gloucestershire 563 (Dent 180, Norwell 102; Hughes 3-87) lead Derbyshire 444 (Madsen 150, Hughes 96; Norwell 4-104) by 119 runs
An excellent 180 from Chris Dent and a maiden First Class century from night-watchman Liam Norwell , put Gloucestershire in a healthy position on the third day of this Championship game at the Brightside Ground, Bristol.
After two distinctly pedestrian days cricket the hosts’ batsmen provided rich entertainment on a placid surface scoring 453 runs at nearly five an over; a favourable comparison with a rate of fewer than three per over in the visitors’ first innings.
In addition the efforts of Dent and Norwell, there were valuable and entertaining innings from Hamish Marshall (72), Kieran Noema- Barnett (58) and Benny Howell (41).
Gloucestershire resumed this morning on their overnight score of 110/1 with Chris Dent not out 61 and night-watchman Norwell unbeaten on 2.
Any suspicions that the pitch may have become more threatening by day three were quickly banished by the way in which the pair settled in. Norwell, in particular, seemed at ease belying his career average which nudges into double figures.
He seemed to particularly enjoy the gentle off-spin of Wes Durston, hitting successive boundaries to move to his second First Class fifty.
In the next over Dent reached three figures, characteristically clipping Shiv Thakor to mid-wicket. His ninth career century came from 154 balls with 14 fours and one six.
It is now six years since the 25 year-old made his First Class debut, and much is expected of him at Bristol this season. He looked in fine form, picking up from where he left off in the last Championship game of 2015 against Glamorgan at Nevil Road when he made a career best 268.
At lunch Gloucestershire had reached 254/1 from 65 overs with Dent 106* and Norwell 88*. In a highly entertaining morning session the pair had added 144 in 33 overs to increase the tempo of the match, necessary for any chance of a last day result.
In the second over after lunch Norwell cracked Ben Cotton to the cover boundary to reach a highly creditable hundred, the first ever by a night-watchman for Gloucestershire. It came in 120 balls with 14 fours and three sixes but soon after he was out lbw to Chesney Hughes for 102 with the hosts 270/2.
Ian Cockbain joined Dent but never looked comfortable and the return of Luke Fletcher at the Pavilion End saw him caught behind for 19 at 317/3. It was on-loan Fletcher’s first wicket for Derbyshire.
Gloucestershire captain Gareth Roderick wasn’t to replicate the good form with the bat he showed in the first match at Chelmsford as he was bowled by Andy Carter for 5; Carter too bagging his first wicket for his new county.
Meanwhile Dent batted on untroubled, passing 150 from 268 balls with 20 fours and one six.
At tea the Gloucestershire score was 368/4 and they had a 100 run lead in their sights.
Clearly there needed to be some aggressive batting if a sizeable lead could be amassed before the close and a positive result achieved and this was certainly the keynote after tea. Hamish Marshall, looking at his attractive best, rushed to his fifty, it coming from 55 balls with seven fours and one six. At 435/4 the hosts must have had their eye on a lead of well in excess of 100 at the close. Such thoughts were suddenly thrown into some doubt when Chris Dent played all round a Hughes full toss. His 180 came from 312 balls with 21 fours and two sixes. It was a superb effort.
Noema- Barnett joined Marshall in an all Kiwi partnership and immediately picked up the pace. The pair hurried the score along to 467 before Marshall was caught at long- off from a Durston off-break for an excellent 72, scored from 76 balls with ten fours and one six.
Jack Taylor then joined Noema- Barnett and soon showed his intent although after being dropped on the long-on boundary he was caught at backward point off Hughes for 18 while his partner set about excluding memories of last season and racked up an attractive half-century from 49 balls before eventually being out for 58.
He was quickly followed by Josh Shaw for a duck before Benny Howell came out with a similar attacking skill plundering the tired Derbyshire bowlers for a rapid 41 before becoming the last wicket to fall and closing the innings on 563.
In truth the Derbyshire bowling attack was made to look ordinary, although they had little help from a docile pitch. Spinners Durston and Hughes took three wickets each, but it was not a day that the bowlers would have enjoyed.
Afterwards Norwell told BBC Radio Gloucestershire that ‘I just thought I’d try and bat a few overs, just frustrate them, score 15, 20…I’m still a bit shocked, in all honesty. It’s my first hundred in any cricket, so I’m quite happy with that.’
Tomorrow morning Derbyshire will set about erasing the 119 arrears and making the game safe. Gloucestershire must hope that they can bowl the visitors out and leave themselves sufficient time to win the match. On a pitch where hardly a ball seems to have misbehaved for three days this seems highly unlikely but then at 11 this morning, so did a Norwell century!