Gloucestershire’s first defeat away from home in the Nat West T20 Blast since their final match in the 2015 tournament has left qualification for the quarter finals dependent on their last three results in the pool stages of the competition.
They could manage only 138 after being asked to bat first by Sussex at Hove, despite a third wicket stand of 77 between Phil Mustard (43) and Cameron Bancroft (37). The middle order couldn’t build on their partnership and Benny Howell was the only other batsman to reach double figures.
Defending a run rate of barely seven an over and realistically needing to bowl Sussex out to win, the home side were 83-5 at one stage before Laurie Evans and David Wiese put together the decisive partnership to take Sussex to victory by five wickets in the eighteenth over. The result leaves Gloucestershire fifth in the South Group, level on points with Sussex and Somerset but behind them on net run rate.
— Gloucestershire CCC (@Gloscricket) 11 August 2017
Gloucestershire made two changes to the side that beat Somerset at the Brightside Ground in their last game, Chris Liddle taking the place of the departed Thisara Perera, and Cameron Bancroft returning to the top order in place of George Hankins, and the Australian was soon walking to the middle after Gloucestershire lost the toss and were put into bat.
If the start wasn’t calamitous, it certainly wasn’t ideal. Skipper Michael Klinger guided David Wiese’s first ball into the hands of Chris Nash at slip, and then off the final delivery of the opening over, Ian Cockbain was run out after a flat, hard throw from Jofra Archer from short fine leg found him short of his ground attempting a second run.
The smart opinion am0ng the locals was that 170 would be a challenging chase batting second and for a while Bancroft and Phil Mustard threatened to give Gloucestershire the base to get there. Mustard square drove Archer for three boundaries in an over and Bancroft’s cleanly struck straight six off Wiese was reminiscent of Klinger on a more productive day. Mustard also pulled Archer for six before the powerplay was over and the early damage looked to have been repaired until the introduction of left arm seamer George Garton.
Mustard thumped a free hit delivery for another six to mid wicket in an eventful opening over before attempting a dab shot to third man and edging to ‘keeper Brown for 43. Bancroft then held the key to the innings. Having made a century in the second XI on Thursday he was clearly in good touch but Garton produced the best delivery of his spell to bowl him for 37 in 11th over, and Gloucestershire’s middle and lower order were left to build a competitive score, a task that proved easier said than done.
Wickets fell regularly for the rest of the innings as all the batsmen tried to raise the run rate. Kieran Noema-Barnett was particularly unlucky, caught at the second attempt on the boundary by van Zyl after he appeared to topple over the rope. Only some nifty footwork and quick thinking saved him, and Benny Howell’s departure for 20, caught at long on, typified the way Sussex strangled the game to force errors. Chris Jordan picked up two wickets in the 19th over and Gloucestershire had been dismissed without using their full 20 overs for the first time in four years.
With a modest total to defend, Gloucestershire needed just about everything to go their way, so a couple of inside edges to the boundary in Matt Taylor’s first over were hardly helpful but it was the younger of the Taylor brothers, along with Chris Liddle, who checked Sussex’s early progress.
Liddle – on a ground where he played for nine years – first pouched a comfortable catch when Chris Nash tried to work a short ball from Taylor into the leg side, and then took two wickets in an over, one with the aid of a brilliantly judged catch by Klinger at long off to dismiss Luke Wright.
Both Wright and Nash had made 22 and 42-0 became 58-4 as van Zyl edged to Mustard and Benny Howell had an lbw appeal upheld against Sussex captain Ross Taylor. The Sharks had lost a low scoring game at Lord’s 24 hours earlier and this one was certainly back in the balance.
Had a chance offered by Laurie Evans been taken in the 12th over off Tom Smith, who knows what might have happened. A mix up between Phil Mustard and Matt Taylor saw the ball go to ground, and although David Payne removed Ben Brown soon afterwards, Evans proved to be the glue that Sussex needed in their innings to secure victory.
He found a capable partner in David Wiese, and after initially steady progress towards their target both of the sixth wicket pair cleared the boundary as the Sharks moved through the gears to win with more than two overs in hand, Evans striking two sixes in the same over off Chris Liddle to finish 45 not out.
It is a result that keeps Sussex in the mix for a quarter final spot, and leaves Gloucestershire grateful that with an additional game they have time to recover from the setback of a five wicket defeat and still join them in the last eight.