SO NEAR but yet so far. A patchy Gloucestershire performance led to defeat against a Kent side that should have been beaten in the Royal London Cup quarter final.

The harsh fact is we were let down by our middle-order batting.

Cockbain, Marshall and Gidman fell in quick succession, their collective failure gifting the game to Kent. Hamish looked like a rabbit caught in headlights. He has had a poor 50-over competition and it did not get better at Canterbury.

Alex, as he so often does, played a loose leg-side shot. All that was needed for victory was one of those two senior batsmen to stay at the crease, allowing the younger batsmen to score the runs at the other end.

They could and should have given the innings some stability, then the good performances from the junior members of the side would have brought victory.

Left-arm bowler David Payne was outstanding, taking five wickets. Since his poor Cheltenham Festival he has been excellent and well deserving of his new three-year contract.

Craig Miles bowled below his full pace and again we saw his ‘knuckle ball’ taking wickets. There is so much more to come from this young man. There were good contributions from Chris Dent, Gareth Roderick, Benny Howell and Will Gidman, but no one passed 50.

Kent had a bit of substance. Sam Northeast played soundly and sensibly, paving the way for the inevitable ‘Billings Blast’.

Can a place be found for Sam Billings in the England 50-over squad? Gloucestershire might be patchy but England are quite awful. An ill-selected squad is no match for India.

Batsmen James Vince and ‘Titch’ Taylor should be playing and Abdul Rashid, a spinning all-rounder from Yorkshire would enhance the squad. Lean mean bowler Boyd Rankin from Warwickshire and Samit Patel from Notts would add strength and why not take a chance on the dashing Jason Roy from Surrey? Our current middle-aged squad is heading for World Cup disaster. Selectors, the onus is on you. Youth and vigour, please.

Perhaps it is time for your columnist to offer some further advice. Just two people did when I was learning to play cricket. Bill Wormald taught maths at Cirencester GS. He had a fine cricketing pedigree and impressed on me the need to always play straight. In those few words he taught me more about cricket than he did about maths.

My father compounded the advice by saying 'always show the bowler the face of the bat'. A straight bat means a sound technique. Then you can improvise as the limited-over game demands.

Fairford have just celebrated a fine cricket week in celebration of their 125th anniversary. There were wins over an elderly Gloucestershire Gipsies side and an Andy Stovold XI. Andy’s team included the former Gloucestershire captain and now MCC head coach Mark Alleyne.

High spot of the week, however, was the youth awards evening. Rain lashed down but inside the crowded marquee there was a warm glow. The Fairford youth set-up offers much for cricketers of both sexes and so many were duly rewarded. Proud parents took photographs and the whole occasion was a credit to cricket, coaches and, of course, parents. The biggest applause of the evening was rightly reserved for coach Dave Taylor. He knows how hard he works and judging by the reaction of those present this is properly appreciated.

The week ended with Fairford playing the President’s XI. This was a genteel occasion with many long servants of the game enjoying a scamper in the sunshine.

Now happily off the sofa and firing on almost all cylinders, I watched Forest Green maintain their unbeaten record at Welling.

It is an amazing ground. Red London buses are constantly passing behind the goal, while dragon flies dance in front of the main stand.

The coach journey back was made more bearable by constant messages regarding Frocester’s progress in winning the West of England Premier League. Their victory, and that of fellow title winners Lechlade has done much for club cricket in this county.

Players rightly deserve headlines but the man whose drive has put Lechlade where they are deserves so many plaudits. Well done, Paul Rowley!