Derbyshire will arrive in Bristol brimming with confidence following their impressive win over Durham earlier in the week, waiting for them will be a side chomping at the bit after having had to wait a week longer than their visitors to get their campaign under way.
Gloucestershire spent that week drawing with the students from Oxford, whilst it may not have been the result they wanted, it gave their batsmen valuable time in the middle, with Roderick and Hankins scoring centuries and Howell and Higgins scoring unbeaten half centuries in a total of 466 for 7 declared.
Then it was over to the bowlers who dismissed the opposition for 175 sharing the wickets around with Taylor, Howell and Higgins taking three a piece.
Derbyshire started as they did last season with an impressive victory over a county from a test match ground, but did it the hard way recovering from the position of 0-2 batting first after the first over.
They dug in though and built a competitive total through their young middle order which showed great discipline and grit, especially keeper Harvey Hosein who top scored in both innings, following up his 78 in the first with 61 in the second and at times looked as if he was batting on a different pitch.
The second innings also saw half centuries from Lace and Critchley. Throughout both innings their bowlers shared the wickets, with Luis Reece claiming five in the first and Critchely three in the second to go with his half century. It was a true team performance which sees Derbyshire sitting second in the very early season table.
Gloucestershire finished just above Derbyshire in the table last season and were separated by just ten points at the end of the season and all indicators point to two sides who are still evenly matched. With neither bringing in a great number of players whilst several have departed.
The bookies agree too, making both sides 10/11 on to win and I find it very difficult to pick a winner. Only the four days of competition will tell if the extra days to prepare and home advantage will suit Gloucestershire or the momentum of winning just three days earlier will spur Derbyshire on to consecutive victories.
Gloucestershire: Often a player can get stuck at a county not playing much and people say “he is too good to be stuck in the seconds.” Ryan Higgins, was one of those before he moved to Gloucestershire last season. He has proved those people right, he has moved to Bristol and shown his all round ability to influence games.
He is a genuine wicket taking bowler, having taken 60 wickets in First Class Cricket at under 20 and offers really useful lower order runs too, averaging 22.58 in his First Class career. He has added depth and quality to both the Gloucestershire batting and bowling line ups since his arrival and if he has another successful season as he did in 2018, then Gloucestershire should be nearer the top of the table than the bottom.
Derbyshire: As cricket develops, the need to have variety in your bowling attack is paramount and in Matt Critchely Derbyshire have that.
They have a wrist spinner who just gets better and better and is a genuine wicket taking threat. In the victory over Durham he turned the game with two wickets in an over when the men from the north were looking comfortable and finished with three wickets for 54 runs.
He is a tall man who gets excellent flight and bounce, getting the ball above the batsman’s eye-line and extracts genuine turn and plenty of batsman will not want to face him on turning pitches.
When you add him his batting ability, he averages over 30 with the bat and is one of the sweetest timers of a cricket ball I have seen and coming in at seven, he can take a game away from you quickly. If he fires with both bat and ball Derbyshire’s chances of success will be greatly enhanced.
Gloucestershire will most likely name a squad similar to that which faced the students, plus overseas signing Dan Worrall, who the men from Bristol will be hoping can add real bite to their attack with his right arm fast medium bowling. They will be hoping his bowling will be supplemented by wickets from the consistent Taylor and Higgins along with the innovative Benny Howell. Runs will be required from captain Chris Dent and the talented Will Tavare.
Goucestershire CCC: TBA
Derbyshire should name the same squad as for their victory over Durham, which was the playing eleven plus young fast bowler Sam Connors. With travelling away they may add one more to the squad, to give extra cover, probably a spin bowler which may see a first opportunity for Scottish spinner Mark Watt or another opportunity for youngster Hamiduallah Qadri to show his talent again. If there is to be a change then it would most likely be Anuj Dal to miss out, having not bowled and batted at eight in both innings- seemingly a waste of a spot in the side.
Derbyshire CCC squad: TBA
Weather and Conditions
The weather looks set fair for the duration with only a slight chance of rain on each day, however if you are planning on making the visit to Bristol I suggest you wrap up warm, with the temperatures not forecast to rise above 11 degrees for the duration. The only first class fixture played at the ground this year saw plenty of runs for the home side and plenty of wickets when the students batted, so if the pitch is similar for this game it should provide a good balance between bat and ball for two true First Class sides.
Date: 11th-14th April 2019
Ground: The Bristol County Ground, Bristol.
Odds (SkyBet): Gloucestershire 10/11, Derbyshire 10/1