Unsung Gidman pitch perfect again
Gloucestershire 446 for 5 (W Gidman 109*, Tavare 86, Marshal 56) lead Hampshire 297 by 149 runs
At the end of the 2011 season, in which he took 51 wickets and scored more than 1000 runs in the Championship, Will Gidman gave a magazine interview. Affable, engaging and painfully down to earth, when it was over, he had a question of his own.
"Was that okay?" After being assured all was well, a relieved Gidman added: "I haven't done one of these all season." It is a story that just about sums up Gidman and the situation he continually finds himself in.
Quite how a player goes through a debut season unparalleled by anyone else who has played the game - he was only the seventh player in history to achieve that double - without piquing the interest of the media is stunning. Least of all someone who had spent the previous four years working more shifts at Sports Direct than he had first-class runs.
His bowling average for the last four seasons has not been higher than 22 and only once has he averaged less than 30 with the bat. The stats do not lie - as a bowling allrounder, his effectiveness and consistency are peerless. Had he been playing for a more "fashionable" county, calls for international recognition would come on a weekly basis. As it is, he doesn't even have a Twitter fan page.
The most amazing thing about Will Gidman is his profile, or rather, lack of. His figures might even be too good; often he is lazily used as proof about the divide between first- and second-division cricket. The proof being that how can a bowler from Gloucestershire, who no one ever mentions for higher honours, constantly posts such incredible stats. To watch him puts it all into perspective.
His action is smooth and efficient, making full use of a slender frame to whip through the crease and send the ball down at a pace quick enough to disturb. As a batsman, his square game is tight and rarely will he stray from it.
Here, the path had been set by Gloucestershire's wasteful top order. With the top four registering sizeable scores, he knew runs would come with little risk. He came to the crease at 254 for 4 and accumulated well with some well-controlled pull shots and some finessed reverse sweeps. Against Will Smith, turning the ball away from him, he used his reach and feet to hit him over cover. There were two points of alarm, both when he was a run away from milestones.
On 49, a vicious David Balcombe short-ball hit him on the glove. Then, on 99, he pushed the ball back down the pitch, towards Michael Carberry, who was at a three-quarters mid-off, and set off for a poorly judged single. A quick pick-up and release had him dead but the lack of accuracy saved his blushes and allowed him to return for a second run, allowing him to record his first century this season. He currently averages 56.44 with the bat and 19.65 with the ball.
There was an odd atmosphere at the Ageas Bowl. None of it was down to the local crowd, who are knowledgeable sorts, happy to take in a day of graft after the success they have witnessed so far this season.
The North End is currently a building site. Once finished, it will most likely be referred to as the Hotel End. At the moment, its most recognisable feature is the media centre, slotted into the middle of the stand, up above a level rooftop. By the time England and India roll into town, it will be hospitable.
The rest is far from completion: an array of hallways and passages, held together by a combination of bricks, mortar and scaffolding, with rectangular holes prepped for windows. It is through these holes that southern winds shoot through to create a howling effect that lingered throughout the day.
Various members of the Hampshire attack added their own howls intermittently, as they slogged away on a track so flat it could be used as a spirit level. For them, it was a deeply frustrating day, where the deliveries that managed to beat the batsmen often beat the bat.
It was only Sean Ervine who experienced anything resembling joy. Asked to bowl for 14 overs, he nagged away respectably and elicited errors from Will Tavare and Hamish Marshall. Both could and should have registered centuries, but had to settle for 86 and 56 respectively.
As it stands, the easy batting conditions suggest that Hampshire can, at the very least, bat out the final day for a draw. Whatever happens, the performance of Will Gidman could determine their fate.