Gloucestershire and Leicestershire meet in the first home game of the season at the Brightside Ground, Bristol. Unfortunately for both teams the first round of Championship matches had a familiar ring to them, that of failure against stronger teams.
The hosts suffered a 334-run thrashing by Kent at Canterbury, being bowled out for 61 in their second innings. The Foxes were defeated in similarly heavy fashion, surrendering by ten wickets to Division Two promotion favourites Nottinghamshire at Grace Road. In their second innings they fared little better than Gloucestershire, being dismissed for just 81.
If Gloucestershire had any fears that the retirement from four-day cricket of Michael Klinger, who is concentrating on the white-ball formats for the county this season, and Hamish Marshall, now back in his native New Zealand, they were emphatically confirmed at the St Lawrence ground.
Three of the top five batters: Cameron Bancroft, Will Tavare and George Hankins, scored a meagre 22 runs between them in six innings. Only opener Chris Dent with a first innings 67 showed any form.
Their Championship batting line-up does look wafer thin. But there were positives for coach Richard Dawson in the seam bowling department which did manage to bowl Kent out twice in the match. The ever reliable Liam Norwell was the pick of them with match figures of 8/105. There was also some promise from Chris Liddle’s three wickets. The former Sussex left-arm seamer was making his Championship debut for the Nevil Road side in this his second season with the club. But overall it was a performance which confirmed that Gloucestershire’s ambitions for this summer must lie with the white ball.
Leicestershire were always chasing the game at Grace Road when they entertained their near-neighbours. It didn’t help that they were hit with a 16-point disciplinary deduction on the eve of the match. Nottinghamshire responded to the Foxes’ 251, in which skipper Mark Cosgrove top-scored with 57, with a first innings 329. But the game was lost when James Pattinson’s 5/29 blew the hosts away in their second innings.
New Leicestershire coach Pierre De Bruyn was philosophical after the defeat when he said: “We know we weren’t good enough. Facing the likes of James Pattinson and Stuart Broad, world-class bowlers, sets a benchmark. But it’s the first game and I need to back these players – this dressing room has character. Our noses are out of joint, but we’re not going to panic over selection.”
With such an inexperienced batting line-up in the Championship, much responsibility will fall upon the shoulders of 26-year-old left-handed opener Chris Dent. With over 1200 runs at nearly 48 in the Championship last summer Dent, was Gloucestershire’s leading batter. Having made his debut for the club seven years ago, Dent looks as if he is reaching the peak of his career.
Leicestershire all-rounder Ben Raine had a good match against Nottinghamshire. He was unbeaten on 55 in the Leicestershire first innings and followed up with a Championship career-best 6/66 in the Nottinghamshire innings. Sunderland-born Raine started his career at Durham. He made his Foxes’ debut in 2013 and last summer missed only two Championship matches, taking 35 wickets at 31 apiece with his medium-paced, right-arm deliveries.
Gloucestershire coach Dawson is mindful of the need to get the county’s season on track after the defeat at Canterbury. “There is no time to twiddle your thumbs in a 14 game season” he said. “We don’t have 16 matches any more, there is an opportunity here to respond quickly and that’s what we must do, especially if Leicestershire build any pressure when we’re batting. We didn’t handle that very well at Canterbury.”
Dawson has named an unchanged squad for Leicestershire’s visit, captain Gareth Roderick continuing his recovery from a pre-season illness.
Gloucestershire Squad: Phil Mustard (c, w), Chris Dent, Cameron Bancroft, Will Tavare, Graeme van Buuren, George Hankins, Jack Taylor, David Payne, Craig Miles, Liam Norwell, Chris Liddle, Ollie Currill.
Leicestershire’s squad has been bolstered by the return to fitness of all-rounder Neil Dexter and seamer Richard Jones. Off-spinner Rob Sayer is also added to the eleven who played against Nottinghamshire.
Leicestershire Squad: Mark Cosgrove(c), Ned Eckersley (wk), Paul Horton, Harry Dearden, Colin Ackermann, Mark Pettini, Lewis Hill, Zak Chappell, Clint McKay, Ben Raine, Gavin Griffiths, Neil Dexter, Richard Jones, Rob Sayer.
Gloucestershire : LDLWD
Weather and conditions
The weather forecast for Bristol for the duration of the match is dry with average temperatures for mid-April.
Date: 14th-17th April 2017
Time: 11.00 am
Ground: Brightside Ground, Bristol
Odds (SkyBet): Gloucestershire win 8/11, Leicestershire win 11/10