Oliver Price shines with bat and ball to guide Gloucestershire to emphatic win

oliver p
David Payne got two wickets

At Bristol’s Seat Unique Stadium in a somewhat one-sided Vitality Blast match, Oliver Price turned in a standout performance with both bat and ball to lead Gloucestershire to a commanding seven-wicket victory against Middlesex.

The all-rounder from Oxford top-scored with 46 runs and contributed to significant partnerships of 60 runs with Miles Hammond and 52 runs with Zafar Gohar for the second and third wickets, respectively, as the home team successfully surpassed a target of 140 with 10 balls remaining to earn their second victory in three days.

This game was no exception to Middlesex’s struggles to achieve high totals in the short format this season, as the visitors were unable to construct lasting partnerships and fell short on 139 for 9 after being put into bat. Max Holden scored a crucial 34, and Jack Davies made an impatient unbroken 46, but Gloucestershire kept things under control by taking wickets at regular intervals thanks to experienced left-arm seamer David Payne’s 2 for 21 and off spinner Price’s 2 for 18.

While Middlesex is already out of it after losing their first six games and falling to the bottom of the South Group, rising Gloucestershire has won three of their past four games and kept alive their chances of moving on to the knockout rounds.

The same as they did against Surrey on Friday night, Gloucestershire kept their rivals to a low total and then skillfully handled the chase.

Ben Charlesworth was given the opportunity to open the innings after his record-breaking 19-ball 50 against Essex the previous week, but he has yet to produce at the top of the order. With 24 on the board in the fourth over, Gloucestershire lost their first wicket when Josh de Caires stumped him for 12.

The home team increased their score to 43 for 1 while the fielding limits were in effect thanks to Hammond, who was also moved up the order. Hammond did a better job of things, twice cover driving Blake Cullen to the boundary and then walking down the track and hitting Thilan Walallawita right down the ground.

Price, a 21-year-old spinner who ate spinners de Caires and Walallawita to give Gloucestershire vital momentum, moved from cautious beginnings to adventure. When Gloucestershire reached the halfway point of their innings at 73 for 1, the 21-year-old savaged a pair of fours off of de Caires in the sixth over and followed up with the feat against Walallawita in the ninth.

With nine wickets in hand and needing another 67 runs at a rate of 6.70 per over, Gloucestershire were well served by their second-wicket pair, who gradually collected runs to build the groundwork for a successful chase. 

The partnership was worth 60 runs when Hammond squirted a catch to extra cover off Luke Hollman’s bowling; the left-hander, who was born in Cheltenham, had contributed 34 of those runs from 38 balls with four fours, and the rate was still just over a run per ball.

Within four runs of his first T20 50, Price tried to hit it in the 18th over and end the match with a single blow, but he overbalanced and was sharply stumped by Davies. Zafar left to bat last, Jack Taylor scored the winning run while he was undefeated on 37 from 22 balls, including a six and three fours.

Gloucestershire played at the peak of their game to hold Surrey to 29 for 4 during the powerplay 48 hours earlier in Bristol, but they were unable to repeat that performance this time. They got off to a decent start when Payne caught Stephen Eskinazi at the wicket while he was moving dangerously and when Joe Cracknell lifted Danny Lamb to square leg as Middlesex raced to 20-2 in the third over.

When Holden, who had yet to make a run, was put down at point by Matt Taylor off the bowling of Zafar with the score at 26, the home team then blotted their record. At the conclusion of the powerplay, he and Pieter Malan helped the visitors capitalize on their good fortune by raising the score to a solid 45 for 2.

Middlesex, which was having trouble coping with spin from both ends, was reduced to 52-4 in the eighth over as Gloucestershire kept up the pressure. Price had Malan caught at long-on for a 19-ball 21, then Zafar bowled ex-teammate Ryan Higgins for one.

Holden led a Middlesex comeback of sorts by partially rebuilding the innings with a restorative fifth-wicket stand of 24 with de Caires, fortunate to still be at large and determined to make good his escape. When he lifted Matt Taylor for the first six of the game, Gloucestershire were already regretting dropping the left-hander. He later added four more fours in a progressive innings that produced 34 from 22 balls.

After getting Holden into a trap where he shot straight to Price at deep mid-wicket as Middlesex slumped to 76 for 5 in the tenth, veteran slow left-armer Tom Smith eventually put an end to Holden’s antics.

With a lot of pressure on them, de Caires and Davies ran hard between the wickets, scoring at just over a run per ball as they added 29 for the sixth wicket. While Luke Hollman was run out for one by Smith’s throw from deep backward square as Middlesex fell to 114 for 7 in the sixteenth over, Gloucestershire continued in their task, and de Caires, who had made 18 from 20 balls, hoisted Price to replacement fielder Zaman Akhter at long-on and perished going for the big hit with the score on 105.

Even worse for the visitors came next when Tom Helm was easily defeated by the returning Payne. Payne put concentrated pressure at the very end to keep things close and irritate Middlesex even more.

Davies batted with true purpose to end just four runs short of a half century in his 33-ball innings, which contained three fours and a six. Davies was in danger of running out of partners and was forced to take matters into his own hands. There was no escape from the strong impression that the Londoners had fallen short, even though Blake Cullen persisted with him for long enough to establish a ninth-wicket alliance of 22 in 20 balls.