THE last remaining cricket festival is upon us – no other county can provide 11 days of first class cricket on an ‘out ground’.
Marquees, music, stalls and trade stands as well as some crucial cricket will be on offer. Gloucestershire should be proud of maintaining the Brewin Dolphin Cheltenham Festival while other counties have lost theirs.
Of the other once popular ‘out grounds’ there is no Bath, no Weston and only one game at Scarborough. But a festival feast lies ahead at the College Ground.
The Championship matches are both winnable. Derbyshire (July 14-17) are not strong and we shall be tackling Worcestershire (July 21-24) without their top two players. Moeen Ali will be on Test match duties and star spin bowler Saeed Ajmal will be playing for Pakistan. If we can collect 40 points from those two matches the promotion race will be wide open. The T20 games will be thrilling and the Festival sees the start of the 50-over competition.
The T20 Blast win against Sussex, achieved in Bristol gloom, showed that once more our county knows how to play the short version of the game. Be flexible with the batting order, switch your bowling around, but above all be bold and keep going. Graeme McCarter hit 15 off five balls in the last over and off-spinner Jack Taylor, taking 3-12 at the death, showed they knew their team tasks.
Ian Cockbain bashed and bludgeoned a rapid half-century and was deservedly man of the match. Acting captain Alex Gidman looked visibly joyous and showed astonishing mobility, taking a catch in the outfield. It was almost as good as the boundary one taken by Hamish Marshall the ball before.
The two-point penalty because of the poor Cheltenham pitch at last year’s festival has been a ball and chain holding our team back. I have no problem with the ECB judgment, but it should not have affected us this season. We erred last season and should have been punished then.
Injuries are still a problem but there is some good news. Wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick has been playing as a batsman in a 2nd XI fixture this week and bowler Craig Miles also played, bowling a restricted number of overs, with Cheltenham appearances in view. James Fuller and Matt Taylor are definitely out but captain Klinger, speaking exclusively to your columnist, wants to play and thinks he will be able to. “I love Cheltenham, John, I cannot miss it.” He speaks for us all.