The Shire Brigade: Hamish Marshall

Gloucestershire’s departing curly-haired Kiwi hero Hamish Marshall is part of the Shire Brigade crew.

He has had one of county cricket’s most recognisable hairstyles these last 11 summers, but now the ringlets of Gloucestershire’s adopted Kiwi have had their last outing at Nevll Road.

Hamish Marshall arrived in Bristol in 2006 as an overseas player. Two years later he qualified as a local via an Irish passport, bringing a close to his Test career after 13 appearances, a disappointing return for a player that averaged 60 after a half-dozen outings, including a best of 160 against Sri Lanka and a century against an Aussie attack featuring Warne, McGrath, Gillespie and Lee.

He did at least get to play Test cricket with his twin brother, James. “We’d played plenty of Test matches against each otherin the backyard – we’d pick our sides, and you’d have to take 10 wickets before you got a bat – and hoped that one day it’d be us,” Marshall tells AOC. “But you never really think it’s going to happen. So for that to happen, in Auckland, close to where we live, with Mum and Dad there, and we got to bat together, was pretty special.”

There is a strong Kiwi heritage at Gloucestershire, and perhaps a similar underdog mentality. Marshall signed at the same time as former Black Caps quick Shane Bond having been sold the club by his national coach John Bracewell, the ‘mad scientist’, whose reputation was made overseeing the club’s domination of domestic one-day cricket at the turn of the century, before returning for a second spell in 2009. “John was big on the one-per-centers, work ethic and team players,” says Marshall. “We were having a team meeting and he brought up the elephant in the room: having a drink during the season. Big nights. We were young lads, and when you’re young, you want to enjoy yourself. He just said, ‘There’s no need to panic lads, there’ll be plenty of piss left at the end of the season’.”

Statistically speaking, Marshall’s first season in Bristol was his best, bringing 1,218 first-class runs. The following year saw Gloucestershire reach T20 Finals Day, Marshall’s 65 in the final not enough to overcome Kent. They haven’t been back since, this season falling at the quarter-final hurdle after winning more matches than any other county in the group stage.

While Gloucestershire were almost avant-garde in white-ball cricket during Bracewell’s first spell at the club, they never cracked the red-ball stuff, and Marshall’s time at the club hasn’t seen a single game of Division One cricket. “It’s just the nature of the club and how you allocate your resources,” he reflects. “It’s hard to be a side that dominates in all formats. It would have been nice to play in the first division, but it’s hard when you’re a small club to keep the depth that you need to cover injuries. I think the club’s heading in the right direction, having gone through five years of developing some young players, and holding on to these guys is key.”

Notwithstanding those struggles, Gloucestershire have once again assembled a one-day side that can mix it with the best. Last summer they were back at Lord’s lifting silverware at a more moneyed club’s expense, upsetting the odds to defeat Surrey. “No one knew what to do [when they won]. Everyone just took off and ran in all sorts of directions because we hadn’t been in that situation before! It was a surreal sort of feeling.

“I’d always wanted to have my wife and kids with me on the Lord’s outfield after winning a trophy, so that was a great feeling, especially to win it in front of those supporters, who were so loud, as they always are. We’ve been through some tough times but they’ve stuck with us. Last year was a nice way to reward them.”

His own celebrations tumbled into the Lord’s Tavern, where he was able to reconnect with a few legends of the Gloucestershire glory years over an oat soda. “To have a beer with Ian Harvey, Jon Lewis, Mike Smith and Mark Alleyne – people who’d been there, done that, and were still proud of the club – and see them there supporting us was pretty special. They were the benchmark – a pretty high benchmark – but as players you want to put your own stamp on the history of the club.”

With 26 centuries and well over 14,000 runs across three formats, it’s safe to say Hamish Marshall has managed to write himself into Gloucestershire history – although if there’s a statue being planned those ringlets might prove a challenge.

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