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    Gloucestershire's Miles Hammond and Graeme van Buuren impressed with their fifties
Gloucestershire's Miles Hammond and Graeme van Buuren impressed with their fifties
Miles Hammond added 81. Source: Getty Images

Gloucestershire's Miles Hammond and Graeme van Buuren impressed with their fifties

Miles Hammond and Graeme van Buuren achieved half-centuries as Gloucestershire consolidated its position on day two of the Vitality County Championship Second Division match against Middlesex at the Seat Unique Stadium in Bristol.

In response to the visitors' first innings total of 203, the home side advanced their score to 271 for 6, a first innings lead of 68, despite 45 overs being lost to rain and bad light. Hammond demonstrated excellent batting technique to score the highest of the innings with an assured 81, while captain van Buuren contributed a season's best 75. The fifth wicket pair achieved a meaningful alliance of 118 in 27 overs, which could prove crucial to Gloucestershire's prospects.

Ben Charlesworth and Zaman Akhter then demonstrated further resilience in an unbroken partnership of 38 for the seventh wicket, allowing the home side to make the most of the 52 overs available to improve their position after the first session had been washed out.

Ethan Bamber and Tom Helm have taken two wickets apiece so far. With more poor weather forecast for the third day, Middlesex will be heavily dependent upon these two when the new ball is taken in the morning.

When Gloucestershire eventually resumed their first innings on 82 for 3 beneath leaden skies, the ball was still performing well enough to keep the Middlesex seam quartet interested. Similarly to Marchant de Lange on the first day, Helm utilised his height to induce additional bounce and movement off the pitch, resulting in James Bracey's outside edge being found and providing the opportunity for Ryan Higgins to take a fine diving catch at third slip with the score on 113.

Bracey was dismissed for 16, and with Charlesworth unable to continue due to an ankle injury and forced to drop down the order, the home side suddenly appeared vulnerable. Facing a challenging situation, Hammond and the new batsman van Buuren were put to the test as they demonstrated their technical and emotional resilience in the face of adversity. Helm, Bamber and Higgins, meanwhile, displayed their determination to build upon their early success.

Gloucestershire's fifth wicket pair demonstrated resilience, combining stoic defiance with deft placement and quick running between the wickets to overcome the challenge and maintain progress on the scoreboard. As conditions improved, the ball became softer and the pitch flatter, prompting Hammond and van Buuren to adopt a more assertive approach.

Hammond reached 50 runs first, the 28-year-old left-hander doing so in 67 balls with his eighth boundary, a cover drive to the boundary at the expense of Helm. Having previously achieved two half-centuries in the last match against Sussex at Hove, without converting either into a substantial score, Hammond was determined to demonstrate his authority in this instance. With the exception of a loose drive off Josh de Caires, which fell just short of mid-on, he did not give the bowlers a chance to score during a productive afternoon session.

Following an uncertain start, van Buuren demonstrated greater fluency in his play, hoisting Bamber for six over backward square before pulling the same bowler for four, thereby reaching his half-century from 56 balls. Hammond successfully pulled Helm over deep midwicket for six as he began to find his rhythm and his growing partnership with his captain was worth 118 as Gloucestershire reached the tea interval in a strong position on 231 for 4, with a lead of 28.

Facing a potentially damaging first-innings deficit, Middlesex received an unexpected boost at the start of the final session. Hammond and van Buuren were dismissed without scoring, and they departed within the space of nine balls.

Despite being within sight of his fourth first-class hundred, Hammond suffered a loss of concentration, driving at a wide-ish delivery from Bamber and nicking the first ball after tea to Leus du Plooy at second slip. The conclusion of the innings was somewhat anticlimactic, with 81 runs scored from 111 balls, including nine fours and a six. Middlesex was understandably delighted when, in the very next over, van Buuren misjudged the length of a ball from De Caires and was bowled in the act of pulling, departing the scene for a 103-ball 75.

Given the circumstances, expectations were necessarily tempered. With two new batters at the crease, Gloucestershire's earlier authority had been undermined. Akhter and Charlesworth, the latter batting with Ollie Price as a runner, prevented Middlesex from achieving a positive result, with the two sides surviving for 15.3 overs and adding 38 runs for the seventh wicket before bad light forced the players off.

Charlesworth, who is currently injured, demonstrated greater comfort batting from the back foot, scoring three boundaries to advance his score to 21 not out. Akhter, emboldened by a career-best unbeaten 45 against Sussex last time out, reached 16 as Gloucestershire progressed their score to 271-6.

If De Caires maintained a reasonable degree of control and one end, fellow spinner du Plooy proved costly when conceding 10 runs off one over as the light began to fade, the match was called off. As anticipated, when captain du Plooy elected to take the new ball and deploy his frontline seamers, umpires Neil Pratt and Surendiran Shanmugam decided to conclude the match prematurely with 25 overs remaining.

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