On a day of chilly temperatures and black clouds the match between Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire at the Brightside Ground, Bristol, ended in a draw at 16.56 when the visitors declared their second innings at 399/8, 157 runs ahead of Gloucestershire, and stumps were drawn.
Northamptonshire batted all day to save the game and were indebted to two centurions: Rob Newton and Steven Crook, both of whom batted with creditable application on a flat pitch against home bowling that too often strayed from the standards of accuracy they showed in the visitors’ first innings.
Northamptonshire began this morning on 120/3 after 42 overs, needing 122 runs to make Gloucestershire bat again: Rob Newton was not out 58 and Richard Levi on 9.
The Midland county’s hopes of avoiding defeat were dealt the first blow when Levi was caught behind from Payne. He hung his bat outside the off stump with little intent. It was a limp shot, characteristic of several played by the Northamptonshire batters in this match, and left the visitors 144/4.
Adam Rossington joined Newton, something of a surprise given his dislocated finger sustained early in Gloucestershire’s first innings. He batted with no apparent discomfort and together with Newton, who continued largely untroubled, he put on 60 before Rossington was out for 39, brilliantly caught by David Payne at mid- on from Kieran Noema-Barnett, the pick of Gloucestershire’s bowlers.
Northamptonshire were then a precarious 204/5. New batter Crook appeared to edge one to wicketkeeper Roderick, before he had scored in Noema-Barnett’s following over and was fortunate to loft an off- drive just out of the reach of the waiting Miles soon after.
At lunch Northamptonshire were 224/5, 18 behind Gloucestershire with Newton 99 not out and Crook on 7. Coincidentally, it was the second day in succession that a batter had lunched one short of his century: Klinger having a similarly distracted break yesterday.
Immediately after lunch Newton reached the eighth century of his career, which came from 208 balls with 17 fours. But when the new ball arrived soon after lunch David Payne clean bowled him for 108.
At 250/6 Northamptonshire’s prospects of saving the game looked to have rested on Newton and Crook, but with Newton’s dismissal Gloucestershire sensed victory.
Seekkuge Prasanna, as befitting someone with a T20 strike rate of 170 in Sri Lanka, decided valour was for him a better option than discretion and hit a quick-fire 26 in 33 balls before he was caught at deep square leg hooking Payne. He helped push the Northamptonshire lead to 52 even though, at the time, it seemed as if he may have got his runs too quickly to aid the visitors’ attempt to bat out the day.
Crook reached his 50 from 80 balls, with Northamptonshire on 320/7, a useful lead of 78. Richard Gleeson survived some alarms but hung on grimly with Crook to take Northamptonshire to 357/7 at tea, with Crook on 82 and Gleeson on 14 with a minimum of 34 overs remaining.
The previously buoyant body language of the home players became more subdued as the prospect of victory receded, particularly as the gloom that had enveloped the ground for most of the day threatened an early finish.
After tea Crook moved to his century, only the fourth of his long county career, scored from 127 balls with 17 fours. Gleeson batted with great patience to reach a career-best 31 before he was lbw to Graeme van Buuren at 395/8, but by then for Gloucestershire it was too little to late.
After the match Gloucestershire coach Richard Dawson said that he was disappointed as for three days his side had fought hard, but today the bowlers didn’t put enough pressure on Northamptonshire, and he praised Newton and Crook for their efforts.
Once again this season the Bristol pitch has shown how difficult it is to achieve a result in four days. Indeed, the reason that for much of the last day a Gloucestershire win seemed possible is that Northamptonshire batted so poorly in their first innings.
Gloucestershire have just one win this season but Northamptonshire remain winless.
Gloucestershire 11 points, Northamptonshire 7 points.