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Troubled times and a century for Hammond at Cheltenham

Miles Hammond - in limited-overs colours Wally never donned Getty Images

Gloucestershire 303 for 8 (Hammond 103, Dent 65, Archer 3-45) lead Sussex 286 by 17 runs
Scorecard

In the 1930s, an era of a National Government and the hated Means Test, a Hammond century at Cheltenham engendered pleasure but little surprise. In the age of Brexit and very different uncertainties a maiden hundred by a different Hammond was greeted with a mighty roar of joyous acclamation on the College Ground. Deep in the second afternoon of this game Miles Hammond square cut David Wiese to the pavilion boundary and suddenly shared more than his surname and a loyalty to Gloucestershire with Wally.

Some of history's more seductive comparisons should be resisted. Unlike Wally Hammond, his namesake's cover-drives do not suggest he is playing a game with which the rest of humanity is unfamiliar; he has now made one first-class century whereas his predecessor managed 167, nine of them on the College Ground.

But most of young Hammond's shots were fluent enough, not least the majority of his 20 boundaries. His driving square of the wicket and through the covers was wonderfully assertive and particularly fine given the Sussex bowlers did all they could to rough him up before applauding his achievement. The Cheltenham-born Hammond did not look like a batsman playing his first Championship match for three years as he put on 182 with his fellow opener, Chris Dent, thus setting a new first-wicket for Gloucestershire on the ground. And three overs after his captain had been caught at short fine leg for 65 when scooping Danny Briggs, Hammond reached his hundred. Two balls later he edged a catch to Ben Brown when aiming a euphoric flash at David Wiese.

And all this was watched by over a hundred former professionals who were attending the PCA's annual reunion at the College Lawn End. Charged glasses in hand, the old boys watched the 38th over of the innings, during which Hammond avoided Jofra Archer's malevolent bouncer, played and missed twice and square drove the offended bowler to the Sandford Road boundary. One hoped John Snow, a Sussex and England fast bowler from the last century, appreciated the duel. The former players stood and chatted in their small groups, "recalling the glory they knew in their prime, all batsmen and bowlers of note, who terrified parishes." Thus Frank Mansell's "The Old Cricketer", one of his Cotswold Ballads, written by a poet who played his club cricket for Sheepscombe, which lies some eight miles from Cheltenham.

The bowling of Archer and Ollie Robinson on a College Ground pitch which offered a little variable bounce would indeed have petrified some batsmen on this second morning but it did not deter Hammond, not even after he had taken a blow on his helmet from Robinson in the fifth over of the day. A huge leg before appeal went in his favour three balls later and soon he was edging inquisitively forward and looking to drive again. It remains a puzzle why Brown did not post a short-leg.

Yet almost all of the cricket on this second day was of a high standard and keenly contested. Those who disparage the Second Division, often without seeing any matches, should be set down and made to watch it before they pontificate again. Errors were rare and properly punished. Phil Salt, who had dropped a snorter off Hammond on Monday evening, also put down a straightforward chance off Dent when the opener had 14. Those mistakes hardly looked to have been rectified by the wickets of James Bracey and Graeme van Buuren, both of whom were dismissed in the evening session as Sussex took the new ball and looked to limit Gloucestershire's lead.

Then a day which had been dominated by the batting of young Hammond ended with a reminder of Jofra Archer's remarkable ability to change the course of game, even at a time when many spectators are packing up to go home. Inspired and enlivened by the arrival of George Drissell as nightwatchman, Archer demanded the ball and in the penultimate over of the evening session he bowled Drissell and Ryan Higgins with successive deliveries before having Kieran Noema-Barnett caught at the wicket before second ball.

Archer's triple-wicket maiden brought the game back into the hazard, a judgement confirmed when David Miles was leg before to Robinson in the final over. Gloucestershire had lost four wickets for five runs in ten balls and their lead is now a mere 17. One imagines this chaos gave the former players even more to talk about but one hopes they remembered Gloucestershire's next Hammond.