A stellar match

T20 South Group. Somerset v Surrey. 10th August 2018. Taunton.

Surrey, the auld enemy and a match fit for such an occasion. Both teams still had a very real opportunity of qualifying for the Quarter Finals and played as if they intended to get there.

Somerset won the toss and elected to field.

After a few days break from match report writing, it as been a long haul since April, time to catch up – here is the Surrey T20 report, drafted the day after the match. Polished a bit this evening:

Apparently NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will travel at speeds of up to 430,000 mph. Jamie Overton doesn’t bowl quite that fast but in his first over on Friday he bowled fast enough to remove two Surrey batsmen. Maddinson attacked him twice. Twice the ball was too quick for the stroke. The first steepled so high it threatened to get to the sun before NASA’s probe. Eventually it started to fall back to Earth. On its way down it was buffeted by a stiff breeze, whether the solar wind which NASA’s probe will encounter or the first blast of autumn which blew across the Cooper Associates County during this match I cannot say.

Whichever it was it eventually defeated Max Waller whose feet must have worn a hole in the outfield greater than that caused by the blast from NASA’s rocket as it took off. He manoeuvred too and fro as his eyes focused on the distant falling ball as it too manoeuvred too and fro above his head. As it accelerated towards him it finally drifted two yards behind his head and the batsmen ran two. Maddinson tried again. The top edged pull flew high, although not nearly so high as the first, above the fast back-pedalling Myburgh at point. Myburgh caught the ball over his head, completed a full backward roll and emerged triumphant with the ball held aloft.

The over was but two balls old. Roy made no progress against the next three. Overton bowled the sixth fast and full, Roy leaned into the shot, clipped through leg, Taylor, at mid wicket, took off at 45 degrees and, with NASA like accuracy, plucked the rocket out of the air one handed. If there is to be a better catch this season I hope I am there to witness it. Surrey were 20 for 3 after three overs and Somerset were on the perfect trajectory. As any rocket scientist will tell you getting on the right trajectory early makes it easier to respond if you are buffeted later on.

I trust the NASA probe doesn’t meet road works on its way to the sun. I met some on the way to the match. The temporary lights were phased to cause a three-mile queue in one direction and no queue at all in the other. The consequence was I walked through the Brian Rose gates just as Taylor’s throw to run out Burns off the first ball of the match flew into Davies’ gloves. By the time I reached my seat at the top of the Somerset Pavilion Overton was ready to bowl his over.

20 for 3 the score may have been at the end of Overton’s over but Surrey are Surrey and they were not challenging for a place in the knock-out phases of this competition by accident. The best teams in T20 fight fire with fire. The 19-year-old Jacks immediately pulled Gregory for four, then struck him flat batted straight back over his head to the Botham Stand for six. Now Jacks and Foakes set about re-establishing the Surrey innings against Overton and Taylor. Foakes drove Overton and hooked Taylor fine, both to Gimblett’s Hill for four. 49 for 3 at the end of the powerplay and Surrey were beginning to threaten the momentum Somerset had built with those three wickets.

Momentum is as important in a T20 innings as it is in spacecraft heading for the sun. It is what keeps both on track. If a side loses momentum it can be very difficult to make up lost ground. It is why Somerset employ van de Merwe and Waller. They stop batting sides gaining momentum. And that is precisely what van de Merwe did. He bowled five balls of his slow left arm spin for three runs. In T20 that threatens to stall momentum. Foakes lashed out at the sixth and was bowled. That is what happens if you threaten the batting side’s momentum.

Waller then beat Clarke twice and forced Jacks onto the defensive as he bowled an over for two runs. Surrey 54 for 4 in eight overs. Two overs like that with a score like that shifts the momentum to the fielding side and the buzz in the crowd responded to it.

But Surrey are Surrey, Rikki Clarke is Rikki Clarke and Surrey employ him for a reason. He lofted the first ball of van de Merwe’s next over for six. And Jacks is of an age that knows no fear. He hit the slow left-armer into the churchyard. Twice. 26 from the over as Surrey now threatened to wrench the momentum back from Somerset and re-set their trajectory which must have originally been targeted on 200. The crowd chatter quietened.

T20 is about nerve as well as momentum. Gregory has nerve. He kept Somerset’s other spinner on. Again, Waller beat the batsmen twice. Again he forced them onto the defensive. And again they took only two runs from his over. 82 for 4 from 10 overs, the momentum now perhaps just with Somerset. 200 for Surrey would now require a trajectory of 12 runs an over for 10 overs. The chatter in the stands shifted towards expectation in a match which was veering alternately between expectation and trepidation.

But this was Surrey. And Clarke was still prowling. Gregory replaced van de Merwe. Clarke pulled him to the Colin Atkinson Pavilion for four and lifted him to the Caddick Pavilion for six. Then, to a collective sharp intake of breath, van de Merwe replaced Waller. Surrey pounced. Clarke drove him through cover for four. Jacks drove him to the top deck of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion and pulled him half way up the Somerset Stand for two sixes. 19 from the over, 32 from the last two, Surrey 119 for 4 with eight overs to go. Now they had some momentum and a 10 an over trajectory to reach 200. Nerves began to inhabit the stands.

The Surrey advance heralded the return of Overton. He varied his pace. Clarke missed a slow off side yorker, then edged a quicker ball just short of short third man. Jacks drove a six wide of Gimblett’s Hill and Davies’ and Overton’s reaction to a missed pull at a slower ball suggested it missed the stumps by the width of an umpire’s finger. Then, striving to sustain momentum, Jacks mishit. Abell, running in from the Caddick Pavilion boundary, took the catch and Jacks departed for 53. No crowd chatter now, just cheers.

Gregory, he with the nerve, recalled van de Merwe. Clarke cut him for four and was then bowled for 32. It moves at quite a pace this T20 cricket. Surrey were 127 for 6. The crowd erupted, the momentum in the match had rejoined Somerset, and 200 looked a long way off.

With Surrey losing wickets and needing runs Waller returned to torment them. He forced Tom Curran and van de Bergh onto the defensive and limited them to five runs with Abell once running in hard from deep midwicket to turn two into one. Waller had bowled four overs for 15 runs. The momentum was now threatening to move decisively towards Somerset.

But Surrey are Surrey. Curran and van den Bergh immediately tried to wrest the initiative from Gregory and Taylor. Van den Bergh miscued a ball high towards Trego running in from Gimblett’s Hill. The crowd held its breath, the ball yorked Trego and ran down to the boundary for four. Curran cut Gregory and pulled Taylor both for four and then drove Taylor to the Somerset Pavilion for six. Taylor held his nerve. Curran shaped to scoop, missed and was bowled for 21. Cheers, of relief as much as joy, for Curran had been making an impact. Surrey 157 for 7 with three overs to go. Short of a 200 trajectory but within range of a defensible score.

Now Gregory brought Overton back into the fray. The new batsman, Morkel, tried to drive but lofted Overton to Waller running in from the Trescothick Stand boundary. Two wickets in three balls for Somerset and only three runs from a probing Overton over as Surrey’s momentum began to stall again. Overton had taken four for 24 in four overs. Batty was unable to lay any meaningful bat on Gregory and was caught behind trying to hook.

Taylor held the last over to five runs keeping Surrey to 176 for 9. Perhaps 15 to 20 short of par I thought given the way in which groups of wickets, miserly bowling, especially from Waller, and some outstanding fielding had slowed their progress at times.

So Somerset started their innings with some momentum flowing their way. But this was Surrey, Morkel is Morkel, momentum is momentum and if you don’t sustain it the other side is liable to wrench it away. In Morkel’s first over, Myburgh, after his recent renaissance, either checked his stroke or was badly beaten by a full slower ball, perhaps both, and looped the gentlest of catches to mid on.

Morkel’s default ball seems to be short of a length and rising sharply into the midriff or chest of the batsman. Davies pushed him uppishly but softly into the onside and short of the infield. Next ball he repeated the stroke with a bit more force and was caught. Somerset were 9 for 2 with two overs gone and the ever-ephemeral momentum swing back towards Surrey. A nervous hum best describes the reaction of the crowd. A target of 177 may have been below par but starting at 9 for 2 in pursuit is a bit of a leveller. The edge of my seat, intensely overused this season, was suddenly pressed back into service.

But this was Somerset and two of Somerset’s finest held the crease. Trego doesn’t know how to give up and Hildreth seems to operate on a plane unaffected by what goes on around him. Somerset bat very deep in T20 so when wickets fall they just keep attacking the bowling regardless. In a game where momentum is crucial it has been a key factor in Somerset’s success in 2018.

And so Trego and Hildreth attacked. Trego guided Morkel to fine leg and drove him through extra cover for two fours. Hildreth cut him perfectly for four even though the ball was tight into his body. Dernbach was driven to Gimblett’s Hill by Trego and wider to the Somerset Stand by Hildreth. Curran was pulled behind square to the Colin Atkinson Pavilion.

But Clarke is Clarke. At 42 for 2, Hildreth drove Morkel hard and low through the covers. Clarke, at short cover, dived long and low to his right and held a brilliant catch getting his hand under the ball as it was about to touch earth. Hildreth gone for 14. Did it match Taylor’s phenomenal catch? I don’t think it did quite but it would probably have taken the rest of the afternoon in replays to resolve the issue. Two catches in a class of their own.

42 for 3 in the sixth over. Morkel had just pointed the momentum towards Surrey. Just over an over later Abell, trying to turn it back towards Somerset, slog swept Batty’s off spin, miscued and Maddinson took the catch running in from deep square leg. 55 for 4 in the seventh over. Surrey had twice taken two wickets within the space of an over. The quickest way to develop momentum in a cricket match is to take wickets, and Surrey had done precisely that.

When both teams keep coming back at each other an exceptional game of cricket results. We had one on our hands here. Anderson joined Trego. There followed an over of careful accumulation to see off Morkel’s final over and then it was down to the business proper. To wrest the momentum from Somerset Morkel had taken three wickets in his four overs for 30 runs but his force was now spent. For Somerset Anderson’s remained unused.

Anderson has been a real asset to Somerset in T20 this year. He has produced runs in abundance, he has produced them at speed and at key moments in matches. The dazzling glimpse we saw of him at the Oval in 2017 has shone bright throughout 2018 and, as far as you can tell from beyond the boundary, he looks as much a part of the team as anyone. It is as if he has always been here. And Trego is Trego. Somerset to the core. A fighter to his fingertips. Still capable with the bat of turning a match on his own.

These two rallied to Somerset’s cause and the crowd rallied to theirs. As their partnership grew so did the crowd’s support. As the fours and sixes piled up applause turned to cheers.

Batty took up the challenge for Surrey. Trego drove him for four to where the old Cowshed used to stand whilst Anderson drove him for six to where the old Stragglers bar used to be. Curran fought back for Surrey. He bowled a tight over for just four runs, beating a charge down the wicket by Anderson and forcing Trego to dig out a yorker. After 10 overs Somerset were 80 for 4 needing another 97 to win, nearly 10 an over. Surrey had been 82 for 4. The match statistically in the balance but Surrey had their runs and Somerset had theirs still to get. The match in the balance but Anderson primed. The crowd really began to find its voice.

Anderson responded. He pulled van den Berg’s spin first to the third row and then to the back of the Somerset Stand. Surrey turned to Clarke, so often the nemesis of Somerset’s batsmen. Trego responded. In successive balls he drove him past backward point for four, “Brilliant” someone said, cut him for two and then pulled him into the Somerset Stand for six. 112 for 4. 65 needed from 48 balls with six wickets left. Anderson and Trego were turning the match. The momentum was beginning to flow rapidly towards Somerset. As the cheers died down the buzz and the chatter reached a crescendo as spirits soared.

Now Dernbach, a top rate white ball bowler on his day, tried to stem the flow. Four steered to the Trescothick Stand by Trego and five leg side wides perhaps forced by Somerset’s accelerating momentum, reduced the require run rate to around 7.5. When Anderson drove Curran into Gimblett’s Hill and lifted him to the third row of the Somerset Stand Somerset needed just 29 from five overs and still had six wickets standing. Now the momentum was all but irreversibly with Somerset and just about everybody was singing along to whatever song happened to burst forth from the PA system.

And yet still this match would not quite lie down. Clarke and Dernbach dug deep and bowled two overs for 10 runs. Somerset could still just about get the remaining 19 in the proverbial singles. And yet momentum sets the mood. The slowing in Somerset’s momentum just tugged a little at the confidence in the crowd and the chatter, though still abuzz, took on a faint hint of anxiety.

Then, in the next over, Anderson drove at and top edged Curran. Clarke, at short third man, took the chance. Trego skied a pull towards the Somerset Stand. Jacks ran in hard, dived full length and fast towards the accelerating falling ball, caught it brilliantly one handed at ground level and we had seen three undeniably great catches in one match. Anderson and Trego had put on 104 together in just over 10 overs. Trego 70. Anderson 53.

Somerset faces in the crowd started to look at each other. The drivers of the momentum which had carried Somerset so close to victory had gone. The great hubbub of anticipation around the ground had quietened. Gregory and van der Merwe were at the crease. They had created more than enough momentum in matches this year not to be concerned about the job in hand here. And yet losing the two main run scorers within the space of an over does place the shadow of a doubt in the back of the mind.

Van de Merwe put doubt out of mind when he drove a Dernbach full toss into the Trescothick Stand. That stroke triggered a stirling singing effort, and effectively ended the match as a contest as Somerset quietly picked off the seven runs still needed to win by four wickets.

As I left after the match I spoke to a couple who might have watched Somerset in the 1950s and probably did. Neither of them had ever watched T20 before. “A great match,” they said, “and the fielding is a level above.” They had hitherto dismissed T20 they said. I doubt they will again for it was a tremendous match and the fielding was exceptional on both sides.

When I reached my bus stop a man of similar vintage approached me. My white wyvern hat tends to have that effect. “Have you been to the cricket?” he asked. “It was only my second T20,” he said in a tone which suggested he was asking himself why he had left it so long. It was that sort of match. Two powerful sides each pushing the other to the limit, first one edging ahead, and then the other, until one, eventually, had to give way.

And as to NASA’s solar probe it needs to follow just as contorted a trajectory to get where it needs to be as Somerset followed to victory in this match. NASA, I am sure, will have every inch of its contortonist trajectory mapped out in advance. Life watching Somerset would be so much more restful if the team could see its way to doing the same. It wouldn’t be half so much fun as watching a match like this one though. And a fast bowler bowling at 430,000 mph. Now there is a thought to conjure with.

Result: Surrey 176 for 9 (20 overs) (WG Jacks 53(31 balls), R Clarke 32(23), J Overton 4-24(econ 6.00), RE van de Merwe 2-54(13.50). Somerset 177 for 6 (19.1/20 overs) (PD Trego 70(54), CJ Anderson 53(31), M Morkel 3-30(7.50), TK Curran 2-32(8.00). Somerset won by 4 wickets. Somerset 2 points. Surrey 0 points.

This report was first posted on grockles.com on 15th August 2018