After losing their first three Royal London Cup games Gloucestershire at last found some form, beating Hampshire by ten runs at the Brightside Ground, Bristol.
They were indebted to a superb opening partnership of 242 between captain and man of the match Michael Klinger, who made 166 not out, and Chris Dent, who hit 142, and some excellent bowling by bowlers who gave little away in a highly disciplined performance. It was a game that the Nevil Road side dominated from the first over against the visitors, who always looked to be coming second.
Under dark Bristol skies Hampshire won the toss and decided to bowl first.
Gloucestershire started well. In the first powerplay, casting aside the poor form shown in this competition so far, they reached an impressive 63/0. Dent showed excellent touch getting to 46 in this period. He was showing an obvious taste for the Sky cameras, having cracked a century in the televised 50 over match at Taunton earlier this month. His 50 came from 46 balls with Klinger, for once, the passive partner.
The introduction of Shahid Afridi’s leg spin pegged the scoring rate a little, but the 100 came up in the 19th over. Klinger passed 50 in 65 balls, including two sixes. Gloucestershire were on 124/0 after 23 overs, with Hampshire desperately needing to break the stand that threatened a match- winning total.
At the 30 over, mark Gloucestershire progressed to 173/0 with Dent on 95 and Klinger on 76. In the next over Dent reached his third List A century, a superb effort from 96 balls with 11 fours. Dent’s 14 runs from Mason Crane’s eighth over showed his determination to go beyond the exact 100 he was out for at Taunton.
If the 25 year old local left-hander needed any proof that this was his day he got it when, on 141, he eased down the pitch to Ryan Stevenson and was forced to block a short ball that rolled back onto his stumps, leaving the bails in tact. But this stroke of fortune meant nothing as in the next over, with Gloucestershire on 242, his terrific effort came to an end when he skied Liam Dawson to deep mid- off. Dent’s 142 came from 116 balls with fourteen fours and three sixes.
Ian Cockbain announced himself with a six from Tino Best as Klinger neared his century. With 40 overs gone Gloucestershire started the last powerplay in the dominant position of 257/1.
Klinger duly reached his third 100 of this English summer, with eight fours and three sixes. It came from one less ball than Dent’s 142 had done, but now he looked to accelerate as he eyed a total of well over 300. The Aussie then promptly savaged 15 from a Stevenson over to confirm his intent.
In the 48th over, on 328, Cockbain’s useful contribution ended when he was stumped for 29 from 28 balls. Benny Howell was out in the last over, in which Gareth Andrew conceded 17 runs to enable the home side to close on 352/3.
Klinger’s excellent effort ended with him 166 not out from 150 balls, with 16 fours and six sixes – emphasising yet again his tremendous value to the county.
Hampshire’s wheels never completely fell off, but they did wobble a few times. Klinger was dropped twice – both easy chances – and there was some wayward bowling; Best and Stevenson both leaking 75 in their ten overs. Gareth Andrew went for 49 in his four overs and it was left to Afridi, in particular, to exert some control, bowling his ten overs for 44.
Hampshire set off at a positive note against some tight bowling but in the ninth over at 41 they lost Jimmy Adams to Liam Norwell for 22. At the end of power play one they were 51/1. Hampshire were just keeping up with the target rate when Tom Alsop the 20 year- old left hander reached a stylish 50, hitting Benny Howell to the mid- wicket boundary. But the very next ball he was deceived by a slower one from Howell and was caught at mid-off.
Will Smith and Sean Ervine moved the score along at just about the required rate. Ervine reached an enterprising 50, from 32 balls.
At the half way stage Hampshire were 163/2 and a close finish seemed possible. But in the 26th over Smith, with one eye on the D/L score with light rain falling, holed out to Kieran Noema-Barnett, Tom Smith at mid- on taking a juggling catch. The chunky Kiwi all- rounder took his second wicket in his next over as the dangerous Ervine was caught at square leg for 53. Afridi attempted an ugly mow at Craig Miles and was bowled for 4.
At 180/5 after 30 overs Hampshire’s victory pursuit looked shaky.
Dawson and young wicketkeeper Lewis McManus looked to be rebuilding with a sixth wicket stand of 40 until McManus was caught at mid wicket off Howell, to make Hampshire 220/6.
As long as Dawson remained Hampshire were still alive, but as they entered the last ten overs they needed two runs a ball. Dawson hoisted Norwell for six, but then was yorked by the Cornish seamer for an excellent 57 at 284/7.
Stevenson quickly went to Miles but powerful hitting from Andrew kept Hampshire’s slim hopes alive. His 70 not out from 41 balls with five sixes was a valiant effort, but in the end not quite enough as Hampshire finished on 342/8.
Gloucestershire’s trophy defence now goes on hold until the end of July. They will know that it’s likely that they must win their remaining four games to make the quarter-finals. But for Hampshire they have less than 24 hours to pick themselves up, as they face Surrey in the same competition at The Ageas Bowl tomorrow in another day-night game. They will have to bowl and field better than they did today.