County Championship 2017 ~ Surrey ~ Third day ~ Match in tatters

Close. Somerset 269. Surrey 328-6. Surrey lead by 59 runs with 4 first innings wickets standing.

21st September. Third Day -Match in tatters

Farmer White (IP Logged) 22 September 2017 8.26 a.m.
“The relegation tide rose around Somerset on the third day of this match. Middlesex won at Lord’s and Yorkshire are closing in on Warwickshire at Headingley, although making some heavy weather of it. Somerset are losing against Surrey, and will need an extended effort from their remaining six wickets on the last day against a rampant Surrey to salvage the five points which come with a draw. It will require their best batting of the match, the first morning apart.

Somerset entered this game with their First Division future in their own hands. It still is, but now nothing but a win against Middlesex next week will do. If a draw could be managed tomorrow bonus points are unlikely to come into it. If Somerset lose tomorrow, then they will come into the equation as well as the win. Somerset’s route to salvation has become narrower and more fraught with difficulty as each session in this round of matches has passed.

As I reached the top of the steps into the Peter May Stand I saw Sangakkara pull Craig Overton in front of square to Archbishop Tenison’s School. As effortless a full-blooded pull in front of square as you are likely to see. He followed it up three balls later with a classic cover drive for another four. In the next over Clarke drove Trego through the covers. Another boundary.

Dom Bess was tried from the Vauxhall End. Clarke drove him for four. Bess responded by bouncing one steeply past Clarke’s bat. “Did that one turn?” a Somerset supporter gasped. In his next over Bess took the inside edge of Sangakkara’s bat. It had the effect of poking a tiger with a sharp stick. Sangakkara promptly late cut Bess for four, a stroke of sheer beauty, and then lofted his next ball viciously over cover for a one bounce four, the bounce just short of the rope. In his next over Bess was driven, cut and pulled for three consecutive fours by Clarke. It drove mid on and point back to the boundary, Bess out of the attack and the score to 395 for 6. Surrey 126 ahead.

Abell replaced Bess, the virtual absence of Jack Leach from the attack a puzzle to all watching, and promptly conceded two boundaries to Clarke. In his third over Sangakkara finally overreached himself. He drove hard at Abell but the ball flew high into the sky and veered over backward point. Jack Leach ran in and took a good running catch low down as the ball swirled in the cold westerly wind. Sangakkara 157. Surrey 416 for 7 and the damage was done. Sangakkara had made his eighth century of the season in his thirteenth innings and Somerset’s match was in tatters.

Somerset looked stunned but regrouped. Clarke set off for an impossible single, Batty held his ground and Bartlett hit the stumps with a direct hit. Abell took a second wicket, only his third in first-class cricket and Trego ended the innings by sending one of Meaker’s stumps cartwheeling for his fifth.

It was ill timed for it left Somerset ten minutes to bat until Lunch during which time Trescothick played a trademark gentle late cut and edged it to third slip, the ball perhaps moving away from him. It was the second time in the match he had been out on the stroke of Lunch. In the first innings it had heralded the Somerset collapse which delivered control of the match to Surrey. A control which, Sangakarra a long way to the fore, they have never relinquished. Now it set the Somerset supporters around me to asking about the wisdom of such a stroke at such a time so early in his innings when the ball appeared to be moving.

Trescothick’s departure left a 19-year-old and a 20-year-old to face the weight of the Surrey attack immediately after Lunch. There is a confidence about young people these days which was not there at such an age in earlier generations. Byrom and Bartlett applied that confidence from the start, at least that is how it looked from beyond the boundary. What went on inside their helmets who can say. There were two assured cover drives from Bartlett, and a short ball from Curran was guided fine to the Vauxhall End by Byrom, succeeding where Trescothick had failed. They were helped when Sangakarra stepped down from being a cricketing god for a moment to drop Byrom at slip.

The pair took Somerset past 50 as news came in that Lancashire were eight down, 70 short of beating Middlesex with Hameed injured. Willing the youngsters on was not enough. Bartlett’s gutsy knock was ended on 28 by an lbw shout from Meaker.

Hildreth joined Byrom and made a breezy start. He hooked Curran eight rows back into the end of the OCS Stand which fills the Vauxhall End of the ground, glanced Meaker for a four past a diving fielder in front of the Pavilion, then played the same stroke again and was lbw. 74 for 3, and Somerset’s two most experienced top order batsmen gone. Then Abell tried to square cut a head high Meaker bouncer only to succeed in top edging it fast over slip for four into the Pavilion boards. “Ohhh!” was the instinctive reaction from the crowd. Somerset were living dangerously.

Byrom’s innings ended with a huge appeal from Surrey. The whole team charged towards, and up the pitch to congratulate the bowler, Batty, but no finger was raised. Surrey gathered around still making a lot of noise. Byom hesitated. The Umpires edged towards each other also somewhat hesitantly. The Surrey team edged towards Byrom who hesitated still, looking unsure, before walking off. Eventually one of the Umpires indicated that the ball had brushed off stump and dislodged a bail. The Surrey reaction was reminiscent of the first innings when Abell had edged a ball which, from my position square, seemed not to carry. That is not to say it was obvious to the players. Eye-brain interaction is an interpretation of information, not a photograph. The Surrey team had gathered then as the Umpires consulted, one of them almost seeming to confront Abell until one of the Umpires stepped in to apparently warn him away. “I don’t like that sort of thing,” someone said and neither did I.

Byrom’s departure, just one run short of getting into his now almost customary 40s, left Abell and Davies to take Somerset to 113 for 4 at Tea in gathering gloom which overwhelmed the effect of the lights before the players could return. There is a curious thing about cricket. It must be the only sport in which spectators pay good money to watch the game, and then sit in their seats hoping for a downpour to stop the game being played. A look to the west showed that was precisely what was about to happen, for the sky was darker still and it was clear that rain, despatched from the West Country, was on the brink of arriving to aid Somerset’s cause. Whether, with four wickets down and a sunny day forecast for the last day, it will be enough3 is doubtful.”

The rain, which did indeed fall, persisted and ended play for the day. Meanwhile at Lord’s, Middlesex completed a 36 run victory over Lancashire in spite of Hameed returning to bat with a finger which had been fractured earlier in the Lancashire second innings. Yorkshire would need a further 119 runs to beat Warwickshire on the last day with seven wickets remaining. The distant shaky prospect of a draw the limit of Somerset’s ambition.

Close. Somerset 269 and 113-4. Surrey 433 (KC Sangakkara 157, OJ Pope 50, R Clarke 50, PD Trego 5-67). Somerset trail by 51 runs with 6 second innings wickets standing.