Leicestershire v Gloucestershire, Grace Road : County Championship, 1st May & YB40 4th May 2013
It’s Glo’ster coming North, the irresistible, The Shire of the Graces, long ago!
That was a very long time ago, of course. Gloucestershire are now the Shire of the Gidmans (Alex and Will) and not very much else and ought to have been eminently resistible in this double-header between two of, as they say, the less fancied counties in Division 2.
If you were looking to identify the difference between a Division 1 and a Division 2 side, depth in bowling, particularly seam bowling, would be near the top of the list. Any Second Division county with a decent strike bowler is now likely to find him being lured away by a more monied rival, as has happened this year with Jack Brooks and James Harris (who moved from Northants and Glamorgan to Yorkshire and Middlesex respectively).
Gloucestershire have been comprehensively asset-stripped in this department. A couple of years ago they could boast a seam attack of Kirby and Hussain (taken by neighbours Somerset) and Jon Lewis (added to Surrey’s existing portfolio of international pacemen). Now their attack consists of four samey seamers and a spinner who seems to be taking the expression ‘pie-chucker’ a bit too literally (apologies for the blurred photograph, but I think you’ll see what I mean).
With both of Leicestershire’s obvious strike bowlers – Hoggard and Buck – out injured (already) the plan seemed to be to prepare a dry track, play two spinners, bat first and spin them out on Day Four. Which worked out fine until Day Four when Gloucestershire made 191 to win for the loss of a single wicket.
The first day, when I was there, confirmed the impression that we have a fragile top order with a more solid middle, featuring a converted opener at no. 6 and our best batsman at no. 7. After 21 overs we were 51-5, before Boyce (55) and Thakor (75) dug in and dug us out of a hole. By the Saturday, however, when the same sides met again in a 40 over match it seemed we had an explosive top order and a too-solid middle order.
Playing a 40-over match immediately after a 4-day one recalls the days when a John Player League game would be inserted into the middle of a Championship match, giving one side the chance to take revenge for a defeat in the other. The match was effectively over as a contest by the end of the first Power Play, and certainly decided by the time Leicester were 190 for no wicket in the 26th over. Openers O’Brien and Cobb, who between them had made 61 in the 4-day game, both made centuries. Gloucestershire seemed disinclined to make a game of it and reduced themselves to 44-5 with some suicidal running, after which they looked as if they wished they could simply concede.
This game was televised on Sky, which may have been why it was being played on a Saturday, and also Family Fun Day, with free tickets available. Given that it coincided with crucial late season fixtures for both the Tigers and Leicester City, meaning that many of the regulars were absent, this had the odd effect of turning the ground into a Kindergarten. Although it would be wonderful if some of these tots formed a lasting attachment to the game and to the club, I wonder about the effect on their psyches of having this game as their cricketing primal scene. Will they grow up thinking that cricket should always be a whirl of big screens, amplified music, face painting and bouncy castles, Leicestershire invincible and Josh Cobb a demigod? It isn’t always like that, I’m afraid.
Still, a victory is a victory, Worcesteshire (our next opponents) really are struggling and, for the moment, I can only concur with the big screen.