Bracey blasts Gloucestershire to victory
13 August 2019
Academy product James Bracey registered his highest score in Vitality T20 Blast cricket as Gloucestershire successfully chased a victory target of 140 to beat Hampshire by seven wickets with 13 balls to spare at the Bristol County Ground.
Bracey scored his maiden T20 fifty in his ninth appearance and dominated a match-winning partnership of 102 in 11 overs with Michael Klinger on his way to a superb 64 from 48 balls.
Aneurin Donald hit a rapid 44, but too many batsmen perished to poor shots as Hampshire slumped to 139-6 in the face of incisive bowling from left arm seamer Chris Liddle.
Victory saw Gloucestershire move above arch rivals Somerset and into fourth place in the South Group ahead of Friday's eagerly-anticipated West derby showdown in Taunton.
At opposite ends of the career spectrum, Bracey and Klinger batted beautifully in front of the Sky TV cameras, making light of a slow pitch and delighting a home crowd of 5,000 fans.
Without a meaningful score to his name so far this summer, Klinger enjoyed a slice of good fortune when Ryan Stevenson, bowling the fifth over from the Ashley Down Road End, apparently located his outside edge, Lewis McManus held on behind the stumps and umpire Mike Burns gave the Australian the benefit of the doubt. Klinger took a pace down the pitch and whipped the next ball over mid-wicket for six, after which Stevenson lost his cool, bowling a no ball and two wides in an over which went for 25 and gave Gloucestershire lift-off.
Expansive when afforded an opportunity during a powerplay which spawned 62 runs, Gloucestershire's second wicket pair elected to find the gaps, scamper quick singles and wait patiently for the bad ball thereafter, a strategy which had the virtue of keeping the scoreboard ticking over.
The effects of the floodlights and gathering dew combined to speed up the ball and Bracey and Klinger took full advantage, the former going to 50 via his eighth four.
Having raised 40 from 38 balls and hit two sixes, Klinger succumbed to Liam Dawson's off breaks, while Bracey departed soon afterwards, caught and bowled by Chris Morris. That left Ian Cockbain and Ryan Higgins to complete the chase and complete a comfortable victory.
Gloucestershire had earlier paved the way for victory with an assured performance in the field, Liddle taking 3-25, Tom Smith a miserly 1-20 from four overs and Andrew Tye three catches on the boundary.
That was a necessary win and, with four games to go, our fate is in our own hands. I was really pleased with the performance and particularly the bowling group. We asked them to be aggressive and I thought they got more out of the pitch than Hampshire's bowlers. Aneurin Donald batted really well during the powerplay, but I thought we dragged it back superbly after that, bowling a good length and building pressure at both ends.
Captain Michael Klinger spoke highly of James Bracey after the victory:
"It's great to see a young player like James Bracey scoring runs in all forms of the game. He was so calm out there and played some really good shots. That left-right-hand partnership helped matters and, hopefully, he will continue to be in good form and score runs at the top of the order. He's a young bloke who is going to do well for Gloucestershire for many years to come and, maybe, even play foir England one day.
We now have two games against Somerset, one at their place on Friday and another here a week later. Because we are so close in the table, the winner of those games will be in a really good position to qualify for the quarter-finals."
Yet the hosts had first to weather a terrible storm, opener Donald throwing caution to the wind and taking the aerial route in clubbing a quickfire 44 from 23 balls. He struck 5 fours and 2 sixes as the powerplay yielded dividends for Hampshire and Gloucestershire, who bowled too short initially, no doubt breathed a collective sigh of relief when the Welshman became the first of Liddle's three victims, holing out to Tye on the long-on boundary.
There was no apparent cause for unease in Hampshire ranks while Sam Northeast and Liam Dawson scored at a run a ball in adding 29 for the third wicket. But the complexion of the contest underwent a fundamental change when these two departed in the space of eight deliveries in the 12th and 13th overs.
Dawson danced down the pitch and tried to hit Smith straight back over his head, only to fall short and find Tye on the boundary, while Liddle induced Northeast to top-edge a catch behind.
Too many batsmen failed to adapt to the slow pace of the pitch and former Gloucestershire man James Fuller perished in similar fashion, smashing a ball from Liddle straight down the throat of Tye at long-on as the visitors subsided to 107-5 in the 15th over.
South African veteran Chris Morris (18 not out) and McManus (18) went someway towards repairing the damage, staging a partnership of 28 in three overs. But when Tye had McManus caught at square leg off a top-edged pull shot in the penultimate over, Hampshire were 135-6 and already consigned to falling short.
Signed on loan from Nottinghamshire as a replacement for the injured Benny Howell, Zak Chappell made a good first impression on debut, claiming the scalp of England batsman James Vince and taking a catch.
Aneurin Donald went off like a train, but his dismissal in the seventh over off Liddle allowed Gloucestershire's bowlers an opportunity to exert a stranglehold.
SHOT OF THE DAY
Michael Klinger strode down the pitch and hoisted a length ball from Stevenson over mid-wicket for six and, in doing so, imposed his will on the Hampshire bowlers.
Hugely underrated, Gloucestershire slow left arm spinner Tom Smith did what he does so often, keeping things tight from one end and weighing in with a wicket.
No additional motivation will be required when Gloucestershire travel the short distance to Taunton to renew their rivalry with arch enemies Somerset in the West derby on Friday evening. Only victory will suffice if Gloucestershire are to keep pace with the South Group front-runners.