Gloucestershire 218 for 8 (Roderick 61, Quinn 7-61 ) v Essex
Even on a milk-sun morning the College Ground retains its grandeur. There is Prothero's famous chapel, of course, its proportions unsullied by the angular excrescence beyond it; there is also that long pavilion where, in 1992, the Marquess of Reading won the Cheltenham Gold Racquet; and there are the marquees, 10 of them this year, plus assorted gazebos and even the odd tent.
Prime Ministers resign and Prime Ministers are appointed but Cheltenham smiles indulgently on such occasional changes. Gladstone was in charge when Gloucestershire played their first county match here and it is to be hoped that the ground sees off several dozen more First Lords of the Treasury before it is done. Never mind Brexit, old boy, on afternoons such as this it was difficult to believe we'd ever lost India.
Matt Quinn's recollections of Cheltenham will be equally fond but rather fresher. For after play had been interrupted for over two hours by ferocious westerly showers the New Zealand-born seamer took six wickets in a ten-over spell from the Chapel End which may go a long way towards determining the shape of this game.
In 75 minutes Quinn tore out the heart of the Gloucestershire batting, sending the home side spinning from 99 for 1 to 140 for 7, at one stage taking four wickets for seven runs for 17 balls. He had never taken more than four wickets in a completed innings before. In 1930 Agatha Christie published The Mysterious Mr Quin; Gloucestershire certainly found the eponymous sleuth's near-namesake a puzzle on a pitch freshened by the stoppage and warmed under the covers.
What was particularly impressive about Quinn's bowling was the number of good batsmen he got out when they were playing defensively. Rather like say, Stuart Broad or Kyle Jarvis, he is not lightning-fast but he gets it down at a tidy old lick. And while he does not swing the ball vast distances, he hoops it enough. Graeme van Buuren being pinned on the back foot with the third ball after the resumption was mundane enough but six overs later Quinn snaked one back between bat and pad to bowl Michael Klinger for 5. And, rather like the glass-in-hand brigade enjoying corporate hospitality at the College Lawn End, he was only warming up.
Twenty minutes later Gareth Roderick prodded forward but only his pad made contact with the ball. Umpire Billy Taylor assessed the justice of the appeal and, slightly echoing the famous line in Monty Python's Life of Brian decided he could not reprieve Roderick. Two overs after Gloucestershire skipper had departed for a pleasant 61, Hamish Marshall joined him when his tentative push gave a catch to Tom Westley at second slip.
Kieran Noema-Barnett played on and was much more culpable. His rather wild cover-drive was a gin-and-tonic stroke where mineral water was required. And when Jack Taylor was bowled next over for 3, Quinn's excellent afternoon's work was done. He received a standing ovation when he came in for tea, Gloucestershire's not-out batsmen, Craig Miles and David Payne, courteously waiting for him to make his way in.
Miles and Payne then batted with simple good sense to add 65 for the eighth wicket by blocking straight balls and giving half-volleys a rare malleting. Still, though, Quinn was not finished. After a brief break for rain and bad light, he had Payne brilliantly caught in the gully, Jaik Mickleburgh diving to his right to complete a one-handed catch. Quinn trooped off to more applause with 7 for 61; his best analysis for a match is 8 for 107. Gloucestershire had a batting bonus point they may not have expected and Miles is 45 not out but Essex have the advantage in this game.
"The wicket didn't offer much but it swung a bit all day," said Quinn. "We put it down to the overhead conditions after it rained. The ball was shaping nicely and if you bowl on off stump and it swings, it's always going to difficult to play. I don't think we bowled very well early on but the margin of error is quite small on that wicket. The rain break made us regroup as a team and think about our plans."
The piquant thing is that Quinn has not been an automatic pick this season, for Essex are decently placed for seamers. Jamie Porter and Graham Napier are bowling well and the visitors could afford to rest David Masters for this game. One wondered how they would get on without their venerable linchpin. Essex had certainly shown more disregard for Masters than would be permitted in this place during term-time.
And all this drama followed a morning in which Gloucestershire's batsmen had made Ryan ten Doeschate's decision to bowl first look unwise at best. Batting on a surface they knew they could trust, Roderick and Chris Dent had driven confidently in the wide arc between extra cover at midwicket, adding 77 in 80 minutes before Dent edged Porter to Westley.
It made good watching for the chattering schoolchildren, who, still in uniform, sat patiently in the stand opposite the great pavilion. Arranged in rows of scarlet, navy blue and cyan, they offered a colour-chart of innocence and promise. More adult matters were being discussed in the pavilion: a chap was spotted carrying an early glass of fortifying cordial. "It's a bit early for Holy Communion, isn't it?" asked a friend.
Less than ten minutes before lunch the rain swept in and sent spectators scurrying. Scorecards gusted across the outfield. Cleeve Hill was shrouded in mist, and before long its ancient companion, Nottingham Hill, disappeared completely. A couple of hours later Gloucestershire's middle order did so as well.
Gloucs vs Essex
Specsavers County Championship Division One
England Domestic Season