Fine Festival – shame about the cricket

John Light

John Light

First published in Sport by

THE Festival was fine in all respects bar one and that was the most important of all, the cricket. Played five, lost four, and just one victory. These blunt statistics speak for themselves but regrettably they do not tell the whole story.

It pains me to write this but much of the cricket played by Gloucestershire was slipshod and shoddy. Poor bowling gave the captain little control in the field and limp batting resulted in too many small scores.

A professional cricket team should play with more discipline and show more spirit. Too often we went down without a fight.

We know how the bowlers have been hit by injuries, but the batsmen have escaped the injury curse. Bowlers win matches, but batsmen can, by sound batting, keep a team competitive. At Cheltenham, the top order batting was consistently misfiring.

There were two close T20 games but in the two championship games we were beaten by teams punching above their weight.

Sunday’s 50-over game against Northampton was especially galling. This was the tournament we targeted, thinking we were equipped to do well. Out of form Northants were the underdogs. But not for long! They quickly dominated and despite 98 from captain Klinger, never lost their grip. A large but subdued Cheltenham crowd saw the game slip away.

I am afraid I am far from subdued. I value the work and effort so many people put in to improve our cricket but facts must be faced. We are not improving. Yes, we can bounce back but the evidence for that happening is minimal. Coach and captain had an extended de-brief with the players after the defeat but I fear for our team as they head for Headingley to take on a strong Yorkshire side.

What can be done? The rest of the season can now be little more than damage limitation. Then decisions will need to be made. Players may leave as some contracts are coming to an end. The trouble is some players who we wish to keep may be among them.

In analysing this season and looking ahead, nothing should be off the agenda. Being president is a non executive position but I have every confidence in the board to see what needs to be done, and then more importantly to do it.

There were some bright spots. Will Tavare’s opening-day 145 marked him down as an outstanding player while the last-wicket stand of 137 with the returning Craig Miles and Liam Norwell thrilled us all. Craig took five wickets on his return, showing how much we have missed the Purton paceman.

Off the field it was so very different. The grand old man of Adlestrop cricket, Eric Gordon, has been attending Festivals since 1934. Sponsors Brewin Dolphin presented him with a bottle of champagne. There are generations of little Gordons being trained to carry on this fine record.

The Cheltenham region sold raffle tickets and organised some fine functions, notably a barbecue and quiz. Flamboyant question master Phil James was in fine form and Dr Tim Brain and his wife Elizabeth showed a surprising knowledge of films.

Tim, a veteran of University Challenge, responded only if addressed by the words ‘Aberystwyth – Brain’ but at least he did score a few points for us. All in all the stars of the Festival were Adrian Williams and his Cheltenham region team. Well done and thanks.

They were closely pushed by the team in The Golden Heart tent. The prettiest girls in Gloucestershire, plus the most gracious of young men, made each visit there a delight. Service, food and drink was of the highest order.

The highlight of the week for me was not actually in Cheltenham.

Andy Collier of the Cotswold cricket museum at Stow-on-the-Wold had secured the services of Mike Proctor for a Thursday night question and answer session.

Mike was in fine form, talking openly about his career as a cricketer, and as a match referee. His love of Gloucestershire and especially Cheltenham was obvious as was his pride in playing a part in our two Cup wins of the seventies.

Towards the end of the evening he was asked what his greatest disappointment was. His answer was simple – 'South Africa – apartheid – I should have done more'. As a top sportsman he felt he could have fought against it more vigorously.

Sometimes you hear an answer that transcends sport. That one put losing a few cricket matches in perspective.

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