AN IMPRESSIVE fight back meant Gloucestershire could take away plenty of positives from their defeat to an Australia A side full of past, present and future international cricketers in the three-day tour match at Bristol.
Australia A appeared in control of the contest after rapidly scoring 331-4 declared in the first innings and then bowling the hosts out for 122, but after an incredible turnaround on a second day which saw 18 wickets fall, Gloucestershire had gone into the final day on 162-3 in their second innings, requiring a further 159 to win.
However, two of the five Ashes squad members included in the Australia side, Ryan Harris and Jackson Bird, pressed their claims ahead of the first Test against England at Trent Bridge, starting on July 10, by taking five wickets between them in the final morning to wrap up a 24-run win.
Harris (3-56) made the most of overcast conditions to have compatriot Dan Christian (46) caught behind by Matthew Wade and then trap Benny Howell (0) lbw in successive balls, with Will Gidman denying him a hat-trick with a good forward defensive.
Gidman (19) appeared in good form and added 42 with Gareth Roderick before being beaten for pace by Jackson Bird (3-53) to have his off-stump dislodged.
In the next over Roderick charged down the wicket to Ashton Agar but fell to a superb overhead one-handed catch by Fawad Ahmed at mid-on.
James Fuller then launched a counter-attack to put Gloucestershire back into contention by dominating a 48-run stand with Cameron Herring (9) before the latter nicked a Bird delivery to Jordan Silk at third slip.
Harris then returned to have Fuller (38) caught by the diving Steven Smith at second slip and although last pair Tom Smith (17*) and Liam Norwell offered stern resistance with a stand of 36, Australia sealed victory when Norwell (16) was caught behind off Chadd Sayers.
On the first day, opening batsman Nic Maddinson smashed 181 off 143 balls, including nine sixes as Australia dominated the opening day with Benny Howell claiming the best bowling figures of 2-37.
Chadd Sayers took 5-24 as Gloucestershire lost their last five first innings wickets for 18 runs, Howell again shining brightest with a top score of 35, but Australia declined to enforce the follow-on and the hosts were handed an unlikely route back into the game.
Will Gidman took 4-25, with his victims including Maddinson for a first-ball duck and Test batsman Phil Hughes (11), as Australia collapsed to 111 all out and fellow Thornbury club player Chris Dent hit 56 to get Gloucestershire's pursuit of 321 to win off to a good start.