Cheltenham battens down the hatches
Gloucestershire 383 and 62 for 1 lead Worcestershire 300 for 3 declared by 145 runs
We had 70 minutes' play at the College Ground on the third day of this match and the difference between that and nothing at all is much greater than the uninitiated might think. In a purely cricketing context the game advanced a little; the 42 runs Gloucestershire scored in 15.3 overs may ease their decision about any declaration a trifle, although they have not obviated the ghastly prospect of deliberate bad bowling and a contrived pursuit of an agreed target on the final afternoon.
It will, though, be difficult for Phil Mustard to set anything but the toughest of tasks given the true wicket and the brisk outfield. Worcestershire bowled well in the short session but still conceded nearly three runs an over, the majority of the total scored coming from the bat of Will Tavaré, whose sweet strokes on the off side gave some reward to anyone willing to brave the gloomy forecast.
Worcestershire's captain, Joe Leach, set imaginative fields throughout the morning. At one stage he posted close catchers at short mid-on, short midwicket and short forward square-leg to Cameron Bancroft, who eventually edged a lifting ball from John Hastings to Ross Whiteley at first slip. Bancroft's dismissal for 22 brought Tavaré to the crease but neither a change of partner nor the introduction of new bowler could help Chris Dent. The Gloucestershire opener faced 42 balls on the third morning but scored just four runs and even they came off the edge through the slips off Hastings. The degree to which bowling tighter lines to Dent prevented him playing his off-side shots should inform Worcestershire's thinking when the two sides meet at New Road next month.
By 3.20pm, however, the main concern of both sets of players and coaches was how to get home as quickly as possible. The light rain which had prompted an early lunch returned with renewed vim in the afternoon, leaving Russell Evans and Ian Blackwell with one of their easier decisions of the seasons. Cleeve Hill had disappeared under cloud at about two o'clock and with it went any serious chance of a resumption. Before long the groundstaff were weighing down the covers in preparation for a night's rain.
Non-members attending this day could console themselves that they are entitled to a 50% refund on their ticket price minus an administration fee. All of us could ponder the good cricket we had seen and the way in which it might take its place in the overall pattern of the season. With seven Test matches, six rounds of the County Championship and a great splother of T20 cricket ahead of us, 15.3 overs at the College Ground in July may not seem so very important. But if, in late November, cricket lovers fated to spend the winter in England were offered the chance to watch an hour or so of the summer game in summer weather at Cheltenham, there would be many thousand eager takers.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications