The Twenty20 Cup is the new, fashionable face of county cricket: bright
lights, star names, a blur of runs and wickets.
Gloucs captain Mark Alleyne has swept a clutch of trophies
In-between the two semi-finals and final on Saturday, popstrels Atomic Kitten will perform to a youthful audience at Trent Bridge.
It is a slight disappointment for Gloucestershire coach John Bracewell, who
admitted with a grin to the BBC Sport website: "I was hoping for the
Alas for the marketing men, one of the favourites to carry off the title on
finals day are one of the least fashionable sides in the country.
But then the use of the word "fashion" in a sporting sense has always been a
way of talking up under-achievers and doing down those who are successful.
The Gloucestershire Gladiators have dealt with the verbal barbs before,
especially when they ruled the roost in one-day cricket, collecting five
trophies in 1999 and 2000.
Few of their players have spent any time in the England side - if you
discount the evergreen Jack Russell, whose broken thumb is likely to keep
him in the dugout on Saturday - but they are still consistently effective.
At the helm is New Zealander Bracewell, who has brought the best out of a middling bunch over the last five years.
"You might call them 'dobbers' but they're the fastest we've got," he
protests on behalf of opening bowlers Mike Smith and Jon Lewis, "and we're
the only side in the Championship with 28 bowling bonus points.
"Most of our bowlers have an effective change of pace and that is a skill
they have worked hard on."
It is an ability that has proved perfect for Twenty20, with a battery of
seamers tying opposing batsmen down and a couple of hired guns blazing past
The approach they take in any format of the game has not really needed to
The opening pair of Kiwi Craig Spearman (who qualified as a home-grown
player with a British passport) and Australian World Cup winner Ian Harvey
are both naturally aggressive batsmen.
RECENT GLOUCS HONOURS
1999: B&H Cup, NatWest Trophy
2000: B&H Cup, C&G Trophy, National League
2001: B&H Cup finalists
And Harvey, once described by Steve Waugh as the world's best bowler at the
death, has proved a wet blanket to opposing batsmen.
Bracewell had a slight head start on his rivals with experience of a similar
competition, Cricket Max, back home.
Spearman has played it, as too did captain Mark Alleyne when he toured with
England in 1997, and each had their own ideas to offer.
Bracewell noticed that spinners were effective wicket-takers purely because
opposing batsmen thought they would offer easy pickings - off-spinner Martyn
Ball has six scalps so far.
A Twenty20 title would be a great way for Bracewell to cap his career in the
West Country before taking up his new post as New Zealand coach in November.
But his five-year plan to make the club successful in all forms of the game
has not progressed quite as expected.
Harvey scored the first Twenty20 century
Bracewell admits they are a year behind: they are now in the pack pushing
for promotion to Division One of the Championship rather than slumming it at the
bottom and are still in contention for the C&G Trophy.
"The problem with anything that is successful quickly is that it can get out
of hand," he says of the dressing room squabbling that spoiled the team's
"Players given a small but important part in the team unit wanted a star on
He does not need to name former England one-day spinner Jeremy Snape, who
could face his old team if they and Leicestershire reach the final.
Bracewell admits Championship promotion would be the icing on the cake but,
"part of my thinking is to leave the club in a better state than when I
came, more self-manageable and with more ambition.
"To win all of the trophies you have got to have budget resources. We have got to make do with what we have."
A sixth trophy in four years would be more than making do.