Despite Taylor-made opposition, Worcestershire seamers fight to the finish line

Dillon Pennington led the onslaught for Worcestershire

On the last day of a gripping LV=County Championship match at the Cheltenham Festival, Worcestershire’s seamers showed tremendous tenacity to earn a stunning late victory over Gloucestershire.

With only 8.5 overs left, the visitors defeated their hosts by 110 runs by bowling them out for 311 thanks to the contributions of Adam Finch (4 for 83), Dillon Pennington (4 for 63), and Joe Leach (2 for 57).

Even before declaring, Worcestershire had scored 316 for 8 in their second innings, giving Gloucestershire a theoretical 421 to win in 96 overs. When they reduced the home team to 190 for 7 just before tea, it appeared that they would easily win, but brothers Jack and Matt Taylor put up a resolute stand of 95 runs in 27 overs.

To eventually break Gloucestershire’s resistance, it required a late burst from Pennington with the second new ball. The Shrewsbury-born seamer dismissed Jack Taylor for a season-best 98 and Zaman Akhter in the span of three balls. In order to secure the victory, he next bowled Paul van Meekeren for seven runs, leaving Matt Taylor stranded on 49 not out.

Worcestershire’s fourth victory this season netted them 23 points, while Gloucestershire collected 5. This was the first time since 2019 that they had won back-to-back games. 

With a comfortable 14-point lead over the Welsh county and a whopping 21 points ahead of fourth-placed Sussex, who still have a game in hand, Worcestershire has surpassed promotion rivals Glamorgan to move into second place in the standings behind unstoppable leaders Durham.

After 11 games, Gloucestershire is still searching for its first victory of the year, and the only team below them in the standings is Yorkshire, which was fined 48 points by an ECB Cricket Discipline Commission panel earlier this week.

Gloucestershire never truly considered the possibility of victory after losing three wickets during the morning session. They needed to score at a rate of 4.39 runs per over in order to end their lengthy winless streak.

After failing in the first inning, Chris Dent was eager to redeem himself. He played fluidly, hitting five boundaries and easily making it to 24, but as the score reached 37, he pushed hesitantly at a delivery from Leach and gave Jake Libby an easy catch at third slip.

On day two, Joe Phillips and Ollie Price put up a magnificent 100-run stand, but they were unable to duplicate their first-innings heroics this time around, losing both to Adam Finch in rapid succession. In the 16th over, Phillips attempted to work a ball just short of a length to leg but top-edged a catch to Brett D’Oliveira at point, leaving him out for 26.

Ollie Price soiled his copybook by going on Finch and hitting a top-edged hook straight to Leach at deep fine leg after scoring 85 and 115 in his previous two Festival innings. He had only hit 13, and Gloucestershire was down by three runs with 76. They needed a solid partnership.

A tough partnership of 53 runs in 19 overs on either side of the lunch break was made by Hammond and James Bracey, who did their best to fend off Worcestershire’s seamers. Despite often appearing out of control and exposed, Bracey fought valiantly to make 19 from 64 balls before pushing at a ball from Leach and succumbing to a superb diving catch by Gareth Roderick behind the stumps.

Throughout this erratic match, wickets have dropped in waves, and sure enough, in the following over, the returning Dillon Pennington had Tom Price caught at the wicket without scoring, bringing the home team’s total to 130 for 5.

Hammond, who has been Gloucestershire’s best batsman in red-ball cricket this year, continued to provide resistance as he took 72 deliveries to reach his ninth summer fifty. The fact that he has yet to turn even one of those half centuries into a century is perhaps telling. 

This innings showed that he consistently fails to do so, as the left-hander from Cheltenham tried to pull Finch but was unsuccessful because the ball kept low.

He had made 64 overall, faced 106 balls, and hit six fours and a six, and with him, Gloucestershire’s best chance of winning the match, vanished. Angry and focused, the aggressive Finch produced more speed to dismiss Zafar Gohar for five in his subsequent over from the College Lawn End.

Gloucestershire were 190 for 7 with 40 overs remaining and were dependent on their lone recognized batsman, Jack Taylor, who at least made it to the safety of the tea break undefeated on 40 in a partnership with his younger brother Matt.

For the older Taylor, offense was the best form of defense. He drove Leach for his ninth four to raise his first Championship fifty of the year from just 54 balls, proving that offense was the best form of defense.

When controversy erupted, he was only two runs away from reaching 100. Pennington attempted to shy at the stumps after being hit by a ball by Taylor, but failed and hit the batsman instead. In response to the altercation, umpire Martin Saggers interfered, giving Gloucestershire five extra runs as well as verbally warning Pennington.

Though Jack Taylor dragged the subsequent ball onto his stumps and left for 98, Pennington had the final laugh. Gloucestershire was on the verge of collapse when Akhter was out two balls later after edging Pennington low to first slip.