Despite being relegated from Division One of the County Championship, Gloucestershire fans will take positive memories from the impressive late summer wins against Yorkshire and Warwickshire that upset the apple cart, condemning a Test hosting ground to Division Two with them this season.
After a raft of seam bowler injuries last summer leading to Brad Wheal and Zak Chappell having to come in on loan (plus Jacob Bethell) the news that England-capped left-armer David Payne will miss the beginning of the season is even more galling as he undergoes rehabilitation from ankle surgery. The 32-year-old is likely to be unavailable for 12 weeks, so he will miss the first chunk of County Championship games.
Add this to the departure of Higgins and Howell, Gloucestershire will be grateful for two seamers coming in.
Marchant De Lange is known well to counties in the west of the island. From Glamorgan to Somerset, MDL’s bowling experience and aggressive batting (don’t forget his Glammy ton) could be crucial for the Bristol side.
Also, Zaman Akhter has initially signed until the end of the 2023 season. The 24-year-old fast bowler signs his first professional contract after training with the South Asian Cricket Academy (SACA) and impressing in Second XI cricket for Essex and Derbyshire in 2022.
Gloucestershire didn’t go abroad for preseason, and with the three-day/two-day fixture v Somerset being cancelled completely as I write this (sensibly so with monsoon rain the final day of March), it’s looking very much like the only batting they’ll do in the middle before Thursday is 33 overs vs Hampshire.
The three-day friendly between Gloucestershire’s Second XI and the South Asian Cricket Academy (SACA) at Stratford on Avon CC was also cancelled after heavy rainfall made the outfield unplayable. They have not played and will not before day three of the Championship season, Easter Saturday.
Antiguan-born, former Kent and Leicestershire seamer Robbie Joseph has been confirmed as lead bowling coach, while former Ireland captain and Glos (2008-10) bat William Porterfield has seen his contract as assistant coach for batting and fielding extended for two more years. Both previously occupied consultancy roles.
Either of the Price brothers…guess I should pick one…I’ll go for Tom Price.
His memorable 5-75 at Taunton, including the key wicket of Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq on 90, was usurped by a much-improved career best just a fortnight later. 2-46 + 8-27=10-73 against reigning champions Warwickshire in the Club’s last home Division One match for at least 18 months.
The Young Player of the Year award was much deserved after 32 Division One wickets at an average of 20.09 and strike rate of 36.68.
Hot off the press last week, the seam-bowling all-rounder signed a two-year contract extension until the end of the 2025 season. Solving potential family disagreements five days after younger brother Ollie’s equal two-year extension.
One to watch.
Either could be key players and ones to watch interchangeably…
Ajeet Singh Dale made his first-class debut on 1 August 2020, for Hampshire in the Bob Willis Trophy taking 3-20 in the first innings. Signed by Gloucestershire in September 2021, Dale had an injury-interrupted first season but took seven wickets in the final three Championship fixtures to help Glos to their first two wins in Division One since 2005.
Now 22, with a two-year contract extension signed in January, Singh Dale should be a regular starter with the red ball this summer.
Less strong with white-ball in hand, he made his list-A and Twenty20 debut last year, the former v Surrey at the Oval August 19th, soon after the 29th May 2022, his, to-date-still-only T20 for Gloucestershire against the Sri Lanka Development XI where he also went wicketless.
Overseas signings: Marcus Harris (Australia), Zafar Gohar (Pakistan)
Ins: Marchant De Lange (Somerset), Zaman Akhter
Outs: Benny Howell (Hampshire), Ryan Higgins (Middlesex), Ian Cockbain (Released)
The great T20 story of winter 2021/22 is the departure that most upsets me. If you don’t recall, Ian Cockbain was playing club cricket on astroturf down under (where his wife is from) when Adelaide Strikers came calling. Typical one-eyed Aussie cricket fans, who don’t watch much of the Blast, questioned who he was.
The 34-year-old signed for Jason Gillespie’s side January 11th 2022. Result: 239 runs in six innings for the Strikers, including an unbeaten 71 to secure his side a play-off spot.
This was the first time Cockbain had played in an overseas T20 league, a month later he played in the PSL, an Adam Voges-esque run of runs in the twilight of his career.
Cockbain still holds the record for the most T20 runs scored and most T20 appearances for the club, so his boots really are big ones to fill. At 36 I thought he would have been well worth keeping for at least one more year, sadly not. Michael Klinger still scored crucial runs for Glos at 39…
Possible strongest Glos Championship side
- Graeme van Buuren
- Ollie Price/Ben Charlesworth (potentially pending University exams/commitments)
- Zafar Gohar
- Marchant De Lange
- Tom Price
- A S Dale
- M Taylor/van Meekeren/Goodman/Payne when he’s back fit
How will they fare: The batting looks strong in red ball cricket, although they have not been able to regularly post match-winning scores in the white ball formats, particularly T20. The departure of the two Hs are big, but give chances for talented youngsters to get more game time. Two Exeter University lads; Dom Goodman and Ben Wells are two other not-yet mentioned young men waiting in the wings who can excite. Goodman terrorised James Hildreth in one of his final games whilst Wells has scored runs a plenty in University and second team cricket as well as being a wicket-keeper.
They could come back into Division One with favourites Yorkshire, a lot will depend on Payne coming back firing and big returns from Harris and Gohar, most likely I feel they will come third to fifth in potentially all three groups.
Opening fixture: CC vs Glamorgan on April 6 at Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
Season Odds (SkyBet):
County Championship – 6/1
T20 Blast – 33/1
One-Day Cup – N/A ☹