Warwickshire 274 (Sibley 120, Briggs 65, Gohar 5-64) and 58 for 5 lead Gloucestershire 255 (Taylor 71, Yadav 5-90, Briggs 3-79) by 77 runs
Warwickshire endured a nightmarish start to their second innings at the end of the second day to slip deeper into relegation trouble and give Gloucestershire hopes of their first Championship win of the season.
Considering the shenanigans at Chelmsford, and to a lesser extent at the Ageas Bowl, it should be underlined that this has been a challenging, but reasonable enough September surface, offering plenty of encouragement for the new-ball bowlers, slow turn for the slow bowlers and some uneven bounce. More raised eyebrow than slap on the wrist. It has made for immensely watchable cricket, even if a three-day finish is on the cards.
Warwickshire’s sporting director Paul Farbrace, who is stepping down at the end of the season, said: “It was a very tough last hour. There have been some crazy sessions and mad hours elsewhere in the country this week and it was our turn today. But Alex Davies showed some real fight to see it through to the close and, providing we can put on more runs and get to at least 150 tomorrow, we could still be okay. Anything above that and the pressure starts to swing the other way.”
Price, a 22-year-old who cut his cricket teeth in Great and Little Tew CC in the Cherwell League, now has 25 wickets at only 21.08 for the season and considering Gloucestershire’s travails has pronounced himself their breakthrough player of the season. Apart from the left-arm spinner, Zafar Gohar, who has had a sturdy season in adversity, and Ryan Higgins, who has not been seen since Cheltenham and is returning to Middlesex, no other Gloucestershire bowler has taken more than 15 wickets.
With Kent and Somerset thriving midway through the penultimate round of matches, defeat for Warwickshire could well plunge them into the bottom two. The draught of relegation will also be reaching Yorkshire, who are under the cosh against the leaders at at Kia Oval. Indications are that there will be much left to play for in the final week.
Price’s most meaningful moment arguably came with only his second delivery. Dom Sibley had batted through Warwickshire’s first innings for six-and-a-half hours for an unbeaten 120, but he made a second-ball duck second time around as Price seamed one back to win an lbw decision. He said afterwards that it was the dismissal that gave him hope – “he was the rock we could not get past on the first day” – but he felt he had bowled better first time around.
Rob Yates dragged on against David Payne before Price could take up the challenge again. He won another lbw decision in his second over when Sam Hain, perhaps determined to escape the tortuous manner of his first innings, stepped across to leg to try to work the ball through the leg side.
In his next over, the skipper, Will Rhodes, edged to the wicketkeeper as Price seamed one across him. Jayant Yadav was so offended by his third-ball nought – another keeper’s catch for James Bracey – that he gave the umpire a death stare for fully six seconds before making his way off the field. The umpire lived to tell the tale – and will probably tell it on an official form.
Warwickshire had not identified the surface as a seam bowler’s paradise, quite the contrary. They bowled only 20 overs of pace in their 74.3 overs in the field, relying on the combined spin efforts of Yadav (who was excellent for his 5 for 90) and Danny Briggs (3 for 79) as they dismissed Gloucestershire for 255 to claim a paltry first-innings lead of 19.
Gloucestershire’s familiar failings emerged once more as they lost half their side for 95. Ben Charlesworth received a snorter from Ryan Sidebottom, who was otherwise expensive, but there were some weak top-order dismissals against the spinners. Briggs defeated Miles Hammond’s attempts to advance and hit him down the ground, and Yadav, who is in his first spell in county cricket at 32, bowled Bracey as he lurched blindly at a straight, well-flighted delivery. Bracey began the season with 177 against Yorkshire, and briefly encouraged talk of an England return, but he has largely struggled since.
It was still Warwickshire’s game. Their lead was 73 with three wickets to get. Complete the job and the match was as good as theirs. They reckoned without Gohar, one of the most unsung overseas players and one of the worthiest. His batting is always plucky and occasionally unorthodox. By the time Yadav bowled him, attempting a reverse sweep, his 55 from 82 balls had trimmed the lead to 19 and he might still have a part to play with the ball if Gloucestershire are finally to taste victory.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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