2017 must have been considered a step back for Gloucestershire. They failed to qualify for the knockout stages of either limited overs competition and were unable to improve on their sixth place finish from 2016 in the Championship.
It was especially disappointing for a team that seemed to have come of age following the 2015 Royal London One Day Cup success and an impressive campaign in the 2016 Natwest T20 Blast, in which they reached the quarter-finals. The opening day defeat against Kent at Canterbury last April, where they were dismissed for 61 in the second innings, set the tone for a disappointing season.
There were some positives though, including a derby T20 win over Somerset in front of a sell-out crowd in Bristol and a ten-wicket Championship win over Glamorgan at the ever popular Cheltenham Festival.
However these results were the exception rather than the norm and a side that possesses one of the smallest squads in county cricket will be looking for a much better season this time around.
In terms of recruitment it has been a relatively quiet winter, however promising youngster Ryan Higgins has joined from Middlesex, which presents a canny move from the club who are not blessed with a great deal of financial resources. Many Gloucestershire fans will remember Higgins for his 68 off 28 balls against their side last year, in which he helped Middlesex secure a tie in a game that his new team dominated for long periods. The hope will be that he can produce that form on a regular basis.
Last season’s player of the year Liam Norwell will be vital again. The Cornishman took 59 wickets in the Championship and has developed into one of the most feared bowlers on the county circuit. His exploits earnt him a call up to the North vs South series but injury prevented him from travelling to the Caribbean. He will be ably supported by David Payne and Craig Miles in what now must be considered an experienced and settled bowling group.
The main concern leading into this season will be the batting troubles that plagued the side for most of the 2017 campaign. Not a single batsman passed 1,000 runs in the Championship and the inability to post competitive scores in the Blast arguably cost the side their place in the quarter-finals.
There were signs of improvement as the year went on however, including Benny Howell’s successful transition to opener and young James Bracey impressing. Moreover if the likes of Gareth Roderick and Graeme Van Buuren can stay fit, both should have better seasons this time around. Ex-Australian international Chris Rogers has been brought in as a batting coach for the first two months of the season and his expertise will be crucial if the team are to make the runs necessary to compete for silverware.
While 2017 may not have gone to plan, this Gloucestershire side has the potential to win trophies and if they can perform consistently, then the success of 2015 may just be replicated.
Ins: Ryan Higgins (Middlesex)
Outs: Cameron Bancroft (Somerset), Patrick Grieshaber (released), Brandon Gilmour (released)
Once again in 2017, Chris Dent was Gloucestershire’s most prolific batsmen. The opener amassed 894 runs in the Championship, but despite not reaching the coveted 1,000 mark he remains the most consistent performer in a batting group that struggled to come to terms with the loss of Hamish Marshall and Michael Klinger, who only played white ball cricket for the Club.
This year, there is extra pressure on the 27-year-old as he takes over from Gareth Roderick as club captain and will lead the side in the County Championship and Royal London One Day Cup. He has also signed a new contract and the opener being able to continue to score runs while captaining the side will be crucial to the West Country outfit’s chances. Dent should also feature in the T20 Blast, after he was not picked for the entirety of last year’s competition, much to the bemusement of the majority of Gloucestershire fans.
Player to Watch
Young batsman James Bracey made his Gloucestershire debut against Sussex in the final game of the 2016 season and despite not featuring until September in 2017, was one of the success stories of the season. He has been rewarded with a two-year contract at the club and he should get more opportunities this year, once his commitments at Loughborough University have ended. If he can produce more innings like his 156 against Glamorgan in Cardiff in the penultimate game of last season, then the product of Winterbourne CC could become a mainstay of this Gloucestershire side for years to come.
Overseas Signings Daniel Worrall (until July 2nd), Andrew Tye (T20), Michael Klinger (Possibly T20)
The signing of Dan Worrall presents a change of tact from the club who in recent years have signed a batsman as their main overseas player. The Australian is available for the first three months of the season and has likely been signed to help manage a bowling group that has been blighted by injury in recent years.
In the T20 Blast, Andrew Tye returns following an impressive spell with the club back in 2016. The bowlers’ stock has risen since then and his performances for the Perth Scorchers will have Gloucestershire fans hopeful that they will not finish bottom of the South Group for a second year in a row.
Michael Klinger is still contracted to play T20, though following the dreadful news of his wife Cindy’s cancer, it is unknown at this stage as to whether the talismanic batsmen will return to the club.
How they’ll fare
It seems that Gloucestershire are targeting the shortest format of the game again this year. In Andrew Tye they have one of the world’s best T20 bowlers, who will be looking to make up for missing last year’s competition through injury. Benny Howell, Jack Taylor and Ian Cockbain are all fantastic T20 operators and if Michael Klinger is able to return, then they are surely candidates to reach the quarter-finals.
In the Championship, while the target will be promotion, the combination of a small squad and the presence of Middlesex and Warwickshire in Division Two makes a top-flight return for the first time since 2005 unlikely. However if the bowlers can stay fit and the end of season improvement in the batting can continue, they may well do better than many are expecting.
Since winning the tournament in 2015, Gloucestershire have struggled in the One Day Cup and it would be a surprise if they were to return to Lords again this year. Michael Klinger is not playing in the tournament and his runs at the top of the order will be difficult to replace.
SSCC Div Two v Kent, Friday 13th April, Canterbury
SS County Championship Division 2: 20/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 25/1
Vitality Twenty20 Blast: 20/1