JOHN BRACEWELL has compared the feel-good factor at Gloucestershire to Great Britain during the London Olympics since development work began on the County Ground.

When Gloucestershire take on Northamptonshire in their first home County Championship game of the season at Bristol, starting next Wednesday, April 24, it will be the first chance for many members to see signs of the off-field progress the club has made with the new £6million pavilion, due to be completed this summer, taking shape.

After a long struggle to get the green light for their ground plans, Gloucestershire have had to cut their cloth, leaving director of cricket Bracewell to work with a reduced budget and oversee an overhaul of the squad following the departure of several senior players.

However, the New Zealander can now see the light at the end of the tunnel and he insists the sight of builders at the ground over the winter gave everyone at the club, including the players, a huge lift. Bracewell believes that can act as a catalyst for a change of fortunes on the pitch after they finished bottom of Division Two last season, and they had plenty of positives to take away from their rain-affected draw against Essex in their opening game of the new campaign at Chelmsford.

“There has been a complete morale change at the club,” said Bracewell.

“The collective optimism almost equates to the optimism around England during the Olympics.

“It’s been four hard years for the players because most of the savings have come out of cricket and it was difficult for them to see where this whole thing was going.

“The moment the builders walked in they went ‘that’s tangible, I get it.’

“The guys could see a point to what they were doing and the hard work that was put in by the administrative staff, the board and Tom Richardson (chief executive) in particular.”

Centuries for Dan Housego and Hamish Marshall in a fourth-wicket stand of 280 were the biggest highlights for Gloucestershire as they took nine points away from Chelmsford.

Coming together with the score on 71-3, Housego scored his first County Championship century for the club in a career-best 150, while Marshall made 149 before new skipper Michael Klinger declared with the final batting point secured on 409-5.

James Fuller made early inroads with two wickets at the end of day two to reduce Essex to 23-2, but Tom Westley led their comeback by scoring 163 and after several rain delays they reached 353-6 before the game was declared as a draw.

Gloucestershire have no game this week.