Wrong light casts game in bad light as Gloucestershire slip off pace
Sussex 313 for 7 (Salt 64) lead Gloucestershire 200 (Bracey 61) by 113 runs
How to explain certain happenings - or non-happenings - at Nevil Road? Not to the aficionados of the game, the true cricket lovers who follow their county faithfully from the same seat each and every day. But to the man or woman or boy or girl with a casual interest. The type, say, who might think of having a look at the Hundred out of curiosity next year.
On the first day here, we had a brief stoppage because the sun was reflecting off glass at an awkward angle towards the pitch. Effectively, we couldn't play for nearly ten minutes because the light was in the wrong in the place.
Now, on the second, a late start and three subsequent stoppages because of bad light. This despite the fact that at all times, five towering floodlights were beaming full strength directly into the arena. We are told about natural light and artificial light and of one taking over from the other. Not so much bad light, it seems, as the wrong light.
To the layperson, this looks ridiculous and they put it pretty simply: How can you go off for bad light when the lights are on? It might even be the single most ridiculous thing in a sport that does have an unfortunate eye for the absurd. If this was a Monty Python sketch - and John Cleese for one is a great cricket lover - Graham Chapman would have marched on to to field calling an end to proceedings with the words: "Stop that! It's silly." Except we had stopped already.
In front of the pavilion, Gloucestershire supporters chuntered as they stared out at the heavily illuminated but vacant field. Presumably their membership fees were going towards the cost of electricity maintaining the lights while players sat and waited in the dressing rooms. The meter must have been spinning like a one-arm bandit.
All in all, this was not a day of great economic fortune for Gloucestershire. A (justified) delayed start and total of three 'bad' light stoppages cost 23 overs in total, and there was a second case of poor returns in the contribution of Shannon Gabriel, the West Indies overseas player signed for the last three games of their promotion drive.
Gabriel bowled some good balls, and some quick ones. He may well take 6 for 20 at some point over the next fortnight, especially if rhythm coincides with the appearance of the tail-end. But his debut so far has been marked with waywardness and no-balling. Doubtless the light restrained Chris Dent from using his fastest bowler for more than ten overs; the sight of Gabriel unpeeling his sweater did tend to provoke the umpires into reaching for their meters.
Figures of 16-0-94-0 tell an unhappy story of profligacy, especially alongside the meanness of David Payne, a good servant of the club and easily the best of their bowlers so far. Batting was not easy at any period and for chunks it became particularly difficult with the clouds low and Payne and Ryan Higgins, a left-right combination, swinging the ball from an accurate line. Overall, Gloucester may well think they should be better placed.
Victory for Sussex in their most recent game, versus Middlesex, ended a run of three successive defeats stemming from first innings totals of 232 (against Durham), 106 (Northamptonshire) and 127 (Lancashire). That poor run explains why they have dropped to sixth place, but they have enviable depth to the batting and, for the second day in a row, enjoyed a good end to proceedings. This time, David Wiese and Will Beer saw off the early overs of the second new ball with an unbroken eighth-wicket stand of 46.
Play had begun at 11.10am and Phil Salt added only ten to his overnight 53 before pushing at a good ball angled across by Payne, giving the first of three catches to James Bracey in the slips. Tom Haines and Luke Wells built slowly before Haines succumbed to the left-arm spin of Tom Smith, by which stage Sussex were more than three-quarters of the way to matching their opponents.
But Gloucester strangled the batsmen immediately after lunch. Luke Wells (42) scythed his bat through the air in self-reproach after lunging forward to Payne and edging to Bracey, although he probably had to play at the ball. Delray Rawlins was the polar opposite of his patient captain and in attempting to hit his way out of trouble eventually skied to wicketkeeper Gareth Roderick.
Since then, a succession of twenties have built Sussex an advantage. Wiese (40 not out) has been relatively restrained, lofting Smith for a six but otherwise respecting the bowling, while Ben Charlesworth, who recently left St Edward's School in Oxford after A-levels, built on his reputation as a talented but thoughtful cricketer with a consistent fourth-stump line with his medium pace. Ben Brown and Chris Jordan duly erred.
All in all, though, Gloucester's head coach Richard Dawson was right to think that the bowling should have been better. And the concession of 38 runs in no-balls having scored only 200 in first innings borders on the criminal.