Gloucestershire building steadily through Klinger
Since his arrival at Nevil Road in early April, I've heard conflicting opinions on our new captain Michael Klinger. So far, feedback has been wholly positive from the players, and mixed, erring on negative, from journalists and some fans. I must admit that I was sceptical of his ability in the early part of the season, after several low scores with the bat - 18, 23, 1, 9 in his first four innings in the Championship - and some questionable captaincy decisions.
But he is finally delivering the type of performances his earlier career stats promised, the same stats that were no doubt hugely influential in his appointment. So strong was his batting for South Australia that he became their captain within two years of arriving at the club, and he is now displaying that full potential with the bat in Bristol.
Leading from the front at the top of the order is exactly what we need to develop the rest of the team, setting up each of our innings, allowing our middle order to be calmer at the crease. He led us to victory over Leicestershire in the Championship with his first century of the season and then contributed 163 to the 400 against Hampshire, before declaring with the final batting bonus in the bag, in just shy of 100 overs.
That said, Klinger's declaration in that game seemed an odd decision. With a win for Gloucestershire highly unlikely, the skipper appeared to be submitting his tired and injured team to toil in the field for more than 30 overs, with a YB40 fixture looming the following day. It turned into a near farcical decision, as a largely unrecognisable Gloucestershire team took to the field on the final afternoon, initially fielding three substitutes - for Hamish Marshall (unwell), Jack Taylor (shoulder) and Cameron Herring (conjunctivitis) - and the third wicketkeeper of the match behind the stumps.
On the third morning, Richard Coughtrie had kept for two overs, covering for Herring. With Coughtrie sent to play a club game in Cheltenham on the final day, it was down to Gareth Roderick to don the gloves. Rumour has it Jack Russell was padded up ready to step in, had a fourth been required.
Sadly the abundance of wicketkeepers was not matched in the bowling department, which made Klinger's decision to field for the afternoon even more questionable. Will Gidman, our leading wicket taker in the Championship, had earlier been announced unfit to bowl by the backroom staff due to his ankle injury, but appeared on the pitch to open the bowling, lasting just two balls before pulling up in obvious agony, and becoming the fourth starting player to be substituted. As I said, farcical.
As it turned out, Klinger didn't need to worry about resting the team that afternoon in advance of the YB40 game against Middlesex the next day. That familiar foe of the cricketing world - rain - took care of that game, and provided more unusual scenes on the pitch. The start time was put back on several occasions, finally scheduled to begin at 6pm, at which point the umpires and players took to the field, only for the captains to shake hands and declare the game over.
Thankfully, we have some time off before our next Championship game, offering some respite and recuperation for the sick and injured. In better news, the break also allows for those returning from injury - Liam Norwell (groin), Ian Saxelby (shoulder) and James Fuller (finger) - a chance to ease back in. They got a good run out in the innings win over Cambridge MCCU at Fenners.
As we're all aware, rebuilding the injured team is not the only construction going on at Gloucestershire, with the building work in full swing - quite literally in the case of the cranes at the Ashley Down Road End, now so much of a feature that they feel like the twelfth man of the team. Their activity has been the cause of much amusement and frustration, and #cranewatch has become a familiar hashtag to all Gloucestershire fans on Twitter.
While you can get used to the noise, the workmen, and large objects swinging through the air behind the bowlers arm, the lack of scoreboard activity is significantly more annoying. To call it intermittent would be too kind. If it works at all, and that is as rare as a game unaffected by rain, the information is so small that you'd need the telescopic vision of Superman to make out what's going on.
I mentioned in the season preview that for us, the only way is up. If we can take inspiration from the big runs coming for our skipper and Hamish Marshall, and capitalise on that momentum, we can definitely make something of this season. The hammering from Northants aside, it's been a reasonable start in the first four Championship games, with a win there for the taking against Hampshire if the weather had been kinder.
Given our injury woes, it's a credit to the likes of Benny Howell, Craig Miles, and David Payne that we're on this reasonable upward curve. Miles in particular bowled exceptionally well against Hampshire, taking four wickets in the first innings, helping reduce the visitors to 97 for 8. But once again, we failed to capitalise on that fantastic start, allowing Hampshire to reach 274. It was a similar story against Leicestershire in the third innings, and it's something Klinger will have to eradicate if we want to make any progress up the table. We usually seem up for it in the field when we feel we're on top, but that energy needs to be maintained no matter what the figures on the unreadable scoreboard may say.