The 2017 Cheltenham Festival finished on a soggy note as the NatWest T20 Blast match against Sussex was abandoned because of rain.
The weather intervened after Sussex had scored 156-8 in their 20 overs. Rain prevented a prompt resumption and only briefly did there appear hope of Gloucestershire batting for the five overs required to constitute a match before umpires Rob Bailey and Steve Gale called off play at 5.10pm.
Gloucestershire handed a debut to Sri Lankan all rounder Thisara Perera in place of Kieran Noema-Barnett, while George Hankins replaced Cameron Bancroft.
Sussex captain Ross Taylor decided to bat first after winning the toss, and the Sharks’ innings was one of almost constant struggle. Timing the ball was awkward, and Taylor was to bat for more than 14 overs and yet still fall short of a half century.
Gloucestershire made an excellent start, Howell holding a fine catch at mid wicket to dismiss the in-form Luke Wright in the second over bowled by David Payne. Chris Nash struck two sixes and a four in Matt Taylor’s third over, and the powerplay ended with an eventful introduction to affairs in Gloucestershire colours for Perera. 13 runs came from his first over, but the Sri Lankan also removed Nash for 33 to a leg side catch by Phil Mustard.
Perera’s influence on the game could have increased further when Ross Taylor, on three, clipped Howell to deep mid wicket only for the chance to be spilled. Taylor and Ben Brown were content to accumulate rather than attack with any force, and Howell’s variation of pace split them when Brown miscued a pull shot and was caught and bowled for 30.
Taylor’s six in the 13th over – the first from Chris Liddle – was only the third of the match and the Sussex innings didn’t really crackle into life until the 17th over, when the former Sussex bowler took the wickets of Evans (9) and Wiese in successive deliveries and Chris Jordan was run out by a direct hit by Perera off the hat trick ball.
Liddle’s last over was equally eventful, Joffra Archer striking four boundaries with an array of aggressive shots before a beamer saw Liddle removed from the attack. Perera completed the over with minimal damager before Payne picked up two wickets in the last, one to a catch by Klinger after Hankins had parried a shot by Archer which appeared to be going for six at extra cover back into play.
The watching Gareth Roderick expressed the view that 156-8 was a good score as the players came off, Ross Taylor having held the Sussex innings together with an unbeaten 47 from 40 balls.
The rain started in the scheduled break between innings and conditions quickly forced the ground staff to pull on all the available covers. More than an hour passed before they could start thinking of a resumption, and large volumes of sawdust were put on parts of the outfield with the 5.27 deadline looming by which time play had to start to constitute a game.
Briefly there appeared hope, but play was called off at 5.10, both teams taking one point. Gloucestershire finish the Cheltenham Festival unbeaten and now head to Canterbury to face Kent on Tuesday.
Reflecting on the match, skipper Michael Klinger said: “It was pretty well balanced after Sussex got what was about a par score on a wicket that was a bit slower than the other ones here.”
“Unfortunately we didn’t get the chance to bat and that’s what happens sometimes. Points wise we’ve still got four from a possible six with a lot of T20 cricket coming up over the next few weeks so it’s important we switch on now for every single game.”