Clinical Gloucestershire beat Essex in T20 Vitality Blast opener

30 May 2024

David Payne and Matt Taylor claimed four wickets apiece as Gloucestershire opened their Vitality Blast account with an impressive five-wicket victory over Essex at the Seat Unique Stadium in Bristol.

Making his first appearance of the season, Payne took three wickets with the new ball and then removed dangerman Daniel Sams to finish with 4-24, while Taylor eclipsed the tail to return career-best T20 figures of 4-22 from four overs and restrict last season's beaten finalists to 141-9.

Jordan Cox top-scored with 48 and dominated a stand of 64 in 6.5 overs for the fourth wicket with Paul Walter, who contributed 43, but the failure of seven batsmen to reach double figures fatally undermined the innings after Essex had been put in.

Gloucestershire made relatively light work of chasing a modest target, James Bracey posting 49 from 30 balls and dominating a stand of 83 in seven overs with Cameron Bancroft, who weighed in with 32 as the home side took control. Ben Charlesworth finished unbeaten on 22 as Gloucestershire wrapped up victory beneath the Bristol floodlights with 18 balls to spare.

Gloucestershire's decision to insert last season's runners-up was fully justified when Payne claimed wickets with his second and third deliveries, having Dean Elgar held at short third man and then producing a magnificent in-swinger to uproot Michael Pepper's middle stump as the visitors stumbled out of the starting blocks.

Left arm seamer, Payne, struck again in his next over, Adam Rossington pushing half forward to a ball that left him and offering a routine catch behind as Essex further subsided to 11-3. A wicket maiden meant Payne boasted figures of 3-6 from two overs.

Cox fought fire with fire, hoisting Matt Taylor over the long-off boundary for the first six of the innings and then repeating the feat at the expense of Marchant de Lange, while Walter greeted the advent of Beau Webster with an off-driven four as the fourth wicket pair staged a recovery, Essex advancing to 49-3 at the end of the powerplay.

In the absence of the injured Tom Smith, Graeme van Buuren was required to take pace off and keep things tight during the middle overs, and the slow left armer almost removed Cox on 46, putting down a sharp chance off his own bowling. But there was no escape for Cox, who attempted to drive de Lange and skied a catch to mid-off in the next over, the former Kent batter departing for a 27-ball 48 that included 4 fours and 3 sixes with the score on 75 in the tenth.

Webster, van Buuren and de Lange more or less cut off the supply of boundaries during the middle overs and Walter, under pressure to up the tempo, attempted to pull the returning Matt Taylor and top-edged a catch behind, departing the scene for a 30-ball 43. He had accrued 5 fours and a six and, at 110-5 in the 15th over, the innings was sorely in need of acceleration.

Heavily dependent upon talismanic Australian all-rounder Sams, Essex were dealt a further blow when their overseas chipped Payne to short extra having contributed just nine with the score on 119 in the 16th. Matt Taylor then accounted for Matt Critchley, caught and bowled for 16, Luc Benkenstein and Simon Harmer in the penultimate over as Essex faltered badly at the death. 

Needing to make early in-roads, Essex removed Miles Hammond in the first over, Harmer taking a superb diving catch at slip off the bowling of Sams. But new batter Bracey quickly redressed the balance, harvesting a six and a four from successive Aaron Beard deliveries and then producing an outrageous reverse scoop to claim another maximum, this time at the expense of Sams as the powerplay yielded 64 and the second wicket alliance realised 50 in 28 balls.

With the rate now down to a run a ball and nine wickets still in hand, Gloucestershire's batsmen were not obliged to take undue risk. But Bracey was clearly in a hurry, the 27-year-old left hander helping himself to 3 fours and 4 sixes to put the visitors firmly on the back foot.

Bancroft had scored a useful 32 from 18 deliveries with 6 fours when Benkenstein bowled the Australian via a big inside edge to afford Essex hope. Beard then had Bracey held on the deep mid-wicket boundary in the next over and Jack Taylor succumbed to Critchley's leg breaks for seven as Gloucestershire slipped to 100-4 in the twelfth.

Thereafter, Webster and Charlesworth matched one another blow for blow in a partnership of 35 for the fifth wicket as Gloucestershire overhauled their target with a minimum of fuss to afford their short format campaign lift-off in front of an appreciative Bristol audience.



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