Gloucestershire chased down a modest target of 112 to beat Middlesex by five wickets at the Bristol County Ground and register their first win of the season in the NatWest T20 Blast competition.
But this low-key contest will scarcely linger long in the memory of those who witnessed it and will do little to persuade stay-away fans to part with their hard-earned cash in the future.
While boundaries were flowing elsewhere around the country, a two-paced Nevil Road pitch militated against free-scoring, with the result that there was little to enthuse a disappointingly small crowd of fewer than 1,500.
Struggling to time the ball, Middlesex posted a wholly inadequate 111-8 in their 20 overs, mustering just 12 fours and a lone six as they hastened to a third defeat in as many games.
In keeping with what had gone before, Gloucestershire made heavy weather of chasing and were indebted to Chris Dent and Hamish Marshall, each of whom contributed 24 to help their side to 11?-5 in 17.2 overs. But neither was able to go on and complete the job as the top-order batting under-achieved yet again.
Skipper Michael Klinger was caught at the wicket pushing defensively at England paceman Steven Finn without scoring, Alex Gidman hit James Harris to backward point for 11 and Dent, having started well, surrendered his wicket for 24, held at deep mid-wicket off the bowling of Neil Dexter as Gloucestershire slipped to 47-3 inside eight overs.
Marshall and Ian Cockbain steadied the ship, adding 38 runs in seven overs by working the bowling and picking the gaps. When Cockbain cut Harris to backward point for 18 and Marshall was caught behind off Finn, the home side required 25 more runs from six overs.
Even that proved far from straightforward and Cameron Herring received a let-off when dropped at second slip on six. He made good his escape, however, compiling an unbeaten 18 in partnership with Benny Howell (10 not out) as the hosts reached their target with 16 balls to spare.
Klinger had earlier won the toss and elected to field first on a drying pitch, no doubt in the hope of undermining Middlesex’s much-vaunted top-order. Certainly, his decision looked to be a good one when the visitors slumped to 43-4 inside six overs.
Big-hitting Paul Stirling commenced the slide, playing across the line to a straight ball from James Fuller and departing for four in the first over.
In a rich vein of form, Fuller removed England T20 international Joe Denly in his next over, the former Kent man top-edging a pull shot and holing out to Graeme McCarter at mid-on.
Worse followed for Middlesex in the fourth over, key man Dawid Malan also succumbing to a miss-timed pull-shot and hoisting Liam Norwell high to mid-wicket where Hamish Marshall demonstrated safe hands. He had made 18.
Although charged with the task of rebuilding the innings, new batsmen Neil Dexter and Dan Christian were unable to stay together for long, the fourth wicket pair advancing the score to 43 by the end of the power-play before Gloucestershire struck again.
Introduced at the pavilion end, slow left armer Tom Smith accounted for Dexter, who chopped on in the act of trying to make room and departed for seven.
Eager to make a good impression against the county he represented in the short format last season, Christian mustered the first six of the innings, hit straight off Benny Howell.
But wickets continued to fall and burly Adam Rossington became the latest batsman to perish to a back-foot shot, cutting McCarter straight to Alex Gidman at backward point for four as Middlesex limped to 65-5 at the halfway stage.
Norwell returned to dismiss Christian in the 11th over, the Australian driving hard to Chris Dent at mid-off for 18, after which the innings struggled to generate any real momentum.
John Simpson and Ollie Rayner quickly realised that patience was a virtue on a slow pitch and they settled to working the ball into gaps and running singles in a bid to get the scoreboard moving again. It was dull fare for a sparse crowd, who had precious little to excite them as Gloucestershire’s bowlers turned the screw and the boundaries dried up almost entirely.
These two had added 32 painstaking runs for the seventh wicket in seven overs when, under pressure to hit out, Rayner drove Fuller and was brilliantly caught one-handed by an airborne Klinger at extra cover for 15.
Norwell reinforced Gloucestershire’s superiority in the final over, producing a fine yorker to bowl James Harris and ensure the visitors finished with a whimper, Simpson ending up top scoring with 22.
Gloucestershire’s bowling unit proved disciplined throughout, Norwell and Fuller taking 3-37 and 3-29 respectively, while McCarter, Howell and Smith all adhered to line and length to create pressure.
Having started the campaign on minus-two following a points deduction levelled by the ECB for producing a sub-standard pitch at Cheltenham last year, Gloucestershire have at least moved level with Southern Group whipping boys Middlesex after two games.