Cheltenham College is certainly one of the more picturesque settings for a cricket match and this year Glamorgan will be the visitors. These two sides met back in April, in the opening week of the season and on that occasion favourable bowling conditions meant that Gloucestershire were dismissed for just 165 in their first innings. From that point on it was the batters who held sway, as has been the case in the majority of Division Two fixtures this season. Centuries from Kiran Carlson and Billy Root for Glamorgan and then Marcus Harris and Graeme van Buuren for Gloucestershire, in their second innings, saw the game peter out to a draw. Since then, Gloucestershire have had their struggles, losing three matches, the latest being a nine wicket defeat at the hands of Durham in the last round of fixtures. Harris is now part of the Australian Ashes squad and will be going back to Australia after the last Test. He has been replaced by South African, Grant Roelofsen. Gloucestershire remain winless and effectively at the bottom of the Division, as Derbyshire below them have a game in hand. Ryan Higgins is the only player they have lost from the side that beat Durham in the last game of the 2021 season, when they won promotion to Division One, but they have badly missed David Payne, who has not played a Championship game this season following surgery for an ankle problem picked up during his time with the Perth Scorchers over the winter. He and Higgins were responsible for 85 wickets in the 2021 season. Their bowling resources have also been hit by the loss of Marchant de Lange for the rest of the season, out with a thigh injury for which he had recent surgery. Seamer Tom Price made a strong start to the season but has been wicketless in his last two Championship games and was rested against Durham. He is expected to return for this match.
Meanwhile the Gloucestershire batting has struggled for consistency, with only Miles Hammond scoring over 500 runs, with 550 at 42.3. Harris had made 457 at 57.12, but of the remaining batters Chris Dent has 401 at 28.64 and then it is Tom Price with 348 at 58 and brother Ollie with 343 at 38.11. James Bracey had the captaincy role in the last game, Graeme van Buuren out with a side-strain, but he has had a disappointing season with the bat, making just 315 runs at 22.5.
Glamorgan have also had their injury struggles, primarily to their batting line-up. Captain David Lloyd returned in their last match having been out with a hamstring injury, but they are still without fellow opener, Eddie Byrom. His place is now occupied by stand-in opener Zain-ul-Hassan who, although yet to register a half century in his five innings opening, has made a creditable 226 runs at 32.28 this season and is growing into the new role. This is good news for Glamorgan, as they will be losing the services of Lloyd next season, following the recent announcement of a move to Derbyshire. It is the Glamorgan middle order that has been producing the runs this season, Kiran Carlson with 755 at 50.33, Billy Root with 504 at 45.81 and Chris Cooke with 454 at 37.83. However, they were indebted to Michael Neser last week, who struck an unbeaten 176 to rescue them against Leicestershire, but the Australian all rounder will be back alongside Harris carrying the drinks for the Australians this week. His place has been taken by leg-spinner Mitchell Swepson, who has taken 9 wickets at 30.88 in his two matches with Glamorgan. The bowling attack without Neser has relied heavily on Timm van der Gugten this season and it remains to be seen if either side has the ability to take 20 wickets cheaply enough to set up a win.
Much will depend on the fitness of the likes of Payne and Price as to how competitive Gloucestershire will be and Glamorgan will be looking at this game as a potential 16 points, as they push for a top two spot and promotion.
Miles Hammond has batted in various slots in the Gloucestershire line up and most recently has moved from opener to number four. He is the county’s top run scorer in the Championship and with scores of 52, 86 and 92 in his last three innings will be in a confident frame of mind.
Chris Cooke has been with Glamorgan since 2011 and at 37-years-old is in the latter part of his career. Since taking over the gloves from Mark Wallace his performances behind the stumps have improved year-on-year and he is now one of the best glove men in the country. He has deservedly earned himself a wild card pick with the Welsh Fire, but he has also been scoring runs in the Championship, with 454 at 37.83, including two centuries. This is on the back of an excellent 2022 season where he scored 840 Championship runs at 56.00. Glamorgan will be hoping he has a few more seasons in him and it is possible that he may in future play just as a batter, making way for England under 19 keeper, Alex Horton.
Colin Ingram replaces Michael Neser as the second overseas player. This will reduce the bowling, but there are the options provided by ul Hassan’s and Lloyd’s medium pace and Carlson’s off-spin. Prem Sisodiya has come into the squad, while Andrew Salter and Tom Bevan miss out.
Glamorgan squad: David Lloyd (c), Kiran Carlson, Chris Cooke (wk), Andy Gorvin, James Harris, Colin Ingram, Jamie McIlroy, Sam Northeast, Billy Root, Prem Sisodiya, Mitchell Swepson, Zain ul Hassan, Timm van der Gugten
It is unclear at this stage of the availability of some of the squad because of injuries. It seems likely that Tom Price will return, but Graeme van Buuren and Ajeet Dale may still be missing. Payne’s absence from the last game was stated as being part of managing his workload, so he may well be back this week.
Gloucestershire squad (from): James Bracey (c/wk), Zaman Akhter, Ben Charlesworth, Chris Dent, Zafar Gohar, Dom Goodman, Miles Hammond, David Payne, Ollie Price, Tom Price, Grant Roelofsen, Josh Shaw, Jack Taylor, Matt Taylor, Paul van Meekeren
Weather and Conditions
There is a risk of showers throughout the four days.
Glamorgan last played at Cheltenham back in 2017 when they were beaten inside two days, by 10 wickets. 25 wickets fell on the first day in bowler-friendly conditions. More recently there have been plenty of runs on offer at the College ground, although the likely overcast conditions may give some help to the seam bowlers.
Date: 20th July 2023
Ground: College Ground, Cheltenham