GLOUCESTERSHIRE batsman Chris Dent is determined to use his spectacular match-winning innings against Essex in the NatWest T20 Blast as a launch pad to turn his season around.
Coming in at number four, Dent smashed five sixes and two fours in a superb 55 not out from just 23 balls to rescue Gloucestershire from the brink and see them to their target of 184 with six wickets in hand and two balls to spare at the Cheltenham Festival on Sunday, stunning an Essex side who are top of the South Group and had only lost one of their previous 11 games.
The 23-year-old had only managed 52 runs in the whole competition this year beforehand and had already been dropped from the County Championship side after scoring just 303 runs at an average of just 18.94 in ten games, but revealed that a chat with former New Zealand international Hamish Marshall helped him change his fortunes.
“I spoke to Hamish on the day off over coffee for about an hour about how you get out of these ruts and he gave me some great advice,” said Thornbury Cricket Club product Dent.
“He told me I need to relax a bit and made me realise that 20 overs is a lot longer than you think and you can do things like that at the end of the game, you don’t have to panic in your first four balls like I was doing.
“It’s a relief to get some runs but I’ve got to kick-on from here. I’ve really under-achieved this year so far so I’ve got to get myself back into the teams.
“I haven’t really got going in this tournament so far so I owed the team a few runs and it just came off.
“When you’re not doing well you’ve got to try and be upbeat around the lads because you don’t want to drag them down and drain them with negativity so that’s what I tried to do.”
Gloucestershire required 91 to win off the last 47 balls of their innings, when Dent, on one at the time, was joined at the crease by Ian Cockbain (27) and the pair put on 70 in just six overs for the fourth wicket to raise hopes of an unlikely win.
They still needed 12 off the final over bowled by Matt Salisbury with Dent running four off the first two balls before launching a huge six over the mid-wicket boundary to bring up his half-century and then swatting the next ball away in the same area for four to complete the victory.
It looked as though Gloucestershire were going to be made to pay for dropping England international Ravi Bopara three times on his way to 51 in Essex’s total of 183-7.
The visitors made a flying start, racing to 59-2 by the end of their powerplay with Mark Pettini (26) and Kishen Velani (34) cashing in while the field was up.
Bopara was on four when Benny Howell couldn’t gather a difficult return chance and 19 when Jack Taylor dropped a dolly at short third man following a reverse sweep off the same bowler.
The batsman put on 53 in 5.4 overs with Ben Foakes (23) for the fifth wicket and survived one more chance as he went to his half-century, David Payne letting the ball slip through his hands at deep mid-wicket to allow the ball to run for four before making amends from the next delivery to ensure Howell finally got his man on his way to career-best figures of 4-26.
That was one of three wickets to fall in seven balls, but Ryan Ten Doeschate ensured Essex finished strongly by hitting an unbeaten 27 off nine balls.
Gloucestershire were not quite able to match the pace of Essex’s powerplay but Michael Klinger (45) and Alex Gidman (27) put on 71 for the first wicket in 8.2 overs to give them a solid platform.
Essex put the brakes on with three wickets falling and just 22 runs being scored from 23 balls before Dent and Cockbain turned the game on its head.
Gloucestershire, who are unable to qualify from the South Group, face Glamorgan at the Swalec Stadium in their final NatWest T20 Blast game on Friday before returning to Cheltenham on Sunday to face Northamptonshire (10.30am) in their opening game of the Royal London One-Day Cup, the new 50-over competition.