Bracey stands out on tough first day
10 September 2019
James Bracey stood out from the crowd as Gloucestershire's batsmen found the going tough on the opening day of the Specsavers County Championship match against Sussex at Bristol.
Promoted to open an innings for only the second time in red-ball cricket, the 22-year-old left-hander top-scored with 61 from 123 balls as the hosts made a promising start after being put in on a green-tinged pitch.
But he proved an exception to the rule which saw so many of his team-mates succumb to variable bounce, Sussex paceman Chris Jordan cashing in with 3-49 as Gloucestershire were bowled out for 200 inside 78 overs.
Their innings was afforded perspective when Philip Salt (53 not out) and Luke Wells (6 not out) safely negotiated 16 overs to usher Sussex to 73 without loss at the close, 127 runs behind with all first-innings wickets in hand.
Second in the table and attempting a return to Division One for the first time since 2005, Gloucestershire were indebted to Bracey's powers of composure and application on a pitch which offered encouragement to the bowlers.
A study in concentration, the 22-year-old dominated an opening stand of 48 in 18 overs with Chris Dent, whose search for fluency ended when he followed a Tom Haines away-swinger and was held at slip by Jordan for seven. Gareth Roderick departed soon afterwards, swept up by late swing and comprehensively bowled by David Wiese without scoring.
Yet there was no stopping Bracey, who realised his fourth Championship 50 of the summer in imperious fashion, pulling Delray Rawlins to mid-wicket for his seventh boundary as Gloucestershire reached lunch handily-placed on 86-2.
In confident mood after scoring an unbeaten hundred at Derby in his last red-ball innings, the Bristol-born batsman clearly had another big score in his sights.
Speaking after his impressive first innings, Bracey said:
"We made a pretty good start and things went well for me personally in the morning. I was doing what I like doing and felt good about my game. But we lost a few too many wickets up top and tailed off a bit later in the day.
We let them get away from us a bit at the end, which was disappointing, but there is rain forecast overnight and the ball will still be pretty new in the morning.If we gather ourselves, come back strongly and take a couple of early wickets, then we will be right back in this game."
But Sussex had other ideas and staged a spirited fightback in the afternoon sunshine, Jordan initiating the slide with a startling delivery to induce the hitherto faultless Bracey to edge a catch behind.
Tom Smith succumbed to the former England paceman two overs later, fending a rising delivery to slip and departing for a duck. Miles Hammond was next to go for 16, top-edging a pull shot high to square leg as George Garton struck with his second delivery from the Bristol Pavilion End, while Ryan Higgins aimed an extravagant drive at a wide delivery from Wiese and was brilliantly caught by Salt at second slip for 22.
Jordan had Ben Charlesworth caught at the wicket for 28 after tea, Jack Taylor fell in identical fashion to provide Ollie Robinson with a deserved scalp and Matt Taylor was confounded by Will Beer's googly. Only David Payne summoned lower-order defiance, finishing unbeaten on 22 to at least bank a solitary batting bonus point for his side.
Any suggestion that Gloucestershire had under-achieved was afforded further credence when Salt, in assertive mood, took West Indies paceman Shannon Gabriel to task, plundering four successive boundaries in the penultimate over to realise a 56-ball half century as Sussex finished the day in credit.