Gloucestershire seamer Fuller so 'chuffed' with his first five-wicket haul
JAMES Fuller will head home to New Zealand for four months of club cricket this winter boosted by his first five-wicket haul in first-class cricket.
The 22-year-old Gloucestershire seamer has had his ups and downs this season, including the embarrassment of conceding 38 runs from a single over in the Friends Life t20 quarter-final defeat by Sussex at Hove.
But it is a measure of Fuller's character that he found a way of putting that personal nightmare behind him. At the County Ground yesterday, he completed figures of 5-29 to help dismiss Northamptonshire for 100 in his side's final home game of the season.
By the close, Ian Cockbain's 99 and an unbeaten 52 from Will Gidman had helped Gloucestershire to 286-6 in their second innings, a lead of 406, and, with two days to go, a victory to lift them off the bottom of the Division Two table looks imminent,
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Fuller emerged from the dressing room at the close of play with a broad smile and deserved to savour a notable milestone in his fledgling career.
Reminded of the less happy day at Hove, he said: "Luckily, I have a sense of humour. I certainly needed it that night.
"It made me realise where I was as a bowler and I had to think about how I could move forward. I thought about what had been going on in my head during the over and realised I had a lack of belief in what I was doing.
"As soon as things started to go wrong against the calibre of batsman I was facing on that type of pitch in those circumstances, I didn't believe I could bowl the yorkers I needed and wanted to bowl.
"Afterwards, I looked at my training and how I could improve my self-belief going into a game, so that when the pressure comes on I have the processes to deal with it.
"I think I'm a stronger person for what happened. The county season is so long that you can't afford to dwell on poor performances and now I am really chuffed to have claimed a five-wicket haul in a first-class match for the first time
"It is a typical Bristol pitch where you have to bowl a pretty full length and you get a variation in bounce depending on how you hold the ball. In both first innings there was a collapse and I think that came about from the bowlers working out what areas to hit."
Northants were able to add only 27 runs to their overnight 73-7 as David Willey fell to Anthony Ireland and Fuller cleaned up the tail by sending back Jack Brooks and Luke Evans.
When Gloucestershire, leading by 120 runs, lost two wickets for as many runs at the start of their second innings a two-day finish looked possible.
Ed Cowan ran out opening partner Benny Howell with a poor call for a single and then fell to a catch at third slip, driving at a wide one from Willey.
Dan Housego (24) helped Alex Gidman steady the ship with a stand of 64 before also falling to a slip catch off Andrew Hall. But at 70-4 when Gidman (40) was lbw playing across the line to Evans, Gloucestershire's lead was only 190.
Cockbain and Hamish Marshall then began to take the game away from Northants with a stand of 98, ended on the stroke of tea when Marshall fell to a sharp catch at point by Stephen Peters off Evans for 30.
Cockbain has struck a rich vein of form recently with three half-centuries and a hundred in his last seven championship innings. The 25-year-old Merseysider looked set for three figures again when falling leg-before to Hall playing down the wrong line.
By then, Gloucestershire had 246 on the board and led by 366. But it was a crestfallen Cockbain who made his way slowly back to the pavilion, having mastered a pitch few batsmen looked at home on and struck 15 fours and a six.
Will Gidman piled on the agony for Northants with some meaty cover drives as the lead approached 400. The left-hander reached his fifty off 94 balls, with six fours and, with time on his side, will be looking to extend his innings and Gloucestershire's already sizeable lead today.