Gloucestershire pulled off a remarkable last day win by 61 runs against Essex at the Cheltenham festival after a splendid display of attacking cricket that saw seven Essex wickets fall before lunch. It was the hosts’ third Championship win of the season and put them in third slot in the Division Two table, just 11 points behind leaders Essex with a game in hand.
The wickets were shared between Liam Norwell (4/65), David Payne (3/40) and Craig Miles (3/26); Miles recording a hat- trick over two innings when he bowled Ravi Bopara with his first ball this morning, having taken two wickets with his final two balls of the visitors’ first innings. The bowlers were supported by some excellent catching, not the least from skipper and wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick who took four.
Essex, 18/1 overnight, began this morning in the worst possible fashion. Night watchman Jamie Porter edging Norwell’s first ball of the day to the wicketkeeper. Norwell got his second victim when Tom Westley was caught at slip at the second attempt for 17 to make Essex 52/3.
Nick Browne followed in the next over, lbw to a Payne yorker. At 52/4 Essex were wobbling, but Gloucestershire were given real hope when Craig Miles, fresh on at the College Lawn End, sent Ravi Bopara’s off stump cartwheeling with his first ball, after the England player shouldered arms. With the visitors 59/5, Gloucestershire had real hopes of a surprise victory.
Dan Lawrence and skipper Ryan ten Doeschate settled but Lawrence was not to repeat his first innings heroics, cover driving Miles uppishly to be caught by Klinger- Essex 82/6. Ten Doeschate crashed Miles for successive boundaries to the short off side boundary in front of the pavilion, but in the same over he was superbly caught behind by a diving Gareth Roderick for 25 with the score 97/7.
When Foster became Roderick’s fourth victim, in last over before lunch bowled by Norwell, it seemed that Essex’s hopes were disappearing.
It had been a rollicking morning’s cricket with devastating wicket- taking balls, cracking shots played from some poor deliveries, superb catching and some suspect shot- selection. Played on a pitch with pace and bounce it was a Championship cricket at its best.
In the first over after lunch Napier, surely Essex’s last hope, was caught behind from Payne and when Ashar Zaidi chopped on to Norwell, Essex’s plans for consolidating their top spot in the table had finally vanished.
After the game Roderick admitted to the Gloucestershire website that there was some encouragement in the pitch for the bowlers as the ball swung and moved off the seam. He thought that once batters got established batting was easier, but getting going was difficult.
Leicestershire are the next Championship visitors to the Cheltenham festival next Wednesday, in a week where this is the only Championship game. Another win by the hosts would see them top the table. With a quarter final place in the T20 in the offing these are good days for the young Gloucestershire side.
For Essex there will be deep disappointment. They will see this second defeat of the season as a game they should have won.