Cockbain ton kills off final day
Gloucestershire 271 (Marshall 75) and 277 (Cockbain 112) drew with Hampshire 296 (McKenzie 94) and 0 for 0
The anticipated close finish and positive result did not materialise. For one thing, the pitch at Nevil Road, helpful to seam bowlers on the first day, became flatter as the match continued. For another, Hampshire, in omitting Danny Briggs, had to rely on batsmen who could bowl as opposed to a specialist spinner. Above all, though, they were thwarted by a fine century, only the second of his career, by Ian Cockbain.
Cockbain is not quite what you imagine him to be. His name is not pronounced as in that jokey old television advertisement for port, although some tannoy announcers would have us believe it should be. He is not from the Cotswolds but Merseyside, as betrayed by his accent and support of Everton FC, and his batting is reflective of growing up in the harsher environment of the north of England. He watches the ball onto the bat and collects his runs in uncomplicated style off it.
As Gloucestershire were struggling owing to injuries to three bowlers playing in this match - Paul Muchall (back) David Payne (knee) and Ian Saxelby (also knee) Alex Gidman had decided early in the day not to leave his opponents a target. The onus was on Hampshire to bowl them out. This they singularly failed to do in the morning, when the one wicket that fell was that of Dan Housego, who was athletically taken by Michael Bates in front of first slip off Sean Ervine.
Cockbain, though, was in the form of his (short) life. In his last five Championship innings he has scored 58, 38, 55, 51 and now 112. He is, in fact 25 years old, but as well as a short spell with Lancashire was on MCC's groundstaff. There was no evidence of nervousness: he reached his century, off 206 balls, with his 11th and 12th four. Only after tea did Hampshire dismiss him, when he played on to Simon Katich's left-arm chinamen, having faced, in all, 227 balls and hit 14 fours.
James Tomlinson picked up a couple of other wickets and Jimmy Adams brought himself on to try to break the last pair, which he did, but the overs were fast running out. Indeed, by the time Gloucestershire were finally dismissed for 277, there was not even an opportunity for a T20 style run chase. Hampshire's target was 273 off a minimum of 16 overs, which might have been a possibility if Barry Richards and Gordon Greenidge were still opening the innings, but, understandably enough, was not entertained by Adams. Each side took eight points from the match.
Should Hampshire have included Briggs? There was some turn for Katich into the rough and Liam Dawson ultimately had a fairly lengthy bowl. The scenario was no different to that at Headingley last week, when England opted not to field a specialist spinner.
There is a cogent argument that every team is incomplete without one, whatever the pitch or state of a series or championship. Geoff Miller, the England national selector, came here on Monday, eschewing the Test match, to watch some of the brightest young cricketers in the country. He would reasonably have expected Briggs and James Vince, both of whom appeared in Hampshire's last fixture, to be playing here. They did not do so.