There is a degree of uncertainty surrounding Gloucestershire heading into the 2019 season. An excellent end to 2018 saw them finish fifth in Division Two – their best performance since 2011 – and reach the quarter-finals in the T20 Blast.
That impressive run has continued into the pre-season of 2019, with Glamorgan dispatched 3-0 in a One Day series in La Manga. All signs that perhaps this season could be a good one for the West Country outfit.
Despite this, expectations should remain tempered. The loss of Liam Norwell and Craig Miles to Warwickshire is a massive blow to a bowling attack, which in terms of manpower, is one of the smallest in county cricket.
Versatile all-rounder Kieran Noema-Barnett has also departed, back to New Zealand, after an up and down four years with the club.
There has been little in the way of recruitment to replace the trio, with the signing of Stuart Whittingham from Sussex the solitary move so far.
The most concerning aspect of Gloucestershire’s winter is the uncertainty around Dan Worrall. The Australian has re-signed for the entire summer, but it is anyone’s guess if he will actually be available, having missed most of the Australian domestic season through injury.
How successful Gloucestershire’s season is, especially in the County Championship, could depend on how much cricket Worrall plays.
There are also question marks surrounding the batting. Club captain Chris Dent again finished as top scorer in the Championship last season, with 851 runs. He was supported well by James Bracey in his first full season for the club, and also Miles Hammond – who registered two hundreds – once he broke into the side in the second half of the season.
However, there was not enough consistency and too often when Gloucestershire were batting there was a collapse just around the corner, an issue that will need addressing this summer.
It does feel that if the club is to challenge for honours, then it will come in the shorter formats.
Richard Dawson’s side has reached the quarter-finals in the T20 Blast in two of the last three seasons, and do not be surprised if they go one better and get back to Finals Day for the first since 2007.
The List A performances have been under par since Gloucestershire won the One Day Cup back in 2015. They should be a better outfit this year in 50 over cricket – 400 runs with the bat has already been reached twice in pre-season games – and they might just be better than their long odds to win competition suggest.h
The one thing we do know, watching Gloucestershire is always rollercoaster. Expect nothing different in 2019.
Ins: Stuart Whittingham (Sussex)
Outs: Liam Norwell (Warwickshire), Craig Miles (Warwickshire), Kieran Noema-Barnett (Central Districts)
With the departure of two of their most senior bowlers, and the uncertainty surrounding the availability of Dan Worrall, extra responsibility will fall on David Payne. The left arm seamer missed the first half of last season through injury, but impressed on his return to the side, especially in the Blast, where his 18 wickets helped Gloucestershire reach the quarterfinals. He signed a new contract at the back end of the summer and is now undoubtedly the leader of the attack. He will need to stay fit if his team are to mount a challenge for honours this year.
Player to Watch
Gloucestershire’s impressive end to the summer of 2018 was spearheaded by a number of the clubs younger players. Perhaps no one impressed more than 18-year-old Ben Charlesworth. An opener by trade, the youngster excelled with both bat and ball. He followed that up with a series of fantastic knocks for England Under-19s over the winter, and Gloucestershire fans will be hoping he can progress further this year after signing his first professional contract. They may have to wait until June to find out, however, with Charlesworth completing his A-Levels before joining up with the squad.
Dan Worrall was signed as Gloucestershire’s main overseas player after a successful spell last season. They may already be on the lookout for his replacement though, with the club tight lipped about his availability.
The ever-reliable Michael Klinger is returning for the T20 Blast, likely as captain. The club stalwart retired from Big Bash cricket earlier this year, and this will likely be the last we see of him in England as well. There has been no confirmation, as of yet, about whether Andrew Tye will be back as the second recruit in the Blast.
How they’ll fare
Gloucestershire may have made strides in the four-day game last summer. However, over the course of a 14 game season you do wonder whether they have the quality and squad depth to mount a challenge.
The best chance of silverware remains with the white-ball. Miles Hammond, Ryan Higgins and Jack Taylor are all excellent strikers of the ball, and in Benny Howell, they have one of the best limited overs bowlers on the circuit. If the top order score enough runs, they might just surprise a few in both the One Day Cup and T20 Blast.
SSCC v Derbyshire, The Bristol County Ground, 11-14 April
Season Odds (Sky Bet)
Specsavers County Championship Division Two: 20/1
Royal London One-Day Cup: 28/1
Vitality Twenty20 Blast: 25/1