2022 Preview – Gloucestershire
Looking back to last year, in contrast to their recent reputation, Gloucestershire fared better in red ball than white ball cricket. They finished second in Division Two of the Championship. In the T20 Blast, after a good start, they ended a disappointing sixth. The Royal London performance was a little better in that they qualified for the knock out stages. But the less said about their quarter final match against Surrey the better.
What can Gloucestershire supporters expect in 2022? For a start, they will find plenty of changes since last season.
On the field, there are two new captains. Chris Dent has stood down to be replaced by – Graham van Buuren for the LV= Championship and the Royal London Cup and by Jack Taylor for the Vitality Blast. Having lost his overseas status, van Buuren is now a UK citizen so can return to action after a frustrating time last year.
Off the field, the coaching set-up has been reorganised. Steve Snell comes in as Performance Director and Dale Benkenstein takes over as Head Coach. Ian Harvey, who took temporary charge last year, steps back down to the role of Assistant Coach.
What else has changed?
The Nevil Road ground has been re-named as the Seat Unique Stadium, part of a four-year deal. And supporters can refresh themselves in the newly opened Thatchers Café which allegedly offers ‘a fantastic coffee shop experience in a unique setting’.
That is probably enough change for now at a Club where tradition holds sway. This year the club will celebrate the 150th anniversary of the iconic Cheltenham Festival. And back at Bristol, a bronze bust of W. G. Grace that now stands outside the pavilion will cast a stern eye over events on the pitch.
In addition to watching over the county’s fortunes, Gloucestershire’s most famous bearded son will also be able to see some international cricket. Both England and Ireland men’s sides will take on South Africa in T20 Internationals; and the England women’s team will play a T20 international against India plus a one day international against South Africa.
Ins: Ajeet Dale (from Hampshire), Paul van Meekeren (from Durham)
Outs: Dan Worrall (to Surrey), George Hankins, Harry Hankins (both released)
Back in the days of Grace or of Wally Hammond or Tom Graveney, picking a key player would have been easy. These days, Gloucestershire are a county where the whole exceeds the sum of the parts. There is a whole squad of highly competent players but not a single stand-out star. So being asked to pick out one player is tricky and probably should be declined, rather like an invitation to a lock down party at Downing Street.
Never mind. Here goes.
Now 35 years old, Ian Cockbain has been a magnificent run scorer for Gloucestershire, especially in white ball cricket. He appeared this winter in both the Big Bash and the Pakistan Super League and can only have benefited from that experience. He will play in The Hundred for Welsh Fire but either side of that distraction, he is likely yet again to be a key figure for his adopted county.
Player to watch
18 year old all-rounder Will Naish is undoubtedly a player to watch. Having come through the Academy system, he has now signed a rookie contract. He played more second team cricket than anyone else for the county last year and had success with bat and ball. He could well make his first team debut this year and looks to have what it takes for a successful career.
Marcus Harris (Australia), Zafar Gohar (Pakistan), Naseem Shah (Pakistan – until end of Vitality Blast group stage)
How they will fare
Steve Snell has ambitious objectives for Gloucestershire – to win a white ball trophy by 2023 and the County Championship by 2025.
As for 2022, Gloucestershire start the season in the top division of the County Championship for the first time since 2005. Their elevation is well deserved. In 2021, they won eight out of 14 matches, more than any other county.
It is too much to hope that Gloucestershire could make a serious bid this year for the Championship title which they have never won. In 2022, a mid-table position would be a satisfactory outcome.
Because much of the Royal London competition will overlap with The Hundred, prediction of outcomes is difficult. Last year’s achievement in reaching the quarter finals could be repeated; and at the knock-out stages, anything is possible.
It is in the Blast that Gloucestershire will want to go well beyond last year’s disappointing results. They will be hoping that Finals Day beckons and with a reasonable amount of luck, that could well happen for them.
7 April – Northamptonshire v Gloucestershire, Northampton
Season Odds (Skybet)
LV= County Championship – 16/1
Royal London One Day Cup – 16/1
Vitality Blast – 16/1