What Happened Last Year?
Inconsistency was the issue for Gloucestershire last year as they meandered to a 5th place finish in the central group, winning one game while losing two and drawing two. They were unlucky with the weather, with their game against Northamptonshire being reduced to just 29.4 overs of play over four days and the game against Glamorgan being cut short two. Both of those games ended in draws whereas had the full allotment of time been possible, you'd imagine Gloucestershire would have fancied their chances, although they did find themselves 66/6 against Northamptonshire.
The issue for Gloucestershire last year was that there were no outstanding performers with the bat. Graeme van Buuren topped the average charts with a mark of just 30.50, and without James Bracey who was only available for one inning, Gloucestershire failed to put consistently big scores on the board. Twice they were bowled out for under 100 and when they found themselves 66/6, you imagine only the rain saved them from another sub-standard score.
The bowling was significantly better for Gloucestershire with David Payne taking 14 wickets for 14.21 and Ryan Higgins taking 17 wickets for 23.00 each. Matt Taylor helped out taking 11 wickets as well.
Key Player for 2021
James Bracey is the key man for Gloucestershire this year and the hope is that he'll be allowed to get some games under his belt. He's been in the England bubble for a while now, but has yet to get his debut. While it's good to have experience within the international set-up, it's more important for a 23-year-old to be playing consistently.
Having only been available for one inning last year, Gloucestershire desperately missed Bracey and despite him holding a modest 34.93 first-class average, you imagine he's going to be the main guy for them this year.
Bracey opened up the batting against Northamptonshire last year in his only county appearance, it'll be interesting to see if he stays there, or if he moves down slightly. The openings in the England lineup are at the top of the order, so it may be more prudent for him to stay where he is.
James Bracey. I think this is pretty obvious, he's been in and around the squad and now he needs to take that next step. I think it's important that he is allowed to play as much county-cricket as possible this year, due to him being in the bubble he hasn't played a huge amount of competitive cricket recently.
Longer-term I'll be keeping an eye on Miles Hammond. He already has two centuries and five half-centuries to his name in 27 first-class matches. He like Gloucestershire will be looking for a little more consistency.
The target for this year?
Gloucestershire has talent, but they'll need to find more contributions up and down the lineup if they hope to compete to go into division one in the second stage.
They'll certainly be hoping to have James Bracey available for more of the season. If that happens then they certainly could finish in the top two, but I'm not sure I see enough top-end talent that will see them pass the teams in their group.
This year they've been drawn with Hampshire, Leicestershire, Middlesex, Somerset and Surrey. Somerset will be favourites to come out on top, and you expect Surrey to be improved this year. Hampshire has the talent as do Middlesex and Leicestershire are no pushovers.
They've bolstered their bowling with the signings of West Indian Jerome Taylor and Australian Daniel Worrall, but I don't see a ton of batting when I look at their lineup and in the end, that's where they may come unstuck.
Overseas players: Jerome Taylor (West Indies), Daniel Worrall (Australia)