Unbeaten Bancroft century edges Gloucestershire closer to victory

12 May 2024

Cameron Bancroft compiled an unbeaten century, his first since rejoining Gloucestershire, to steer the visitors into position for a final-day victory push against Northamptonshire at Wantage Road.

The Australian opener, now in his second stint with the West Country side, hit 130 not out to underpin Gloucestershire’s second-innings total of 319 for five declared – an overall lead of 557.

That strengthened his side’s prospects of a first Vitality County Championship win since the 2022 campaign, with almost four and a half sessions in which to dismiss Northamptonshire for a second time.

But Gloucestershire encountered dogged resistance from Emilio Gay, who registered 74 – his second successive half-century – and shared a 106 partnership with Luke Procter (45 not out) as the hosts closed on 144 for two.

Already 315 ahead when play resumed, Gloucestershire set about extending that advantage but all the home seamers found a degree of movement from one end, while Liam Patterson-White bowled unchanged from the other.

The left-arm spinner, on a short-term loan from Nottinghamshire, collected all three wickets to fall during the morning session – the first with a delivery that turned viciously out of the rough to bowl Ben Charlesworth one short of his 50.

Patterson-White claimed his 100th career first-class wicket when Ollie Price was leg before not offering a shot, but first-innings centurion Miles Hammond brought some impetus, slog-sweeping the spinner for four and slicing another boundary over point.

Hammond’s stop-start knock of 28 was brought to an end as he danced down the track to Patterson-White and misjudged the flight, enabling Lewis McManus to take off the bails.

But Bancroft – despite seeing several Ben Sanderson deliveries whiz past his outside edge – continued to make steady progress, while James Bracey quickly unveiled the reverse sweep to good effect against Patterson-White as the visitors’ total passed 200.

Bracey reached 34 at a run a ball before holing out to mid-off against George Scrimshaw, but Graeme van Buuren maintained the visitors’ momentum, top-edging the seamer over long leg for six.

That was the first of four maximums for the Gloucestershire captain, whose bustling innings of 67 from 57 balls dominated his stand of 118 with Bancroft, eventually skying Siddarth Kaul into the gloves of McManus to usher in the declaration.

With Northamptonshire facing a nominal target of 558, Gay strode to the middle on a pair – and the left-hander almost succumbed again without a run to his name, clipping Ajeet Singh Dale to square leg where Zafar Gohar, stretching above his head, could not cling on.

Gay survived again with a difficult low return chance to Singh Dale soon afterwards, but the paceman did achieve the breakthrough, slanting one in around the wicket to trap Ricardo Vasconcelos lbw.

However, Gay unfurled an array of attacking strokes, driving Zafar to the rope either side of the tea interval, although there was another close call when he swung at Marchant de Lange and miscued just over mid-on.

The opener’s good fortune finally ran out late in the day when, having just thumped De Lange off the back foot for four, he guided the next ball into the hands of midwicket, but nightwatchman Scrimshaw helped Procter to shepherd their side through to stumps.

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