Summer may not seem to be here quite yet, but that will not stop the Glamorgan faithful venturing down to Sophia Gardens on Thursday, alongside a significant contingent of fans from across the bridge. Both sides will be wanting a strong start to their 2023 campaign, Glamorgan looking to go one better than last year and win promotion to Division One, while Gloucestershire will want to bounce straight back after relegation.
When these two teams last met in 2021 in Division Two of the modified Championship format, Gloucestershire won by 10 wickets. They established a 110 run first innings lead thanks to Chris Dent (75) and Graeme van Buuren (65) and then skittled Glamorgan out in their second innings for just 124, slow left armer Zafar Gohar taking 6/43.
This time around the two teams look evenly matched, although the absence of Neser will put the Welsh seam attack under pressure. The Glamorgan batting developed some solidity last year, with David Lloyd and Eddie Byrom opening and Sam Northeast and Colin Ingram in the engine house, Ingram playing because of the delayed arrival of Marnus Labuschagne. Unfortunately, fragilities reappeared against Cardiff UCCE in their latest warm-up game, thanks to some tidy seam bowling from Glamorgan youngster Ben Morris and UAE under 19 player, Vinayak Raghavan. Gloucestershire will likely open with Dent and Marcus Harris, Harris looking to mount a challenge for an Ashes spot later this summer. Miles Hammond, skipper van Buuren and James Bracey make up the middle order, alongside Ollie Price or Ben Charlesworth.
In the absence of Michael Neser Glamorgan will be looking to new signing Harry Podmore to help fill the void left by the departure of Michael Hogan. He will likely form a pace attack with Timm van der Gugten, Jamie McIlroy and James Harris, but in the Cardiff UCCE match Dan Douthwaite was the pick of the seamers in the first innings, bowling at good pace off a much straighter run up than previously, taking 5/31. Andrew Salter will provide the spin option. Gohar is back for Gloucestershire while their main signing in the off season has been ex-Glamorgan quick Marchant De Lange, who has spent the last two seasons in Taunton as an overseas player following the changes to registration rules after Brexit. The good news for Gloucestershire is that he is now England-qualified and has stated his ambitions in that direction, having played two Tests, fours ODIs and six T20 internationals for South Africa. After the injury plagued season for Gloucestershire’s seamers in 2022, they will be hoping that alongside De Lange, Ajeet Dale, Josh Shaw, Tom Price and new signing, Zaman Akhter will have better fortunes this year. They will however be without David Payne for the first part of the Championship season, following recent ankle surgery.
Gloucestershire’s preparations have been hit hard by the weather, such that they have only managed one and a bit days cricket against Hampshire. As a result they felt the need to send their bowlers up to South London to bowl at the Surrey batters in the marquee at the Oval. Meanwhile Glamorgan have been away in Zimbabwe where they played against local first class opposition before returning and playing Somerset and Cardiff UCCE. Glamorgan put in a good showing against Somerset, but some of their bowling limitations were apparent as they allowed the students to chase down 274 within an allotted 51 overs.
Following his move to Glamorgan, Sam Northeast had his best season for a number of years with 1189 first-class runs, 291 runs in the One-Day Cup and 510 runs in the Blast. He became the first player to reach 400 in a first-class innings since Brian Lara in 2004, making 410 not out against Leicestershire. He managed a half century in the warm-up game against Somerset, but was dismissed twice in the Cardiff UCCE game without offering a shot, facing a total of five balls. Nevertheless, as long as he can relocate his off stump, the expectation is for another productive season for the 33-year-old.
At 25, James Bracey still has plenty of time to build on his two Test appearances back in 2021. He will hope for a better Championship season with the bat this summer, although his 702 runs in 2022 did contain two centuries. Back in Division Two, Bracey will be keen to plunder the weaker attacks and boost his current first class average of 33.08.
Glamorgan will have to choose two from Dan Douthwaite, James Harris and Jamie McIlroy and either Billy Root or Kiran Carlson from the 13 that played in the game against Cardiff UCCE. Douthwaite’s spell in this game may have nudged him into a starting slot, although they will be keen to include McIlroy with the variety his left arm action gives.
Glamorgan squad (probable): David Lloyd (c), Eddie Byrom, Kiran Carlson, Chris Cooke (wk), Dan Douthwaite, James Harris, Colin Ingram, Jamie McIlroy, Sam Northeast, Harry Podnore, Billy Root, Andrew Salter, Timm van der Gugten
Gloucestershire head coach will be absent as he has had to return to South Africa for a family bereavement. The main concern for his deputy, Will Porterfield, will be the lack of match time leading up to this game. He will need his side to find their feet quickly.
Gloucestershire squad (probable): Graeme van Buuren (c), Zaman Akhter, James Bracey (wk), Ben Charlesworth, Ajeet Dale, Marchant de Lange, Chris Dent, Zafar Gohar, Miles Hammond, Marcus Harris, Tom Price, Josh Shaw, Matt Taylor
Weather and Conditions
Rain on Wednesday looks to be followed by four sunny match days, temperatures reaching 13°C.
The likely moisture in the pitch will give assistance to the seam bowlers and the expectation will be for the captain winning the toss to want a bowl. However despite greenish tinges to pitches in Cardiff at this time of year, they have a habit of producing runs for batters prepared to apply themselves.
Date: 6th April 2023
Ground: Sophia Gardens, Cardiff
Odds (SkyBet): N/A