Gloucestershire fall to Worcestershire in opening match
4 August 2020
Worcestershire seal eight-wicket victory over neighbours Gloucestershire in the Bob Willis Trophy Central Group.
Afforded hope by George Hankins' battling innings of 69, Gloucestershire were 73 runs ahead with four second-innings wickets in hand when Worcestershire's captain took the second new ball.
Sensing one final opportunity to force the issue, Leach took matters into his own hands, single-handedly eradicating the tail and finishing with figures of 4-70 as the home side were dismissed for 270.
Set 110 to win in 35 overs, Worcestershire reached their target with 8.5 overs to spare, Tom Fell and Jack Haynes staging an unbroken stand of 53 for the third wicket after Daryl Mitchell and Jake Libby had afforded the chase a sound start.
Commencing the final day on 135-3, still 26 runs behind, Gloucestershire were indebted to Hankins, whose patient four-hour vigil occupied 195 balls, yielded 69 runs and served to frustrate Midlands ambition. Together with nightwatchman Josh Shaw, who traded almost exclusively in boundaries in making 21, Hankins first helped Gloucestershire eradicate their overnight arrears.
No sooner were the hosts back in credit though, than Shaw succumbed, trapped lbw by Josh Tongue.
Undeterred, Hankins continued to apply himself to the business of steady accumulation, going to 50 via 147 balls, his innings a perfect template for what was required in the circumstances.
No doubt encouraged by memories of Gloucestershire's first-innings collapse, Leach continued to ring the changes, and his imaginative decision to call upon occasional bowler Daryl MItchell paid instant dividends when Ryan Higgins played at and missed a straight ball that rapped him on the back pad.
Worcestershire certainly fancied their chances when removing the hitherto adhesive Hankins shortly after lunch, Tongue cleverly setting him up and then pinning him lbw in his crease for 69. With him went Gloucestershire's best chance of staving off defeat.
Leach took the new ball soon afterwards and quickly accounted for the unfortunate Gareth Roderick, who offered no shot to a ball which appeared to be going high. Set to join the Worcestershire staff next season, Roderick beat a diplomatic retreat having contributed a modest nine.
When debutant Tom Price departed in identical fashion, pinned in his crease by Leach, Gloucestershire were 236-8 - just 75 in front - and deep in trouble. Worse followed, Jack Taylor offering a catch behind on 23 as the irrepressible Leach made it three wickets in as many overs.
Matt Taylor and David Payne hit out in a breezy last-wicket partnership of 31 to hold up the visitors, but their resistance was summarily ended when Leach uprooted the latter's off stump.
If Leach's new-ball heroics caught the eye, it was fellow seamers Tongue and Charlie Morris who laid the foundations for victory, these two taking six wickets apiece in the match.
Gloucestershire head coach Richard Dawson said:
"It was a missed opportunity. We did a lot of good work on the first day and should have gone on to make 300-plus. Unfortunately, we lost those wickets on the first day and were then under pressure.
"Fair play to Worcestershire - they played good cricket consistently and deserved to win. On the plus side, there are a few positive things we can take from this performance and build on. Chris Dent batted beautifully and George Hankins will take a lot of confidence from batting for that length of time.
"As a bowling unit, we failed to apply enough pressure and were unable to adhere to line and length for long enough. We'll brush ourselves down and be up for the next game against Warwickshire. It's good that the game is here, but we need to play better cricket."