Young guns respond in style to put pressure on leaders
GLOUCESTERSHIRE turned up the heat on Group C leaders Somerset by beating Leicestershire in a one-sided Yorkshire Bank 40 contest in Bristol.
Put into bat on a slow pitch, Leicestershire were bowled out for a below-par 163 in 35.2 overs, Niall O'Brien top-scoring with 43.
In-form Michael Klinger then posted an assured 89 not out as Gloucestershire chased down a modest target with seven wickets and 9.4 overs in hand.
The result saw the County leapfrog Glamorgan and Middlesex and move into second place, level on points with Somerset but with a game in hand.
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They play Middlesex at Lord's today and Glamorgan in Bristol on Sunday.
Victory in both games will set up a potential winner-takes-all showdown with Somerset at Nevil Road on Monday, August 26.
Skipper Klinger had labelled the match against Leicestershire as "must-win" and his young team responded in style, producing an intense performance in the field to seize an initiative they seldom looked like surrendering.
Leicestershire never recovered from the loss of early wickets as one batsman after another struggled to come to terms with conditions.
Gloucestershire's pace attack did most of the damage. James Fuller, David Payne and Craig Miles (inset) claimed two wickets apiece, while Benny Howell and Tom Smith also chipped in.
Josh Cobb and O'Brien had staged a match-winning opening stand of 193 when the sides met at Grace Road in May, and Gloucestershire no doubt breathed a collective sigh of relief when the former departed in the fifth over, driving Fuller high to Payne at mid-on with the score on 14.
Greg Smith was held at the wicket off a top-edged skier to give Craig Miles a wicket, Ned Eckersley drove Payne high to mid-off, where Klinger took a fine catch.
And Matt Boyce succumbed to the same bowler, held by a tumbling Roderick behind the stumps in the act of cutting as the visitors slipped to 67 for four in the 17th over.
Realising steady accumulation was the order of the day, O'Brien advanced to 43 from 55 balls, only to be lured into front foot indiscretion by off-spinner Tom Smith, who induced the Irishman to chip to mid-on when a half-century appeared his for the taking.
With O'Brien went Leicestershire's best chance of registering a competitive total. Shiv Thakor took the bait and hooked a bouncer from Fuller straight down the throat of Ian Cockbain at deep backward square.
Michael Thornely was run out by Fuller's direct hit from short third man and Anthony Ireland drove Benny Howell high to long-on as the Foxes further subsided to 120 for eight.
Just when it seemed Leicestershire might go down with scarcely a whimper, Rob Taylor and James Sykes summoned much-needed tail-end resistance in a stand of 26 in 4.2 overs for the ninth wicket.
But Sykes was run out by Howell's throw from third man for 15 and Leicestershire's misery was complete when Robbie Williams edged Miles to Roderick, leaving Taylor high and dry on 27 not out.
Aware of Somerset's superior run rate, Gloucestershire's batsmen were understandably in a hurry and Hamish Marshall came out with all guns blazing, smiting two fours and a six before falling to former team-mate Ireland, caught on the square leg boundary.
Klinger has served as a crucial mainstay at the top of the order in this competition and the Australian came up with yet another innings of substance to render a sixth win in nine Group C contests a foregone conclusion.
Leicestershire's fate was all but sealed by a stand of 76 in 16 overs for the second wicket between Klinger and Chris Dent, whose innings of 31 in 43 balls featured some excellent back-foot play. Cockbain came and went quickly, the victim of a bizarre run out, but Alex Gidman saw the job through in partnership with his captain.
Fresh from scoring an unbeaten 131 in a losing cause against Somerset at Taunton 48 hours earlier, Klinger gave another chanceless master-class, accruing two sixes and eight fours in a 96-ball innings.