By Richard Latham
Liam Norwell goes into Gloucestershire’s Specsavers County Championship home game with Durham today (Friday) on the crest of a wave.
The 25-year-old seamer has already claimed 18 wickets in the first two rounds of matches – five more than any other bowler in the Second Division.
And that achievement is all the more remarkable for the fact that Norwell missed most of pre-season through injury.
Head coach Richard Dawson said: “Liam had very little cricket before our opening Championship game because of a groin problem.
“But his performances in the first two matches have been outstanding. He has improved year after year and is now testing batsmen with virtually every ball.
“Liam is a strapping lad at the height of his physical powers. “He bowls a perfect length, aiming for the top of off-stump, and gets a lot of nicks, as well as bowleds and lbws.”
Norwell claimed 44 first class wickets last season, despite missing six Championship games, and already looks certain to eclipse that figure if he can stay fit.
Dawson also attributes the Cornishman’s success to the work being done at the other end by his opening bowling partner David Payne, a left-arm seamer who poses different problems.
“David swings the new ball into the batsmen and has also bowled really well in our opening games,” he said.
“Together he and Liam are very effective and long may it continue.”
Having suffered a heavy defeat by Kent in their opening Championship game, Gloucestershire bounced back quickly to hammer Leicestershire by an innings and six runs.
Now Dawson is predicting a tough test from a Durham side packed with quality players and eager to eat into the 48-point penalty imposed by the ECB when they were relegated over financial issues last October.
He said: “Durham are effectively a First Division side playing in the Second Division and they are going to provide a great test of where we are as a team.”
It will be the first time the clubs have met in the Championship since 2003. The only survivors from that game are Durham’s Paul Collingwood and Phil Mustard, who moved from Durham to Gloucestershire last season.
The hosts are likely to be unchanged from the Leicestershire game, with Mustard again captaining the side while Gareth Roderick hones his form in the second XI following illness.
Durham are set to stick with the team beaten by Nottinghamshire in their only Championship fixture so far.
Gloucestershire (from) C.Bancroft, C.Dent, W.Tavare, G.van Buuren, G.Hankins, P.Mustard (capt & wkt), J.Taylor, C.Miles, D.Payne, L.Norwell, C.Liddle, O.Currill.