Gloucestershire keen to embrace Cheltenham again

Gloucestershire have officially launched their 2011 Cheltenham Festival, more than a month before it takes place.

Chief executive Tom Richardson and players Alex Gidman, Hamish Marshall and Muttiah Muralitharan attended a special lunch in the town to publicise the five matches at this year’s Festival, which starts on Wednesday July 20.

Muralitharan won’t be involved as his commitment to the club for the next two years is for Twenty20 cricket only and the Cheltenham programme features two Championship and three 40-over fixtures.

But the Sri Lankan still found himself the focus of most media attention, having just helped the Gladiators to their first t20 win of the season over Surrey at the two-day Gloucester Festival.

“I like Festival cricket. As an international player you get used to playing at all sorts of venues, but the atmosphere is good at the smaller ones and I enjoyed Gloucester very much,” he said.

Yesterday’s lunch was held at the Montpellier Wine Bar, sponsors of Murali at Gloucestershire this season, and regular supporters of the Cheltenham Festival over the years.

Skipper Gidman spoke of a determination to end a miserable Championship record at the College Ground where Gloucestershire have not won a game in the competition since 2001.

“I have never won a Championship match at Cheltenham in my career, which is scary,” he said. “Our one-day record there is very good, but we have taken some hammerings in four-day fixtures.

“I’m not sure why, but it’s vital we put things right this year if we are to achieve our objective of winning promotion from Division Two.”

Despite the Championship woes, Marshall was full of enthusiam over the prospect of playing at Cheltenham again. “I love it there. The atmosphere is really special and you get good value for your shots.

“There is a buzz from the moment you arrive and with the crowd so close to the pitch it is very different from playing at Bristol. I know all the players look forward to the Festival as a highlight of the season.”

This year’s Cheltenham matches are: July 20-23 Kent (LVCC), July 24 Notts (CB40), July 26 Essex (CB40), July 27-30 Surrey (LVCC), July 31 Lancashire (CB40).

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