When Gloucestershire won the Royal London One-day Cup in 2015 it sparked, in their long suffering fans, hope of a return to the glory days of the first era of John Bracewell in the early 1990s. 2016 saw no repeat of this success but at least the county had a good T20 campaign, winning the South Group only to fall at the quarterfinal stage.
But 2017 turned out to be a return to the barren years for Richard Dawson’s charges, with a modest record in all three competitions.
The Championship season saw no progress, the West-countrymen finishing in sixth spot, the third successive season they have occupied mid-table anonymity. In the 50 over competition the county were never in contention, winning only three of the seven games in which a result was possible.
At least in the NatWest T20 Blast, Gloucestershire can claim they were unfortunate with the weather, three of their first five games being abandoned meaning that momentum never was never developed. In addition, the Cheltenham game with Middlesex was tied (more of that later).
Finally, Dawson’s plan for the T20 season were seriously disrupted by the inability of Australian death bowler Andrew Tye to return to Bristol for a second campaign due to an injury sustained in the IPL. His replacement, Sri Lankan Thisara Perera was useful, but nothing more.
The loss of six Blast matches meant that the county finished bottom of the South Group. This was a huge disappointment, in view of the fact that the club had targeted progress to Finals Day.
At the start of the season this seemed a realistic goal. The county have the likes of Benny Howell, Ian Cockbain and the Taylor brothers, Jack and Matt; a good crop of talented white-ball cricketers. But the campaign never got going and, once again, it was up to Alfred the Gorilla to bring home a prize for the county, winning the Finals Day mascot race at Edgbaston for the second successive season!
Perhaps the main reason that Gloucestershire had a poor season was that their talismanic Aussie Michael Klinger didn’t repeat the heroics of the previous couple of campaigns.
A new deal at Nevil Road means that he only plays white-ball cricket, but even here he was not as prolific as he had been in the previous winter’s Big Bash. He only scored 281 runs in the T20 competition, 101 of these coming in one knock at Bristol in a rain-affected defeat to Hampshire.
Klinger performed rather better in the Royal London One-day Cup, averaging 52. But he still has two more seasons at the Brightside Ground in which to add to the enormous contribution he has made to the club.
Specsavers County Championship: 6th, Division Two
NatWest T20 Blast: 9th, South Group
Royal London One-day Cup: 7th South Group
Leading run scorers:
Specsavers County Championship: Chris Dent 894
NatWest T20 Blast: Michael Klinger 281
Royal London One- Day Cup: Michael Klinger 369
Leading wicket taker:
Specsavers County Championship: Liam Norwell 66
NatWest T20 Blast: David Payne 17
Royal London One- Day Cup: Chris Liddle 18.
Player of the season:
Liam Norwell had another outstanding season with the red ball. He finished with 59 Championship wickets at 17.39 apiece. Only Joe Leach and Darren Stevens took more scalps but both bowled more overs than Gloucestershire’s popular Cornishman, and Norwell pipped them both to claim top spot for home-grown bowlers in the Division Two averages.
It’s perhaps a little early to accord this title to James Bracey. But the 20 year- old Bristolian warrants attention due to his highly promising entry to the Championship side at the back end of the season, after the return of overseas batter Cameron Bancroft to Australia.
Bracey played in the last four red ball games, scored 370 runs at an average of 74, making his first first-class century against Glamorgan at Cardiff. Bracey is a Loughborough graduate and a product of the Gloucestershire academy. His batting development would be a welcome boost to the county.
Could have done better:
If caution should be exercised in naming Bracey as the breakthrough player of 2017, then George Hankins provides ample justification. Like Bracey, he came into the side at the end of last season and scored a century at Northampton to raise the county’s followers’ hopes. But 2017 proved difficult for the local born batter, as he scored only 387 runs at 24.
Need to work on:
Gloucestershire have a bunch of talented cricketers in the squad, most of whom on their day can turn the outcome of a match. Jack Taylor can be explosive with the bat in all formats and David Payne can threaten any batting line up with the white ball. But a glance at the county averages reveals the problem. Only Dent with the bat and Norwell with the ball show the consistency that most of the others don’t.
Until this consistency is achieved it’s difficult to see Gloucestershire escaping from the stranglehold of low budget, small squad, mid-table mediocrity in which they now find themselves.
One of the highlights of the season was the T20 game against Middlesex at Cheltenham, which ended in a thrilling tie in front of a sellout crowd. The home side had the game all but wrapped up, as the Londoners were failing in pursuit of a decent Gloucestershire target. Enter Middlesex’s Ryan Higgins who cracked 68 from 28 balls, with six sixes and four fours, to draw the scores level at the end.
The 22 year-old has joined Gloucestershire on a three year deal with the intention of developing his game across all formats. He is a welcome addition the squad.
It was a disappointing summer, particularly with the white- ball. The squad has the ability to do better in the shorter formats.