Plenty to smile about in Bristol
I can't decide if my Gloucestershire tankard is half empty or half full. It's been one of those seasons. There are plenty of positives to reflect on as the nights draw in and the thermos flask and membership pass are packed away for the winter. But with no silverware or promotion to celebrate, this season has not been a resounding success either.
We fell short of the six Championship wins John Bracewell targeted at the start of the season, although the weather has dampened more than a few games into draws. Had the sun shone on us, who knows, promotion could have been ours. As it is, we have finished mid table, a position recognisable to us in the Yorkshire Bank 40 as well, and we nestled lamentably at the bottom of the Friends Life t20 table.
But let's not forget that I do have half a tankard to celebrate with. Off the field, the highlight of the summer was the opening of the new Bristol Pavilion, an impressive structure that signifies much more than just a building. It is our key to international fixtures, starting next season with England v India. To me it epitomises the advances that we are making as a club, and our long-term ambitions to be one of the top teams in the country.
On the pitch, undoubtedly our outstanding captain Michael Klinger has been a huge boost, leading by example, and guiding what is still a largely young and inexperienced side into a promising team of the future. We have known that overnight success was neither likely nor ideal in the long term. Klinger himself has said that his first year was always going to be a building block for the second of his two-year contract, where he intends to build on what he sees as a positive start this season.
He scored over a thousand runs in both first-class and in limited-overs cricket for us this season, and has anchored our team and many of our best performances. Klinger returned to Australia before our final match of the season to join his West End Redbacks team in their 50-over competition. While I think he deserves the break of an early bath, I wonder where his loyalties would have been if we were still in with a shout of promotion? I do hope they would be in the West Country, rather than South Australia.
Despite having plenty of youngsters in the team, we are gradually becoming more consistent, and still have the senior members of the squad, along with Klinger, guiding the new talent.
Left arm seamer Matt Taylor, just 19 years old and a product of our club's academy, has shown plenty of promise towards the end of the season, as has Craig Miles, also only 19. Miles was our second highest wicket taker in the Championship - 43 wickets at 30.58 - and is a very exciting prospect to have on our team sheet in the coming seasons. With 22-year-old Chris Dent enjoying a breakthrough season with the bat - 1,049 Championship runs at 45.60 - we can anticipate some budding careers blossoming in the West Country.
Will Gidman again did us proud, with 50 Championship wickets despite missing three matches with injury. He took 10 against Leicestershire and added a century to enter the Gloucestershire record books. Let's hope his excellent form continues into next season.
Will's brother Alex joined Klinger in passing a thousand first-class runs, and remains a crucial part of the squad not only with the bat, but also as an advisor and supporter of Klinger. Hamish Marshall has once again proved invaluable in the squad, and as the blend of junior and senior players gel, our long-term prospects are rosy, particularly with our new signings.
Tom Smith who came on loan from Middlesex is now here to stay, and an essential addition to the squad; we have lacked a spinner to provide control in four-day cricket for some time. And batsman Will Tavaré has stepped up from the second XI on a one-year contract to provide back up at the top of the order.
On balance, my tankard appears half full. Perhaps even three quarters. Still, it doesn't sound a lot to get me through the winter.
I'd like to offer the best of luck to two of our boys Marshall and Richard Coughtrie (who has been released) on their cycle from Durham to Lord's - 411 miles - over five days to raise money for the PCA Benevolent Fund and the Tom Maynard Trust. Rather them than me!