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Worcestershire suffer first defeat

Watch highlights of day three

Richard Oliver’s superb 179 failed to prevent Worcestershire’s first LV= County Championship loss of the season as Gloucestershire registered their maiden victory at New Road since 1986.

The 24-year-old left-hander’s career-best innings, constructed over the course of four and a half hours enabled the Division Two leaders to wipe out a deficit of 184.

Gloucestershire were, however, hardly challenged by a target of 177 and cruised home by seven wickets.

Paceman Liam Norwell broke Worcestershire’s resistance in a new-ball spell of 4-16 and opener Chris Dent led the victory rush with his first half-century in three months after taking the key wicket of Oliver in his role as occasional left-arm spinner.

Will Tavare made 33 in an opening stand of 67 before falling lbw to Joe Leach and when Dent was out for 51, driving Shaaiq Choudhry’s fourth ball straight to mid-off, Alex Gidman followed his first-innings century with an unbeaten 45 from 43 balls.

Leach claimed his 30th wicket of the season when Gareth Roderick was caught behind for 25 but that was only a blip as Gloucestershire comfortably completed their third win of the season.

They made the running from the outset in dismissing Worcestershire before tea on the first day and, as well as Oliver played, there was to be no way back.

They are still favourites for promotion but their lead could be significantly trimmed if their closest rivals, Surrey and Hampshire, close out victories tomorrow.

It was unfortunate for Oliver that the latest chapter in a remarkable rise to a county contract – after he was plucked from the minor counties circuit – should have coincided with one of the team’s least effective displays of the season.

Originally drafted in from Shropshire in April because of an injury, he scored hundreds in successive innings for the second XI and in May he was in the county team in the run to the NatWest T20 Blast quarter-finals.

A championship debut arrived in June and having scored at least one half-century in each of four matches, he has accumulated 504 runs in his first eight innings in first-class cricket.

Dedicated to the sport as an annual traveller to Australia to play for Victorian club Geelong, he is refreshingly uncomplicated in his approach. If the ball is there to be hit, then more than often than not it is - and with some force.

Gloucestershire’s bowlers will bear testimony to this, having seen Oliver plundering his first 50 runs in 41 balls and the third in 40. That the middle one was twice as long indicated a period of circumspection in approaching a maiden hundred.

In all he hit 23 fours and one six, putting Worcestershire in front in the over he reached three figures.

For much of his innings he was accompanied by Alexei Kervezee in Worcestershire’s highest partnership for any wicket this season. They put on 215 in 51 overs before Gloucestershire made a decisive breakthrough with their spinners.

Kervezee had made 78 with a six and 10 fours when he tickled a catch to Roderick to give off spinner Mark Craig a first championship wicket and in his next over the New Zealander claimed a second with Tom Kohler-Cadmore’s top-edge to midwicket.

Oliver was fifth out at 296, caught behind off Dent, and the seamers did the rest as the last five wickets disappeared for 39 from the time the new ball was taken. Of the lower order only Choudhry, with 30, seriously troubled Gloucestershire until caught at second slip off David Payne.

Stand-in captain Gidman was proud to be the first man to lead Gloucestershire to a championship victory at New Road in 28 years.

He said: "It's a lovely place to play and I've been a few times but never won. To have done that was really enjoyable.

"It was a challenging wicket but a good cricket wicket and we probably applied ourselves a little bit better over three days. We had the best of the conditions. On the first day I didn't think we bowled as well as we could but the boys kept going really hard."

Worcestershire's assistant coach Matt Mason was delighted with Oliver's impressive century.

He said: "He's a breath of fresh air as they say. His approach to his cricket is amazing and he's very positive. He's fearless, that's the way we describe him. It's great for the people who are here watching as there's never a dull moment when he's at the crease.

"He's different as well. He doesn't play an orthodox game and I think there's room for people like that in any first-class cricket team. His confidence and his belief that he belongs here is growing all the time."

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