Gloucestershire 208 for 7 (Dent 82) vs Middlesex
Gloucestershire skipper Chris Dent continued his fine form, top-scoring with 82 as Gloucestershire closed on 208 for 7 on day one of the Specsavers County Championship match against Second Division promotion hopefuls Middlesex at Bristol.
Made to work hard on an essentially true pitch, Middlesex’s seam bowling unit nevertheless removed the cream of Gloucestershire’s top-order batting on a day when neither side could claim to have fully wrestled control of an absorbing contest.
But with the new ball just 13 overs old and further bowler-friendly overhead conditions forecast for day two, Dawid Malan will arguably be the happier of the two captains.
In fine form after scoring a double hundred in his last innings, Dent looked to impose himself, staging stands of 63 and 43 with Miles Hammond and Gareth Roderick for the first and fourth wickets respectively after Gloucestershire had been put in beneath heavy cloud cover.
Intent upon occupying the crease in the face of nagging line and length from new ball bowlers Tim Murtagh and James Harris, Dent and Hammond demonstrated admirable discipline and concentration in laying solid foundations.
Returning to his former county, James Fuller redressed the balance, dismissing Hammond and James Bracey in quick succession either side of lunch. But an increasingly assured Dent found a willing ally in Roderick and Gloucestershire’s third wicket pair raised the scoring rate to put Middlesex on the back foot for the first time.
Having mustered defiance aplenty in facing 174 balls and accruing 11 fours to move to within 18 runs of a second successive hundred, Dent was understandably aggrieved when surrendering his wicket in limp fashion.
Desperate to effect a breakthrough ahead of the advent of the second new ball, Middlesex skipper Malan introduced his leg breaks in the penultimate over before tea. No doubt lulled into a false sense of security, Dent inexplicably scooped a soft shot to Sam Robson at mid-wicket.
Gloucestershire’s prospects of posting an imposing total went with him. Jack Taylor fell to James Harris, edging a catch low to Paul Stirling at second slip, and Roderick departed in the next over, snaffled by Robson at first slip off the bowling of teenage seamer Ethan Bamber as the home side subsided from 149 for 3 to 162 for 6 inside seven overs.
Charged with the task of repairing the damage, former Middlesex all-rounder Ryan Higgins and 17-year-old rookie pace bowler Ben Charlesworth, playing in only his third first-class match, were relieved to see the back of the impressive Fuller, who was withdrawn from the attack after suffering an attack of cramp.
The seventh wicket pair were still required to negotiate 13 overs against the new ball and Harris removed Higgins, who was held by Stirling in the slip cordon for 24.
But Charlesworth, along with Craig Miles, displayed no little resilience in reaching the close without further loss, in the process securing a batting bonus point for their team. .