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July 4, 2014
Gloucestershire 138 for 7 (Cockbain 52) beat Sussex 125 (Taylor 3-12) by 13 runs
It is perhaps best to declare an interest. This match was not just live on Sky, it was available on ESPN in the United States. So it is natural to insist that players should remain on the field in defiance of the gathering gloom for the sake of entertainment, especially when TV cameras can disguise how dark it is. And, as long as it is not dangerous, so they should stay on. The spectators who turned out on a mucky night in Bristol also got the respect they deserved.
Gloucestershire's victory takes them joint fifth in the South Group with Sussex, one place outside the quarter-final spots. How they will be regretting the two points that were deducted at the start of the season after the ECB ruled they had prepared an unfit pitch against Kent in 2013. Sussex came into the match with back-to-back wins against Middlesex and Kent but they have a raft of top players missing - Matt Prior, Chris Jordan, Mike Yardy, Ed Joyce, Rory Hamilton-Brown among them - and that was bound to weaken them.
Hindsight suggests that Sussex's stand-in captain, Chris Nash, should have taken half-decent batting conditions while he could after winning the toss. Instead, it was Ian Cockbain who hunted down Bristol's short leg-side boundaries with gusto, making 52 from 36 balls, and when he fell to a fine boundary catch from Matt Machan, Will Gidman's 26 from 16 maintained Gloucestershire's momentum. Even then, they had slipped to 116 for 7 with an over remaining before Graeme McCarter launched a late assault on Lewis Hatchett, taking 14 off the first three balls of the final over.
It ensured Gloucestershire achieved a challenging target in a match reduced to 15 overs. It is curious how these days a 20-over match is accepted by the majority as an excellent product - indeed, preferred by millions - but 15 overs is seen as a bit of make-do; a stubborn shoulder into the wind. They used to say that when 50 overs was cut to 30.
Sussex, to their credit, did not grumble about the light. Sides have left the field in conditions like this on numerous occasions - and not just in Championship cricket, when it is logical enough, but in limited-overs when the game has often displayed a rather too precious opinion of itself. But English cricket has a product to sell and they are trying to sell it when some grounds do not have floodlights - even international grounds like Bristol.
Hamish Marshall saw the ball well enough, leaping at deep midwicket to dismiss Will Beer off the offspinner Jack Taylor on the third ball of the last over. Instead of Sussex needing eight from three, they needed 14. The captain, Alex Gidman, ran backwards at mid-off to complete the job one ball later. Taylor, who had to remodel his action after it was declared illegal, bowls more round arm these days and stood up well to the pressure.
Nevertheless, the sooner the ECB openly insists on floodlights at every international ground the better. Such pressures are already being applied. They should not stop there, but demand they are available at the headquarters of all 18 first-class grounds. Not to do so - on nights like this - is to promote an inadequate product.
There were other positives for Gloucestershire. Adam Rouse is beginning to look like the loan signing of the season. Trialists can have a temporary rise in form courtesy of an early rise in spirits but he is making an excellent impression on his month's trial. If this form continues, he has every chance of gaining a full-time contract.
There are reasons why Rouse was an understudy at Hampshire before being released. He was blocked by a strong batsman-keeper in Nic Pothas and also by probably the most natural gloveman in the country in Michael Bates. After only two balls of Sussex's innings, he looked to the manor born, following up a slick take of a rising ball, standing up to Will Gidman, by catching Luke Wright for nought the next. There is undiscovered talent in English T20 - it just needs a vibrant and successful tournament to bring it to fruition.
July 5 - 1125 BST - Story updated to clarify the reason for Gloucestershire's two-point penalty
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