July 5, 2013

Gloucs benefit from Aussie rule

Michael Klinger's upsurge in form means that spirits are high for Gloucestershire's T20 campaign

Us Gloucestershire fans face a dilemma. With the Ashes imminent, we should be chucking out our vegemite and removing Home and Away from series record on our digital TV recorders. It's time to loathe everything Australian. But then there is our antipodean captain, Michael Klinger…

I've shared in previous blogs my early doubts over our new captain. But he's rapidly washing those away with the seemingly endless flow of runs from his bat.

Having been thoroughly outplayed in our first Friends Life t20 away to Northants, we turned the tables on Worcestershire in our second game. Klinger carried his bat on a sunny afternoon in Bristol to see us home in stylish fashion, and, despite him starring in the Big Bash League down under, we were privileged to witness Klinger's first ever T20 century, completed off a mere 61 balls. His perfectly paced 108 controlled the innings and demonstrated the power and talent that earned him his position at the helm at Nevil Road in the first place.

Perhaps it was the sight of his fellow countrymen that has boosted Klinger, as he led us against Australia A in a three-day fixture as part of the tourists' Ashes preparations. Dan Christian made sure the Brits were outnumbered, making his debut for the Gladiators against his home country.

Whilst providing three days of absorbing cricket, sadly we couldn't quite make it over the line with a win. But there were plenty of positives for us to take in amongst our fluctuating fortunes in the match, not least getting within 24 runs of victory despite facing a deficit of 209 after the first innings. The tourists were bowled out for 111 in just over 35 overs second time around, with Will Gidman taking 4 for 25, including two in two balls.

For those of you saving your pennies for one of the flats currently being constructed around the perimeter of the ground, you might want to think again. Despite the lure of a cheeky late afternoon beverage relaxing on your balcony watching another stunning victory for the Gladiators, you'd be a fool to take your eye off the ball. During his impressive 181 off 143 balls for Australia A, Nic Maddinson smashed a Benny Howell delivery back over the bowler's head into the 3rd floor of the flats. Klinger followed suit during the Twenty20 against Worcestershire, with two maximums entering the building development. Hard hats required for balcony viewing.

Alongside the arrival of Christian for the FLt20, John Bracewell has also signed spinner Tom Smith on loan from Middlesex. With Ed Young injured and Jack Taylor suspended from bowling having been reported for an illegal action, 17-year-old Miles Hammond has been our first-choice spinner. Although he's done a reasonable job, Bracewell was rightly concerned about throwing the youngster into T20 so early in his career.

With the new additions to the squad and the power hitting training from specialist coach Julian Wood clearly taking effect, we stand a good chance in the tournament. Hopefully we can prove we're better than our humiliating record of conceding the two highest totals in the competition last year.

Our performance in the YB40 has been inspiring, winning our last four games on the trot. We excelled with both bat and ball to beat Yorkshire in the rain-reduced home game, allowing us to maintain pressure on Somerset at the top of Group C. With the start of the shortest format, the question now is whether we can maintain our current form across all three competitions.

It's such a shame to see Ian Saxelby has been ruled out for the rest of the season after experiencing more problems with the shoulder issue that he has suffered from for three years now. He underwent surgery to repair his right bicep, and is now on a rehabilitation programme. He is set to return at the start of the 2014 season. Whilst it does hand an opportunity to youngsters coming through the ranks, in particular Craig Miles, I'm sure we all wish Sax a speedy recovery.

We now have the Cheltenham cricket festival to look forward to. This year will be the first to feature Twenty20 cricket, and all three games are already well on the way to selling out. The stage is set, we just need to put on the show. Can captain Klinger provide a spectacle to rival his fellow Aussies battling for the little urn?

Gemma Wright has been a cricket blogger since the day onewickedmaiden was born on England's 2009 tour of the West Indies tour. She tweets here