Gloucestershire 144 for 3 (Bracey 64) beat Hampshire 139 for 6 by seven wickets
Gloucestershire overcame Hampshire on a slow, sluggish Bristol wicket to go fourth in the Vitality Blast South Group, thanks to a canny bowling performance and an impressive 64 from James Bracey.
With Rilee Rossouw (ill), Brad Taylor and Mason Crane (both side strains) missing, Hampshire looked light on batting at the toss, and so it proved. After Aneurin Donald‘s eyecatching innings had taken them to 54 for 1 after the powerplay, their innings fell away horribly as Tom Smith found purchase on a turgid pitch, and their seamers used their usual variety of slower balls and cutters.
A target of 140 was never likely to be easy to defend, and after a cautious first four overs of the chase, the fifth broke the back of the chase and meant Gloucestershire could stay in third gear for the remainder.
The beneficiary of those absentees was Ryan Stevenson, the redhead seamer who came in for his first game of the Blast season, but he must have wished he had spent the night in the dugout as usual.
His first ball would have seen Michael Klinger caught behind but for an umpiring error, and things quickly got worse. Klinger chipped a six over midwicket, then got off strike with a three; Stevenson threw in two wides, was smashed for four twice by Bracey, including once off a no-ball, and then had him out caught off the free hit. One last boundary followed, meaning 25 had come off it, and the asking rate shot down to below six.
From that point, Hampshire were toast, as Bracey and Klinger knocked the ball around easily with little pressure on them to score. This was Klinger’s highest T20 score in just under a year – the situation could hardly have suited him better.
This pitch had seen Gloucestershire only squeeze past Kent’s 125 for 8 last week, and from the moment David Payne started to bowl his cutters in the game’s third over, it seemed clear that this pitch would suit their attack.
The conditions could only have been more perfect if they had been able to call upon the services of Benny Howell, who will miss the rest of the season after injuring his hamstring diving in the field against Surrey last week.
As cover, Gloucestershire brought in Zak Chappell on loan from Nottinghamshire, the young fast bowler with a big future and an even bigger reported salary. He struck early to dismiss James Vince – who he gave a roaring send-off – but proved the most expensive bowler on show; perhaps he was overzealous in his efforts to impress after an underwhelming debut season at Trent Bridge.
Hampshire’s selection – while hampered by injury – looked particularly strange when Chris Morris strode out to bat at number five. It was just the 14th time that Morris had batted in the top five in a T20, despite his 180 matches, and he struggled badly to eke out an unbeaten 18 off 24 balls. That they left out Tom Alsop, while having seven bowling options, seemed curious.
This was the sort of surface on which Gloucestershire tend to thrive, and it was apparent that Andrew Tye‘s influence in his several stints as an overseas player has extended beyond just his wickets. Chris Liddle spoke at the interval about the work the club’s seamers do with one another to develop more slower balls and variations, and he, Tye, and Payne went for just 78 from their 12 overs; Ryan Higgins, so impressive in the win at Surrey, never even made it into the attack.
At the interval, it had looked clear that Liam Dawson would be the key man if Hampshire were to come close, but by the time he came on the asking rate had already fallen to 5.46. He was characteristically frugal, but the game was effectively up by the time he had the opportunity to influence it.
Bracey, who has quietly impressed for the best part of three seasons in the Championship, has only recently nailed down a spot in Gloucestershire’s T20 side, but shone with a mature innings in the chase. He was particularly impressive combating the fiery Morris, nailing an early cover drive and pulling him for four in his second spell. He was a recent call-up for the England Lions, and at 22 looks like an old-school batsman with serious promise.
“I’m really pleased with how we’ve come back from a defeat,” he told Sky. “We just wanted to take the initiative with the new ball, which slid onto the bat nicely. It came off for us and made it easier for us at the back end. I’ve started to find my feet in the last few games, so it’s good to play a match-winning knock.”
Gloucestershire’s campaign thus far has been a stop-start affair, with two no-results and a tie in their first four games keeping them in the bunch of teams competing for the quarter-finals. But with three wins in their last four – and a trip to fourth-placed Somerset on Friday night looming – they are now set to be part of the South Group’s qualification narrative.
Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme cleared to travel to Australia
NZC confirmed the pair would travel to Perth with the squad on Saturday having come through a training session in Mount Maunganui on Friday. Boult (side strain) and de Grandhomme (abdominal tear) had missed the second Test against England in Hamilton.
“Trent Boult and Colin de Grandhomme are both making good progress with their injuries and successfully trained today at Bay Oval,” NZC posted on Twitter. “The pair will travel with the team to Perth tomorrow.”
There still remains a question mark over their participation in the day-night Test at Perth Stadium which starts on Thursday, but the progress is encouraging.
Boult, especially, is vital to New Zealand’s hopes of pushing Australia with him potentially being a handful with the pink ball and his side strain was causing the most concern after he picked it up against England in Mount Maunganui.
“I don’t know if I’m really confident, but I’m quietly optimistic they’re tracking where we want them to be,” New Zealand coach Gary Stead said earlier this week.
In Boult’s absence, Matt Henry played the second Test against England but New Zealand will need to give serious consideration into introducing the extra pace of uncapped Lockie Ferguson. Tim Southee and Neil Wagner, who has yet to play a Test in Australia, were the other members of the pace attack.
De Grandhomme provides important balance to the New Zealand side. He averages 40.33 with the bat and 29.63 with the ball in 19 Tests. His injury handed a Test debut to Daryl Mitchell who made 73 but went wicketless in Hamilton.
Cameron Green ruled out of bowling due to stress fracture
Cameron Green, the Western Australia allrounder who has been tipped to soon feature for Australia, will be unable to bowl for the foreseeable future after suffering a stress fracture of his back.
Green, 20, has been lauded by Ricky Ponting and compared to Andrew Flintoff after starring for Western Australia in the Sheffield Shield with two centuries this season but has been unable to bowl in the last two matches and that will now extend at least throughout the Big Bash.
“Follow up scans this week on Cameron’s lower back have revealed the early stages of a lumbar stress fracture,” Western Australia sports science medicine manager, Nick Jones, said. “This will require an extended period of rest from bowling to ensure the fracture heals adequately.
“No timeframe has been set for Cameron to return to bowling, however we are not expecting him to be bowling during the BBL. He will continue to be available for selection as a batter.”
Speaking earlier this week, Green had been confident that his current back soreness had not been serious and viewed himself as a genuine allrounder in the future.
“Coming through as a junior I’ve always seen myself as a genuine allrounder,” he said. “At times for WA, I was definitely a bowling allrounder, batting nine or ten and not scoring too many runs. So I’m pretty happy I’m getting a couple of runs out the way but in the future, I’d like to be a genuine allrounder.”
Trevor Hohns, the Australia selection chairman, said that picking someone at a young age would not be an issue but Green’s back problem would be monitored.
“I don’t have an issue with his age, it’s more about whether his body can cope and what he can do bowling, particularly in the allrounder category,” Hohns said. “We know he’s a very good bat, he is a fine up-and-coming young player.”
Captaincy inspires Jess Duffin and raises question of Australia comeback
There is someone playing in the WBBL finals this weekend who has been player of the match in a World T20 final and a World Cup final. Someone who has reached the highest level of two sports and still plays both concurrently at the domestic level.
The Melbourne Renegades captain Jess Duffin is one of the form players of the tournament making 500 runs at an average of 71.72 with five half-centuries including three in a row leading into the finals weekend. But Duffin can’t quite work out where her form has come from.
“It’s a good question,” Duffin told ESPNcricinfo. “I haven’t really thought about it too much to be honest. I went into the season the same way I have every other year but as I explained to other people in the past, it’s T20 cricket, anything can happen, it’s a bit up and down.”
Duffin’s sporting resume is quite remarkable. In an era where female cricketers are becoming national icons, Duffin appears, at times, to be persona non grata. In part, it is because her international cricket career came to a sudden halt four years ago and it came under a different name.
Jess Cameron, as she was known prior to getting married, had a stellar international career for Australia. She has played in three World T20 triumphs for Australia and was player of the match in the 2012 final against England scoring 45 off 34 balls.
Her ODI record was even better. She made 75 from 76 balls in the 2013 final against West Indies.
But she hasn’t played for Australia since 2015, stepping away from international level by choice at just 26. While still playing domestic cricket in the WBBL, she has instead been playing Australian Rules Football, starring in the AFLW for North Melbourne, earning a place in the All Australian team, the league’s team of the season, earlier this year.
Duffin has made the WBBL team of the year this season as captain after leading the Renegades to another semi-final. Of the eight players to have made 400 runs or more, she has the highest strike-rate, 140.05, by some margin and is the only player who doesn’t currently play international cricket.
After years of worrying about her own form and her own performance she has discovered that the captaincy, which was thrust upon her due to Amy Satterthwaite’s pregnancy, might be the secret to success.
“In the past couple of years I probably haven’t really backed myself in terms of trying to get the team over the line,” Duffin said. “But this year with the captaincy…I don’t get time to think about myself because I’m trying to help them in the situation we have in front of us. So it’s probably been a good thing not focussing on myself too much.
“I think it’s just more about understanding the game of T20 cricket. I haven’t really had to think about it in the past because we’ve had other captains do all that sort of thinking for us. So I’ve had to do a lot of work behind the scenes in terms of looking at footage and watching other people play.”
Studying vision of opposition to gain a competitive advantage has helped Duffin guide her young middle order through some tricky chases. She admitted it was something she didn’t do enough of in her six-year international career.
“We used to do it as a group when we were sitting in batting and bowling meetings and stuff like that but I didn’t go the extra mile and have a look myself,” she said. “So that’s probably one area I’ve probably been a bit better at, just in terms of my research. But I think that’s because I’m captain and I kind of need to know what these players are doing. I’ve tended to watch a bit more than normal.”
Duffin’s form has now raised questions about a recall to the Australia side for the T20 World Cup next February. But her availability is complicated. She declined the opportunity to play for Australia A against India A in an upcoming series and the 2020 AFLW season clashes with the T20 World Cup in March.
Complicating matters further, Duffin doesn’t even know what she would like to do.
“Not really,” Duffin said. “I haven’t really thought about it to be honest. I know there’s been a lot of talk about my selection and stuff and I haven’t had any contact with the selectors at all and you look at that [Australian] line-up and think ‘well, where am I sitting?’. There’s some really good players in there at the moment and my sole focus this weekend is to make sure we come out on top on Sunday.”
For now, Australia, North Melbourne, her personal training work, her husband and her dogs all run a distant second to leading the Renegades to victory and atoning for last year’s heartbreaking semi-final loss against the Sydney Sixers in a super over.
The Renegades have been shorn of their two England stars Danni Wyatt and Tammy Beaumont, but they have gained Chamari Atapattu who made a century against Australia in October in Brisbane.
“Hopefully she can do what she did the Australians a couple of months ago and dominate on Saturday,” Duffin said. “With the ball, we’ve obviously got Lea Tahuhu upfront and Molly Strano has been doing a really good job for us throughout the middle so we can throw the ball to anyone at any time and anyone can step up.
“We do match up well against [the Brisbane Heat]. I think it’s about going in with a pretty clear plan and obviously we know they like to score big so it’s just trying to restrict that. They’ve got Beth Mooney and Jess Jonassen up the top who are in some really good form so it’s just having the right plans for them and just obviously going out and executing.”
The Heat will need their own plans for the unassuming Duffin, who has reminded everyone this year just how good she is.
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