Gloucestershire 221 (Marshall 58, Viljoen 5-55) v Kent
It was the sort of impact county fans rarely expect of an overseas player, least of all one that drops in for the latter part of a season, with little international credibility behind them. But Hardus Viljoen, on Kent debut, became on their fourth bowler to take a five-wicket haul this season, as his 5 for 55 helped dismiss Gloucestershire for 221 in their first innings. It was the South African's 20th fifth-wicket haul in first class cricket.
It is a stint that will provide something beneficial for Viljoen as much as Kent, who are looking to keep the pressure up on Essex at the top of the table, ready to pounce from third if any stutter is forthcoming.
The 27-year-old is looking to build on what is so far a one-Test career that started with the wicket of Alastair Cook, first ball. That was as good as it got for Viljoen in the third Test of England's series away to South Africa earlier this year as his robust, aggressive style was successfully countered. The winter has been spent finding form in Zimbabwe and Australia as part of South Africa A, ventures that haven't quite reaped the rewards he would have wished. A week at home followed before he flew over to Canterbury for the rest of the season.
With Kent testing the limits of their seam bowling reserves, Viljoen's acquisition has added further breadth to a broad-shouldered bowling line-up of Matt Coles, Mitchell Claydon and Darren Stevens. A foursome you would not wish to meet down a dark alley. Then again, no alley could house them unless they greeted you in single file. And they were in no mood for courtesy today.
Kent opted against the toss and decided to give Gloucestershire first go on a pitch that looked used, with a brownish-green tint that looked more like an Olympic pool than a four-day pitch. With the odd ball zipping through, Viljoen hammered away at a length to take the key wickets. The usually unflappable Michael Klinger was rushed with a delivery that moved sharply into him, trapping the right-hander in front of middle and off. Hamish Marshall, who top scored with 58, was also given the hurry up by Viljoen, just as he looked set to take his side out of the red.
It has been an interesting summer for Gloucestershire, one which many locals regard as their best since 2011, when they finished fourth in Division Two. Their white ball aptitude, culminating in last year's Royal London Cup success, also carried over this season into a quarter-final spot in the NatWest T20 Blast. And, going into the game, Gloucestershire sat fifth, 12 points behind Kent, with a game in hand. If Kent's promotion hopes were still alive, so logically were theirs.
Members have been mightily impressed by the upturn in fortunes since Richard Dawson look over at the beginning of 2015. But their subsidence to 67 for 4, with Darren Stevens moving the ball both ways to account for Chris Dent (played on) and returning skipper Gareth Roderick (lbw), brought a sense of disappointment around the ground that there may be an early finish to their competitive season.
Gloucestershire battened down the hatches in the afternoon, 60 runs were added in 33 overs. It was, however, a necessary trudge, with Gloucestershire's season hanging in the balance. They need not have taken the closed curtains of the flats at the Ashley Down Road End personally.
The evening session brought with it runs, wickets and dashings of brilliance, as those who sought the sun were baked into a slumber. Marshall used a reprieve on 37, when Stevens dropped a simple catch at first slip off Viljoen, to move to his half-century from 166 balls. A reprieve might have been enjoyed, too, by Phil Mustard, caught down the leg side, for Viljeon's second wicket. The reaction told the story: rarely has a man pointed at his own thigh guard with more apoplexy.