Cockbain, McCarter exorcise Glos demons
Gloucestershire 189 for 6 (Cockbain 84, Arafat 3-38) beat Sussex 185 (Hamilton-Brown 49, McCarter 5-35) by four runs
The last time these teams met, Scott Styris smashed the third-fastest hundred in T20 history, off just 38 balls, against a stunned Gloucestershire attack. There were no such heroics this time but a tense finish nonetheless which saw the visitors deservedly pick up their second South Group win by four runs, after Graeme McCarter completed his first five-for in the format with three wickets in the final over.
Sussex only managed to take their pursuit of 190 that far thanks to a depth-charge of an innings by Will Beer, who hit cleanly all around the ground for 37 off 17 balls before holing out to long-off at the end trying to hit a six which would have won the game.
Gloucestershire deserved to win. Their total of 189 for 6 was built around a competition-best 84 off 51 balls by Ian Cockbain, who hit eight fours and two sixes and was given the freedom to play by the assured presence of skipper Michael Klinger at the other end.
Gloucestershire's captain wisely gave his in-form partner as much of the strike as possible and when he fell in the 14th over Hamish Marshall used all his experience to propel his side to a total that looked above par, despite a short boundary on the pavilion side, because of the sluggish nature of the pitch.
McCarter only made his competition debut last month against Somerset but he has clearly learned quickly about keeping to a disciplined line and mixing up his lengths. He stunned the home crowd by removing Luke Wright and his Ireland team-mate Ed Joyce with successive balls as Gloucestershire, whose ground fielding was superior to their opponents, tightened their grip.
Rory Hamilton-Brown supervised Sussex's rebuilding with 49 but when he was caught by McCarter off Benny Howell's dobbers in the 15th over the chase stalled with four wickets falling in 11 balls.
But Beer was clearly in the mood. He hit his first ball for six and found a willing ally in Steff Piolet, as they plundered 48 off 23 balls for the eighth wicket. Sussex would have fancied their chances with ten needed off the last over but McCarter kept his nerve and reaped his rewards as three batsmen picked out Dan Housego on the long-off boundary. Offspinner Jack Taylor, who had to re-model his action during the winter, backed him up well with 3 for 24 when the pressure was on.
Neither side was at full strength but Sussex would have felt aggrieved at the absence of two of their potential match winners. When the competition was re-launched the ECB pledged to make its international players available more regularly but even though the first Test is still six days away, neither Matt Prior or Chris Jordan were allowed to play.
Jordan's absence after a tough one-day series is just about pardonable but Prior could surely have benefitted from another game. The Championship fixture against Nottinghamshire this week was his first opportunity to keep wicket in a first-class fixture since last December and he was understandably rusty.
With Mike Yardy, whose left-arm darts make him Sussex's most effective bowler in T20, out for at least a month with a torn bicep Sussex had even fewer options but Gloucestershire don't have much star quality themselves and the survivors from the 2012 meeting would have been pleased no doubt to exorcise the demons after their mauling at the hands of Styris.