In the lead up to the 2016 domestic season, ecb.co.uk is running a series of features with all 18 first-class counties. Gareth Roderick is hoping Gloucestershire can build on last season’s Royal London One-Day Cup triumph.
The big switch-on of permanent floodlights for Friday nights in the NatWest T20 Blast at Bristol, and the Royal London One-Day Cup to defend.
This could be a big summer for Gloucestershire cricket, especially with Aussie run machine Michael Klinger returning to lead their white-ball teams, and the launch of their groundbreaking partnership with West Country rivals Somerset as the Western Storm in the Kia Women’s Cricket Super League.
The season begins next Sunday with a Specsavers County Championship match against Essex at Chelmsford – where they won last spring for the first time in 85 years in first-class cricket, thanks largely to 10 wickets in the match from Liam Norwell.
Norwell, the 24-year-old who ended the season with 68 first-class wickets – and is thought to be the only county cricketer with a Pasty sponsorship for 2016, partly as a result of his background in Cornwall – is again set to be a key figure for Richard Dawson’s team.
Gareth Roderick, the wicketkeeper-batsman who has succeeded Geraint Jones as four-day captain, would settle for more of the same from both Norwell and Craig Miles, the highly-rated seamer from Wiltshire who has spent the last two winters on the England Performance Programme.
“With David Payne as a left-arm bowler as well, they’ll hopefully be leading our attack this year,” said Roderick, who has settled so happily in Gloucestershire since coming over to play club cricket for Cheltenham in the summer of 2012.
“Norwell and Miles were our main wicket-takers last year and they’ve played enough cricket now, even though they’re still fairly young, to know their own game.”
Gloucestershire suffered a blow when James Fuller signed for Middlesex, but Roderick is hopeful that former Sussex left-armer Chris Liddle will help plug the gap in white-ball cricket – and the county have also picked up Josh Shaw, a Yorkshireman who represented England at the Under-19 World Cup two years ago.
There is another new face in Cameron Bancroft, a 23-year-old batsman from Western Australia who made a T20 international debut in January – and has been recommended to the club by Klinger to fill their overseas vacancy until he arrives in late May.
No cricketer in the county game has a tougher act to follow this summer than Klinger. The 35-year-old averaged 106 in Gloucestershire’s RLODC triumph – despite a duck in the final – and his 654 runs in the Blast came at a strike rate of 142, and an average of 81.75.
If he can repeat that sort of outrageous consistency, Gloucestershire will fancy their chances against anyone in white-ball cricket – starting when they go Shark-hunting against Luke Wright’s Sussex in the first game under Bristol’s new lights on May 20.
— Gloucestershire CCC (@Gloscricket) March 30, 2016
The signing of Andrew Tye, again recommended by Klinger after his T20 success with the Perth Scorchers, can only help.
“If we can have success in 50-over cricket there’s no reason we can’t in Twenty20,” Roderick added. “That’s where people seem to think we should be most competitive – and it’s going to be great playing under the lights.”
Chief executive Will Brown is hopeful that later starts at 6.30pm will encourage more people from Bristol and beyond to spend their Friday nights at the County Ground – and the club have also been doing their best to capitalise on their RLODC success by taking the trophy on a tour of local clubs through the winter.
“I got to take it back to Cheltenham, which was awesome,” Roderick confirmed.
One other name to watch for in the Gloucestershire team this season is George Hankins. He broke the run-scoring record in his last year at Millfield School last summer, previously held by Kent’s Daniel Bell-Drummond, and returned to Bristol recently buoyed by a successful a spell at the Darren Lehmann Academy in Adelaide.
“He’s looked sharp in pre-season too,” said Roderick. “It would be nice to see a guy like that come in and stamp his impact early on. He’s certainly got the ability.”
There was a hint that Hankins could be involved from the start of the season when he batted at number three in the three-day match against Durham MCCU – but an unwelcome worry for Payne, who was forced off the field on Friday with a finger injury.