A West Country derby awaits Gloucestershire and Somerset as they meet in Round 6 of the County Championship at the Bristol County Ground this week. The home side are still waiting for their first victory of the new campaign after another defeat at the Ageas Bowl last week, and with their next Championship game not scheduled until mid-June, desperately need to get off the mark. Somerset meanwhile have just had a break of their own and will be looking to build on their comprehensive innings victory over Warwickshire at the end of April.
Few would have expected Gloucestershire to get a positive result at Hampshire last week but their 87-run defeat came with plenty of positives. A first innings deficit of 173 left them with a lot of work to do but they fought back admirably with Mohammad Amir and Ryan Higgins taking three wickets apiece as Hampshire slipped to 103-9 in their 2nd innings. Without Aneurin Donald’s superb counter-attacking 89 the final result may well have been different, and there were encouraging knocks from George Scott and Miles Hammond in Gloucestershire’s 2nd innings.
Despite their lack of a victory from their opening five matches, Gloucestershire have rarely been outplayed and they have already faced the top four sides in Division One. The key for them now will be to turn performances into results against the sides closer to them in the table.
Through a combination of injuries and poor form, Somerset struggled in the opening phase of the season losing their first three matches, but a win against Warwickshire should give a talented side belief that they can kick on and pull away from the relegation zone. The arrival of Matt Renshaw, coupled with a return to form for captain Tom Abell, seems to have galvanized the batting unit with all of the top four passing 50 against last year’s champions. The bowling attack also remains full of experience and variety with wickets shared fairly evenly between its members so far.
The two sides have recent history having been drawn into the same group in last year’s County Championship. James Bracey starred for Gloucestershire in an 8-wicket win at Taunton while the rain ensured honours would be shared in the reverse fixture at this week’s venue.
With just one point separating the teams a tight affair is to be expected.
For someone who made their first-class debut back in 2013 at the age of just 17, it is strange to believe that Miles Hammond has only played 41 red-ball games. The off-spinner turned batter has only become a regular Championship player in more recent years, and with three half-centuries to his name already this season is finally starting to establish himself as a mainstay in the Gloucestershire batting line-up. With captain Graeme Van Buuren struggling for form in the middle order, Hammond will have a key part to play.
After missing the first two games of the season due to injury, veteran seamer Jack Brooks has returned to give a new dimension to the Somerset seam attack. A slightly quicker and more attacking bowler than most of Somerset’s other options, Brooks has already taken 11 wickets in two games including 4-44 to help seal victory against Warwickshire, and it would be a tough call to leave him out this week.
Gloucestershire have major injury problems and have taken the radical step of bringing in three players on loan for this match – Brad Wheal from Hampshire, Zak Chappell from Notts and Jacob Bethell from Warwickshire.
They are without batters Chris Dent and Ben Charlesworth, who are both recovering from foot injuries, as well as bowler David Payne, who has an ankle niggle. Mohammad Amir is also out with a tight hamstring. Naseem Shah is continuing with his recovery from a shoulder problem. Dom Goodman, Jared Warner and Jack Taylor are also absentees
Gloucestershire squad: Graeme van Buuren (c), James Bracey (wk), Jacob Bethell, Zak Chappell, Ajeet Singh Dale, Zafar Gohar, Miles Hammond, Marcus Harris, Ryan Higgins, Tom Lace, George Scott, Matt Taylor, Josh Shaw, Brad Wheal
There are no fresh injury concerns for Somerset who should have virtually a full squad to select from. They may be tempted to rotate the seamers which could pave the way for the return of Peter Siddle who missed out against Warwickshire, with Josh Davey a possible candidate to make way.
Somerset squad: Tom Abell (c), Tom Banton, Jack Brooks, Josh Davey, Steve Davies (wk), Lewis Gregory, James Hildreth, Tom Lammonby, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Matt Renshaw, Peter Siddle, Roelof van der Merwe.
Weather and conditions
Temperatures are set to be mixed across the four days of his game but as it stands there is little prospect of rain. The last fixture here saw over 1,000 runs scored across three days for the fall of just 12 wickets so the bowlers will be hoping for a little more assistance from the surface on this occasion.
Date: Thursday 12th May – Sunday 15th May
Ground: Bristol County Ground
Odds (SkyBet): Gloucestershire 11/8, Somerset 8/15