Gloucestershire continued their excellent start to the Royal London One-Day Cup, a competition they won in 2015, with a four-wicket win over Essex at the Brightside Ground. They were indebted mainly to a splendid sixth-wicket stand of 79 in 46 balls between Gareth Roderick, who finished unbeaten on 87 and Ryan Higgins, who smashed 47 from 29 balls including 3 sixes.
A home victory looked unlikely when Jack Taylor was out in the 41st over with the score on 201/5 but Gloucestershire fans have good reason not to underestimate Higgins, who arrived from Middlesex during the winter on a three year contract. It was the muscular all-rounder who snatched a certain win from under Gloucestershire’s noses in a T20 for his former county at the Cheltenham Festival last year when he bludgeoned 68 from 34 balls to tie the match.
Though Higgins took the headlines it was the excellent Roderick who held the Gloucestershire reply together with his 87 not out from 89 balls. He was ably assisted by George Hankins who followed his 85 in the win at Cardiff on Friday with a delightful 77. Hankins has missed out on the Championship matches so far this season but here he confirmed the promise he showed when he first got into the side a couple of seasons ago.
Gloucestershire paced their victory pursuit perfectly and look to have a side that can punch above its weight in this format. To reach the target with eleven balls to spare was a fine effort.
When Essex won the toss and batted on a sunlit morning it looked a day made for batting, a view confirmed when Wheater and Chopra got the visitors off to a brisk, untroubled start. A total of 300 plus looked in sight as they cruised to 74 before Wheater attempted a reverse sweep at Tom Smith’s first ball and was lbw for 41.
Then the Essex innings then as Tom Westley, who hit 134 in the visitors’ first victorious game at Middlesex, on Friday, Dan Lawrence and then Varun Chopra soon followed. From 75-0 Essex were 93-4. The early momentum had vanished and with it concern about taking the full 50-over allocation. Gloucestershire were suddenly in charge.
Ravi Bopara and skipper Ryan Ten Doeschate set about a patient rebuilding job until in the 28th over, with the total at 140, Ten Doeschate, as the non-striker, was unluckily run out as the ball rebounded from bowler Matt Taylor’s boot. When Bopara followed immediately after posting his half-century, a total of 250 seemed to be the extent of Essex’s ambition. But then 36-year-old Ashar Zaidi took centre stage, ably supported by Simon Harmer. The pair saw the total to 287, with Zaidi hitting 82 from 102 balls, and Harmer an unbeaten 34. Zaidi, who later was Essex’s most economical bowler, was particularly harsh on the left-arm seamers of Chris Liddle at the end of the innings, although the former Sussex man again showed his liking for this form of cricket taking 4/57 in his 10 overs.
Essex will hope to get back to winning ways when they visit Southampton on Wednesday, while on the same day Gloucestershire face Surrey at the Kia Oval.