When pundits were making their pre-season predictions, very few were tipping Gloucestershire to challenge for promotion. But the West Country side confounded all expectations and will play in Division One in 2020, after a fantastic summer of performances.
Gradual progression in red-ball cricket had been made in recent seasons, but many still felt this team was couple of years away from challenging at the top of Division Two. However, led by the astute Chris Dent, who scored over 1000 runs, Gloucestershire deservedly finished third – benefitting from the restructuring of the County Championship next season to win promotion.
It was not just the excellency of Dent that helped ‘The Shire’. Ryan Higgins was again superb with bat and ball, while the likes of David Payne, James Bracey and Gareth Roderick all made valuable contributions throughout the summer.
Despite the impressive performances of individuals, this was a team success and one where nearly every member of the squad made contributions throughout the season. Their efforts are were more impressive as it came without a settled overseas player, with Dan Worrall (injury), Chadd Sayers and Shannon Gabriel all struggling to make an impact.
In white-ball cricket, more progression was made. In the Royal London One-Day Cup, Richard Dawson’s side only missed out on a place in the knockout stages due to run rate.
And in the T20 Blast there was another trip back to the quarter-finals in the ever-impressive Michael Klinger’s final year at the club.
It ended in defeat to Derbyshire, a third in four years at this stage, a worrying trend that the players will hope to improve on next year.
But for now they can deservedly celebrate their promotion, ahead of a challenging season to come when the rollercoaster that is county cricket gets started again in April.
SSCC: 3rd, Division Two
T20 Blast: Quarter-final
RLODC: Group Stage
SSCC: Chris Dent – 1087 runs
Vitality Blast: Michael Klinger – 371 runs
RLODC: Chris Dent – 345 runs
SSCC: Ryan Higgins – 50 wickets
Vitality Blast: David Payne – 16 wickets
RLODC: Benny Howell – 12 wickets
Player of the Season
It was another excellent campaign for Ryan Higgins. The signing of the former Middlesex all-rounder has proved an inspired one and his performances in 2019 were simply outstanding. A total of 958 runs in the Championship came at an average of just under 60, while his tally of 50 wickets with the ball was the sixth highest in Division Two. Higgins also provided several vital contributions in white-ball cricket and his recently announced contract extension is a huge boost for the club.
It may seem odd to award this to a player who was already a well-established member of the squad, but James Bracey continued his rise in 2019. He forced his way into the club’s white-ball teams and is now a regular feature across all formats. Bracey also earnt recognition on a higher stage, being called up for the England Lions match against Australia A. Considered one of the finest young products in English cricket, a strong season with the bat in Division One could see the 22-year-old become Gloucestershire’s first England representative since 2006.
Could have done better
Most of the Gloucestershire side contributed towards promotion at some point of the season, so it feels harsh to criticize the performances of anyone. But one man who probably felt he could have done more is Jack Taylor. The club’s vice-captain struggled with the bat, averaging just 21 in the nine Championship matches he played. He also failed to live up to his billing as a big hitter in white-ball cricket. He will look to get back to his best in 2020.
Need to work on
Winning Championship matches at Bristol remains a big problem. None of Gloucestershire’s five wins came at HQ, and they tasted defeat in two of their four matches at the ground. A poor record that will need addressing in 2020. Overseas recruitment also needs improvement. Michael Klinger and Andrew Tye, as expected, were excellent additions in the T20 Blast. But in the Championship neither of their three signings worked out particularly well. You cannot question the ambition of the club but after only two wickets, and a ridiculous amount of no balls, Shannon Gabriel will surely not be seen back at Bristol again.
Survival in Division One will surely be the main aim in 2020 but will be a tough task against counties with much bigger squads and budgets. The club simply does not have the funds to sign players, so responsibility will fall on the current playing staff to reproduce their efforts at a higher level. A difficult task but one which is not beyond them.
An excellent season. Promotion seemed like a long shot back in April, but Richard Dawson and his team surprised us all. There were also some wonderful performances in white-ball cricket and Gloucestershire feels like a club on the rise.
Season Rating: 9/10