GLOUCESTERSHIRE take on Essex at Bristol this afternoon with their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages of the NatWest T20 Blast in the balance.

A five-wicket defeat by Sussex at Hove on Friday night left the team with 12 points from 11 South Group matches and probably needing to win two of their last three fixtures to be sure of reaching the quarter-finals.

Gloucestershire head coach Richard Dawson ad- mits there is work to do to secure a top-four finish.

‘It has been such a strange group with all the teams capable of beating each other,’ he said. ‘We must simply set out to win all out remaining fixtures because it is too close to call at the moment.’

Dawson was left to reflect on a disappointing batting display at Hove where Michael Klinger fell to the first ball of the game, Ian Cockbain was run out in the same over, and Gloucester- shire were dismissed in 18.5 overs for just 138.

Sussex won with 14 balls to spare and Dawson was left in no doubt that improved performances with the bat will be required for his side to progress in the competition.

He said: ‘We recovered really well from losing two wickets in the first over. Phil Mustard and Cameron Bancroft put us in a really good position at halfway, but then we kept losing wickets and didn’t even bat 20 overs. ‘As it turned out, another 15 or 20 runs might have given us a winning score, so that’s frustrating.

‘The intent we showed with the ball was very good. We defended a similar score against Kent, but in the end we just didn’t get enough runs.’

Gloucestershire were put in and made a disastrous start when skipper Klinger, their leading scorer in the competition with 261 runs, edged David Wiese to slip off the opening delivery.

It was two for two at the end of the first over when Cockbain was run out by Jofra Archer’s direct hit from short fine leg.

The experienced Mustard (43) and Bancroft (37) rebuilt the innings nicely with a stand of 77 in 7.5 overs.

Mustard hit two sixes and six fours to put his side in a decent position as they reached 79 for two in the ninth over.

But left-arm seamer George Garton then had Mustard caught behind off a thin edge and in his next over uprooted Bancroft’s ge, a climbing wall and face-painting.

Qualified coaches and first team players will be on hand to offer some top tips on batting, bowling and catching and all activities are free of charge.

Hand-outs will include head-bands and autograph strips, while there will also be an opportunity to meet first team players for photographs.

This article first appeared in the Independent. To get the latest articles when they appear, buy the print edition every Sunday or subscribe to our online edition HERE.