Gloucestershire supporters who attended this summer’s Cheltenham Festival will not need telling that new signing Ryan Higgins is an exciting addition to the squad.
The 22-year-old all-rounder, recruited from Middlesex on a three-year contract, earned a tie for his former county with an explosive batting display in the NatWest T20 clash at the College Ground.
Higgins blasted an unbeaten 68 off only 28 balls to turn a game Gloucestershire appeared to have won when their opponents needed 59 to win off the last four overs.
Five sixes and two fours from Higgins changed the picture so dramatically it needed a wicket off the final ball to earn the hosts a point.
Now Gloucestershire head coach Richard Dawson is looking to Higgins to bolster the batting in all competitions next season.
He said: “I knew of Ryan long before his brilliant innings at Cheltenham because I worked with him when he was in the England under-19s squad.
“At 22, he has not yet reached the ceiling of his ability. As a coach, that is just what you want and I hope we can get even more out of him than he showed for Middlesex.
“I also know Ryan to be a proper competitor and you can’t have enough of those in a dressing room.
Dawson admits that there is plenty of room for improvement in Gloucestershire’s one-day cricket next summer and believes further investment in the team will be essential to hopes of success.
bolster the squad
He accepts that, with Michael Klinger playing only Twenty20 cricket for the county in 2018, finding another overseas signing to bolster the squad is likely to be crucial.
Reflecting on the season just completed, Dawson said: “We underperformed across both one-day formats this season and found the NatWest T20 Blast in particular to have risen in standard.
“It is getting harder by the year to compete with counties who spend a lot of money. That also applies in the County Championship second division, which is now ten teams.
“The two coming down from the first division will make it even tougher next season. We were harder to beat in four-day cricket this year and improved our home record, but we come up against a lot of big clubs.
“I will know my budget for next year soon. Ideally, I would like to bring in a quality overseas signing, but that also depends on the international calendar, as well as what money is available.
“It is very difficult to find players who can commit to long spells in county cricket these days, so I need to give it a lot of thought.”
Two of the positives for Gloucestershire this summer were the emergence of young wicketkeeper- batsman James Bracey in the closing games and the consistency of seamer Liam Norwell, who claimed 59 Championship wickets, despite missing three matches.
The team were unbeaten at home in four-day cricket until the final fixture against Derbyshire when they set up a contrived finish and lost in a run-chase.
“We played some good cricket in the Championship and improving our home form was a target we set at the start of the season,” said Dawson.
Significantly, no batsman reached 1,000 First Class runs and Gloucestershire also found decent totals hard to come by in one-day cricket.
The head coach added: “We scrapped hard in a lot of Twenty20 games, but you can’t hope to win regularly when posting scores of 140. That is something we have to work on. We were poor at times in one-day cricket and need to step up on those performances.”
Dawson does not rule out signing Cameron Bancroft again as an overseas player following the Australian’s 206 not out against Kent in his final appearance this summer.