Bates can't defy Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire 314 and 174 beat Hampshire 199 and 256 (Bates 87, Wood 65, Gidman 4-66) by 33 runs
For Gloucestershire, this victory was not just important but desperately needed. Beaten in two days at Chelmsford last week and worryingly short of money, they had to dismiss Hampshire, a club with significantly greater resources, for a total of less than 289. After having them reeling at 72 for 6, with 50 overs remaining, they eventually won with only 12 balls left.
Hampshire, seemingly, were on the verge of drawing what had been an absorbing contest. Michael Bates, their talented young wicketkeeper, had demonstrated he can also bat. His innings of 87 was a career best in the Championship. His partnership of 118 with Chris Wood, whose 65 was also more than he had ever made before, appeared sufficient to save the match.
As it was, Will Gidman, Ian Saxelby and David Payne continued to extract life from this pitch. It was Gidman who bowled Bates and Hamza Riazuddin in swift succession. This at a stage when nothing seemed more certain than that Bates, in need of runs to ensure his club does not make any further misguided attempts to sign a more experienced replacement on the basis that he might bat better, would reach the first century of his career.
Bates struck 11 fours and Wood 12. Riazuddin, too, batted with assurance. So credit to Gloucestershire's seamers - their attack, remember, is shorn of Jon Lewis, the ideal bowler to deal with the late order - for their perseverance.
Hampshire never looked likely to reach their target of 290. That was particularly so after the openers, Liam Dawson and Jimmy Adams, swiftly went, one picking out long leg and the other well held low at second slip by Chris Dent, whose fifth catch of the match this was, to say nothing of his first-innings century. Simon Katich, the one batsman who could well have stayed in all afternoon, attempted to steer Saxelby to third man and was taken behind the wicket: 36 for 3.
Michael Carberry took 29 balls to get off the mark and in due course was held by Richard Coughtrie at the second attempt. When James Vince and Sean Ervine were both taken at third slip by Ian Cockbain, off Saxelby, Hampshire had subsided to 72 for 6. An early finish appeared quite possible - unless Bates, whose previous highest score was an unbeaten 58 despite possessing a sound technique, remained at the crease for a considerable time.
He did just that, getting into line, collecting runs whenever he could through front foot drives and a keenness to cut. He and Wood, who put away anything on or outside leg stump to good effect, added 100 off 154 balls. Alex Gidman switched his bowlers around, utilising Ed Young's left-arm spin, but once Bates had been bowled by brother Will, the tail was exposed.
Gloucestershire, of course, are not only having to make do without Lewis. Steve Kirby and Gemaal Hussain went to Somerset the previous winter and there has been little talk since of anything but other cutbacks, players not being retained and of the need for the club to move grounds to secure its future.
So they will take great heart from this triumph: the bowlers utilising the conditions to the full, the quality of the slip catching and, above all, the obduracy of Dent, a Bristol boy to boot.