County previews March 29, 2013

Gloucestershire turn to Klinger

Last year: 6th, CC Div 2; Quarter-finals, FLt20; 3rd in Group A, CB40.

2012 in a nutshell: Finishing bottom of the Second Division of the Championship can never be classified as anything other than a disappointment. No team in Division Two lost more games than Gloucestershire. Two defeats against a strong Yorkshire side might have been accepted - especially as both could have been avoided, arising from manufactured chases - but losses to Leicestershire and Northants were more disappointing. But it was not, perhaps, quite as bad a season as it may look at first glance. Only five points separated Gloucestershire in ninth and Glamorgan in sixth and their limited-overs form was encouraging, culminating in an FLt20 quarterfinal. For a club with a young squad and small playing budget, it was always likely to prove another rebuilding season.

2013 prospects: Within realistic boundaries, there is cause for cautious optimism in Bristol. While a sustained promotion challenge seems unlikely, it is not unreasonable to expect a move up the table with Gloucestershire's season likely to be defined by their success against the rivals with which they share low budgets and young squads: Leicestershire, Worcestershire, Glamorgan and Northants. The seam bowling unit - including Liam Norwell, David Payne, Will Gidman, James Fuller and Ian Saxelby - is as strong as most in the lower division, but the lack of a quality spin bowler remains a concern. The batting has been Gloucestershire's weakness for many seasons and certainly cost them promotion in 2009. They will hope to have talented opener Chris Dent fit for the whole campaign and that Alex Gidman's decision to resign the captaincy to concentrate on his batting pays dividends. Much will also be expected of Gidman's replacement, new overseas player Michael Klinger. With a little fortune, they could reach mid table and enjoy a decent showing in limited-overs cricket. But expectations cannot be great.

Key player: A few years ago, Alex Gidman was a target of Warwickshire and seen as a potential England player. But his career has drifted and he has scored just two first-class centuries in the last three seasons and averaged just 28.36. Now, freed from the burden of captaincy, Gloucestershire require far more consistent returns from him.

Bright young thing: The most encouraging aspect of Gloucestershire cricket is the presence of several talented, young players in the squad. David Payne, a strong left-arm seamer of brisk pace, could develop into a fine player, while Chris Dent is a left-handed top-order batsman of decent potential. Both are former England U19 players, both are 22-years-old and both could, if well managed, play large parts in reviving Gloucestershire cricket over the next decade.

Captain /coach: Michael Klinger, a 32-year-old Australian, is the new captain. Arriving on the back of a modest Australian season - he averaged 19.41 in nine Sheffield Shield games in 2012-13 - he also struggled for Worcestershire last year, averaging 29.30 in six Championship games with a highest score of 69. Gloucestershire need far more from him this year. John Bracewell, the coach, continues to live off the reputation he gained from Gloucestershire's excellent limited-overs form from his first stay at the club. But it would be nice to see a little more progress in his plans.

ESPNcricinfo verdict: Gloucestershire possess some good young players and the redevelopment of Nevil Road will be completed without incurring crippling debt, but it is hard to see the club flourishing on the field in the immediate future.

Read our supporters' network preview on Gloucestershire. ESPNcricinfo will be publishing a fan blog for each of the 18 counties as we build up to the 2013 season

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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