THE phoney war of friendlies is ending. Next Sunday the real challenge starts when Hampshire visit Gloucestershire for a LV County Championship fixture.

It is, of course, too early for cricket, but points won in arctic April are just as valuable as those accrued in joyous July.

How will our county perform in the four-day game? I offer one word – better.

Runs will not be a problem but wickets may be. Do we have the attack to bowl sides out twice and therefore win games? Do we have four bowlers capable of taking 50 wickets or more in a season?

Not yet, I am afraid but we do have a group of bowlers capable of improving. We should be better served in the spin department with Tom Smith, Jack Taylor and Tom Shrewsbury available for selection instantly.

Miles Hammond will join that quartet when he has completed his academic battles. I hear from John Bracewell that Smith’s batting has come on a great deal and valuable runs are expected from him. That could compensate for the finger injury that will keep wicket keeper Roderick out of the side initially but not too long, I hope.

It is in the Royal London One-Day Cup that I envisage most success. In pre-season friendlies both Glamorgan and Worcester were defeated, the latter quite comprehensively.

Our playing staff are more suited to this competition as we do not have the hard-hitting sloggers that the Nat West T20 demands.

Anyway, we start with a two-point penalty in that competition, following the points deduction for a poor Cheltenham pitch.

There are two off the field matters that are crucial. For the first time ever there is to be a direct election to the Executive Board. Any member can stand for election and every member can vote. This is exactly what should happen in what is, and must remain, a members club.

I urge all members to read the appropriate material and then act.

Secondly, as ground development comes to a conclusion, parking will be a temporary problem. It can be solved by spectators using both their common sense, and in some cases Bristol bus routes. It should only be a short-term problem. I rejoice that as president I have a reserved parking space!

Whatever happens the main joy of the season will be the companionship that abounds at county cricket.

The hard headed, but good hearted humour of the Hammond Roofers is sometimes misguided, but always a joy. And, of course, we can always look ahead. Last season our U17s won the County Championship. Five of that team have joined our academy so 2020 should be our year!

Locally, the game I am most looking forward to is the County Cup match between Lechlade and Painswick, a true Cotswold contest.

The driving force of Paul Rowley will continue to move Lechlade forward and at every level. I anticipate no limit to their achievements.

Perhaps this may be the year for the sleeping giant of Cirencester CC to awaken. Much work is going on at the town club and they deserve to be promoted from the County League.

That ‘P’ word has cut me to the quick. Forest Green have blown it.

I have just witnessed two of three successive away defeats that have put an end to any play-off hopes. So much is right at the Nailsworth club and for a few weeks the play-offs looked a real possibility.

Dismay rules in the Lighthouse or it would had we not had a splendid few days in Padstow. Our wardrobes are now full but the wallets are empty.

Tuesday night is, of course, decision time. Failing, fading Forest Green are at home to Kidderminster, but there are two teams in Nailsworth. The other one, Shortwood, will be entertaining Cirencester Town.

“The Wood” are making a strong, late run for the play-offs which, of course, are well within Cirencester’s grasp. Many local soccer fans are wondering which game to watch. Whatever the decision it will be a better one than deciding to watch some obscure, irrelevant game on TV.

Sad news has reached me regarding the young gymnasts of this town. Readers of this column know of my admiration for this group of young people and their coaches, but also my concern that they do not have large enough premises.

It was hoped they could find the cash to purchase a local warehouse with sufficient floor space to enable numbers to rise and the long waiting list to be cut. I am not sure of the details but it seems they may have had a setback or two. If Mrs L or myself win the lottery, gymnasts you will be first on our list to help.

Trainer Fergal O’Brien of Fossebridge and his team went some way to filling the Padstow hole in my pocket in the Grand National at Aintree with an excellent late surge that took him into fourth place at 33-1.