Gloucestershire lose to Worcestershire despite Jack Taylor's defiant 98

29 July 2023

Worcestershire's seamers demonstrated admirable resolve to forge a dramatic late victory over Gloucestershire on the final day of an enthralling LV=County Championship match at the Cheltenham Festival.

Adam Finch claimed 4-83, Dillon Pennington 4-63 and Joe Leach 2-57 as the visitors bowled out their neighbours for 311 to win by 110 runs with just 8.5 overs remaining.

Worcestershire had earlier declared their second innings on 316-8, setting Gloucestershire a notional 421 to win in 96 overs. They looked on course to achieve a routine victory when reducing the home side to 190-7 shortly before tea, only for brothers Jack and Matt Taylor to stage a defiant stand of 95 in 27 overs.

It took a late burst from Pennington with the second new ball to finally end Gloucestershire resistance, the Shrewsbury-born seamer removing Jack Taylor for a season's-best 98 and Zaman Akhter in the space of three balls. He then bowled Paul van Meekeren for seven to seal victory, leaving Matt Taylor stranded on 49 not out.

Achieving back-to-back victories for the first time since 2019, Worcestershire's fourth win of this season saw them bank 23 points, while Gloucestershire picked up five. Worcestershire have moved above promotion rivals Glamorgan into second place in the table behind runaway leaders Durham, and they boast a handy 14-point advantage over the Welsh county and are 21 clear of fourth-placed Sussex, who have a game in hand.

For their part, Gloucestershire are still seeking their first win of the season after 11 matches and only Yorkshire, docked 48 points by an ECB Cricket Discipline Commission panel earlier this week, sit below them in the table.

Required to score at 4.39 runs an over if they were to break their long winless run, Gloucestershire never seriously considered the prospect of victory after losing three wickets during the morning session.

Eager to make amends following his first-innings failure, Chris Dent played fluently in accruing five boundaries and moving smoothly to 24, only to then push tentatively at a delivery from Leach and offering Jake Libby a straightforward catch at third slip with the score on 37.

Joe Phillips and Ollie Price had staged a superb stand of 100 on day two, but were unable to repeat their first-innings heroics on this occasion, both falling in quick succession to Adam Finch. Attempting to work a ball just short of a length to leg, Phillips top-edged a catch to Brett D'Oliveira at point and departed for 26 in the 16th over. 

Having posted scores of 85 and 115 in his last two Festival innings, Ollie Price blotted his copybook, taking on Finch and directing a top-edged hook straight to Leach at deep fine leg. He had made just 13 and Gloucestershire were 76-3 and in need of a reassuring partnership.

Hammond and James Bracey did their best to keep Worcestershire's seamers at bay in a stubborn alliance of 53 in 19 overs either side of the lunch interval. Although looking out of touch and vulnerable throughout, Bracey battled hard in scratching 19 from 64 balls, before pushing at a ball from Leach and falling to a fine diving catch by Gareth Roderick behind the stumps.

Wickets have fallen in clusters throughout this fluctuating contest and, sure enough, the returning Dillon Pennington had Tom Price caught at the wicket without scoring in the next over, further reducing the home side to 130-5.

Gloucestershire's most effective batsman in red-ball cricket this season, Hammond continued to serve up resistance, going to his eighth 50 of the summer from 72 deliveries. It is perhaps revealing that he has yet to convert a single one of those half centuries into a hundred, and this innings proved no exception to that rule, the Cheltenham-born left-hander attempting to pull Finch and playing on, undone by a ball that kept low.

He had contributed 64, faced 106 balls and struck half a dozen fours and a six, and with him went Gloucestershire's best chance of saving the game. Fired up and in the zone, the aggressive Finch generated additional pace to bowl Zafar Gohar for five in his next over from the College Lawn End.

With 40 overs still to negotiate, Gloucestershire were 190-7 and reliant upon their last recognised batsman, Jack Taylor, who at least reached the sanctuary of the tea interval unbeaten on 40 in partnership with younger brother Matt.

Attack proved the best form of defence for the elder Taylor, who drove Leach down the ground for his ninth four to raise his first Championship 50 of the season from just 54 balls.

He was just two runs short of his hundred when controversy flared. Taylor blocked a ball from Pennington, who then attempted to shy at the stumps only to hit the batsman. Umpire Martin Saggers intervened as tempers flared, awarding five penalty runs to Gloucestershire and issuing Pennington with a verbal warning.

Pennington had the last laugh however, Jack Taylor dragging the next delivery onto his stumps and departing for 98. Akhter fell two balls later, edging Pennington low to first slip, leaving Gloucestershire on the brink.


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