Yorkshire outpaced

County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 29th, 30th 31st August and 1st September 2018. Headingley. Final Day.

Somerset started the last day needing eight wickets to defeat Yorkshire. Yorkshire needed an unlikely 411 further runs if they were to win. The first three innings of the match had all topped 300. It was by no means certain the pitch, on which 1066 runs had been scored in three days, would yield up those eight wickets. My report was delayed because I returned to Somerset via a brief sojourn in London.

Overnight: Somerset 399 and 339 for 7 dec. Yorkshire 320 and 8 for 2. Yorkshire need a further 411 runs to win with 8 wickets standing.

And now, back in Somerset after a circuitous return from Leeds, here is my final day report from Headingley…

“Nothing is certain in cricket but if there is a way to win on that pitch this team will find it …….. Someone always seems to step up. The message to Yorkshire is: If Gregory don’t get you, Davey will. Or one of the Overtons. Or the other. Or Jack Leach. Or any combination necessary thereof.” So ended my third day report.

The combination this time was Gregory, and one of the Overtons, and the other. And as the incoming text said, “It’s not so long ago we would have bowled through the last day to take four wickets. Now we are winning these games.”

The reason for that was the filling in the gap in the quote in the first paragraph of this report: “There is a strength of will, an intensity and a unity of approach that marks great teams. This team, under Tom Abell, Andy Hurry and Jason Kerr is fast developing just those attributes and they grow by the match. Someone always seems to step up.” And I might have added Gregory to the leadership trio, for his leadership of the T20 team has played a full part in the burgeoning confidence and intensity of purpose of this group of players.

It takes leadership, a sense of purpose and a will to win on a pitch perhaps best suited to a draw. It was tough going in the morning session of the final day as Williamson and the nightwatchman, Shaw, dug in as if they were both Yorkshiremen from the days of Brian Close.

The pitch gave Somerset nothing and neither did the Yorkshire batsmen. As the partnership progressed and the wickets did not come the faces of Somerset supporters in the crowd became more tense and more taut by the over. The Yorkshire crowd got behind their team and it felt like the Somerset bowlers were bowling against a brick wall. And yet not once did the Somerset team’s heads drop. Not once did its shoulders sag. And the key word is ‘team’.

The day started with the sun unremittingly shining down. There was none of the cloud cover that had overseen Yorkshire’s bowlers on the first day. Not much of the first day crowd either. A typically thin fourth day crowd. Now there were sparsely distributed spectators where on the first three days the sparsely distributed empty seats had been. Enough though to make a noise.

“We’ve reached our first objective,” a home voice said after half an hour, “11.30 without a wicket.” As a Somerset supporter you knew he had a point. There was general consensus that on this pitch the new ball was crucial and it had been nine overs old when the day started. There was so little in the pitch it seemed that the nightwatchman, Shaw, had been able to lean smoothly into two successive balls from Davey and turn them to the boundary for four. Sitting square it is impossible to be sure but perhaps Davey strayed a little to leg.

Leach was tried but could find nothing in the pitch. Yorkshire’s decision not to play a front-line spinner perhaps saying something about the nature of pitch. Abell tried to encourage his team. “C’mon lads,” he would call from time to time. It provoked short bursts of clapping from around the field in support. At 12.00 the Yorkshire timekeeper said, “12 o’clock and they’re still in.”

When Williamson drove Leach back over his head and hit the Football Stand sightscreen on the full a Yorkshire voice shouted out across the field, “Well done Yorkshire. Well done boys.” As if in reply Abell shouted, “Come on lads!” When Shaw ducked under a Craig Overton bouncer the advice, probably loud enough for Overton to hear was, “Tha can keep putting it theer lad.” He had a point I suppose but there was no sign of any other form of life in the pitch and Overton ‘put his back into it’ as they say and the bouncers were well directed.

When Shaw clipped Overton behind square for four to bring up the fifty partnership the crowd really sprang to life. The applause given the, in comparison to the first three days, thinly occupied stands, was extended and enthusiastic. “Good effort. Great effort boys!” typical of the shouts. And you couldn’t really dispute the Yorkshire crowd’s reading of the game. The pitch may have favoured the batsmen but the batsmen worked with it and with great intent and skill.

Somerset supporters were beginning to look at each other with looks that wondered where the eight wickets they needed were going to come from. Plenty of time left was the thought that tried to reassure. 76 overs of time to be precise but 20 overs had already been consumed with no wicket or any real sign of a wicket. Then the Leeds Rhinos versus Hull KR rugby league pre-match testing of the PA in the rugby ground emphasised the irretrievable passage of time which gradually whittled away at Somerset’s prospects.

Looking for any sign of hope I had been keeping an eye on an horizon-wide formation of cloud beyond the ‘Popular Enclosure’ on the western side of the ground. It was distant and it was white but it was edging slowly but inexorably towards us as if it were some relief force from the Cooper Associates County Ground conducting a flanking manoeuvre to bring aid to the team. It was thickening too behind the leading edges.

My eye was drawn back to the cricket by Williamson again driving Leach straight, this time to the top of the sightscreen in front of the Football Stand. Then he drove him again, this time through the onside for four and finally into the covers for a single to keep the strike. “Super over Yorkshire. Keep it going,” the shout from the stands. And keep it going they did to the increasing concern of Somerset supporters.

“Come on Jamie O,” exhorted Abell as ‘Jamie O’ began his first spell of the morning running down the slope from the Kirkstall Lane End where the Pavilion now stands. And come on he did. 5-2-4-0 of tightly directed pace in a spell which lasted until the Lunch interval.” He’s a bit quicker than t’other one,” the Yorkshire assessment. Once Overton forced Williamson to dolly the ball up a few yards. “There’s no-one there to tek it. They’re on’t boundary,” continued the Yorkshire commentary.

CC 2018 Yorks (A) FW notes Day 4
Running commentary 4. Author’s notes. The Yorkshire assessement of the Overton brothers’ relative pace and of Abell’s field placings for Jamie.

Perhaps 20 minutes before Lunch the leading edge of the cloud started to dim the sun and lower the temperature a degree or too. Gregory was now bowling opposite Overton. In his second over as the cloud thickened a little, and with the power of the sun to cast a shadow nullified, Shaw tried to clip Gregory to leg. It was a stroke he had played with safety all morning. He was given out lbw for 42. A look at a replay of the ball suggests some movement through the air into Shaw. As he walked off the shout was, “Great effort boy. Phenomenal effort.” Yorkshire 94 for 3. Ballance to the wicket. “Now Yorkshire. Start again,” the exhortation from the stands. “Come on lads. One more boys,” the one from Trescothick from slip.

Then, as the cloud lowered a little, the players went off for Lunch. “Well done Yorkshire. Good session. Great session! Bit o’ backbone. Good to see,” was the cry and it sat neatly with what their supporters had been saying about the poverty of Yorkshire’s batting this season.

Relief columns from Somerset need to get their timings right. The cloud, too early for Somerset’s purposes thickened through Lunch although it was still high and never more than the lightest of greys tinted with a liberal application of white. As the end of the Lunch interval approached it gradually started to rise and that which followed on behind looked thinner and whiter.

As the players returned after Lunch, “How do we win this?” asked the incoming text. Someone had said in the interval that Williamson looked like he could bat until Christmas so, not wishing to raise hopes, I sent that back in response to the text. “C’mon Yorkshire. Do it again,” was the shout as Craig Overton bowled the first ball of the afternoon session.

What followed was an exhibition of pace bowling which turned the day. Although not the match, for over the four days a string of performances with bat and ball, not least from Gregory with both, had given Somerset the ascendancy. And not just Gregory for there were two Overton’s in the side. To see one Overton in full flow is a sight worth the seeing. To see both in full flow and in tandem is a sight to treasure.

In the first over after Lunch Williamson drove Craig Overton’s second ball through the on side for four to bring up his fifty. “Well played lad. Well done,” followed the applause. With his fifth ball Overton got lift and sharp movement off the pitch. The ball climbed into Williamson who was badly tucked up, jerked to turn the ball to leg and was caught behind. It was a stunning delivery. Not all short balls are wasted. A Yorkshire supporter said, “We’re done now,” followed by, “Well bowled lad.”

Somerset supporters felt a weight rise from their shoulders as quickly as that ball had risen from the pitch. They roared in relief and could be seen turning to acknowledge one another as Williamson headed for the Pavilion. And I sent a text saying, “Christmas has come early.” It felt like a turning point. Yorkshire were 99 for 4, there were two sessions left and Williamson really had looked like he could bat until Christmas.

In Overton’s next over he pitched full, Kohler-Cadmore tried to drive, the ball passed inside the stroke, clipped the pad and the umpire raised his finger. “That were a terrible shot,” said one Yorkshire supporter although I am not sure that any stroke would have kept that ball out. Whether he should have attempted the drive on nought is another matter. 103 for 5.

As the wicket fell I was talking to another Somerset supporter who had come to ask if I had any idea why things had changed so quickly. I had no answer other than to look at the sky which still had a covering of white cloud sufficient to blot out the sun. Craig Overton, I said, might have had something to do with it as well. I was actually doubtful whether the high cloud cover was sufficient to make any difference but the fall of the three wickets either side of Lunch had coincided pretty closely with its arrival. The Yorkshire supporter in front of us turned to give his opinion, “I told some of your lads what would happen. Once one goes they all follow.”

Jamie Overton bowled the next over and he bowled it fast. He pitched full from around the wicket to Ballance. From side on Ballance appeared to use minimal footwork, half, almost limply, jab the bat down and was bowled. 103 for 6. “After all that work afore Lunch,” was the despairing comment from behind me. And immediately, as if on cue to celebrate a turnaround of mammoth proportions fashioned by the Somerset bowlers, the band struck up some joyous marching strands in the rugby ground. Gregory, in immediate response marched, arms swinging straight and in time with the music, back to slip. It was perhaps appropriate for at the moment his cricket seems to march boldly to whatever tune he calls.

Jamie Overton bowled an 11 over spell, five before Lunch and six after, through and beyond the slightly cooler temperatures heralded by the cloud. It was prolonged, testing, containing and impressive bowling. Hodd counter attacked against Craig Overton, glancing, driving and pulling three fours in two overs. Meanwhile Leaning looked distinctly uncomfortable against Jamie. When Overton uprooted his off stump with a ball which may have just angled way from him off the pitch a Yorkshire voice said, “That’s put him out of his misery.” Cruel perhaps but it reflected the despair of many Yorkshire supporters at the sudden destruction of their batting.

And then the sun, which had spasmodically broken through after the fall of Ballance, shone again in all its splendour and the orchestrated pre-match chanting of, “Rhinos. Rhinos. Rhinos,” and the playing of the band rang out ever more persistently from the rugby ground.

Somerset’s march towards victory did not keep up with the beat of the band as Gregory’s march to slip had done. Whether that had any connection with the full return of the sun shortly after the fall of Leaning; or whether the cluster of wickets had anything to do with the passage of white cloud over the ground, I cannot say. It is a fact though that the visit of the cloud had coincided pretty well with the sudden clatter of wickets and the frequency with which wickets fell diminished considerably after it had gone.

When Gregory, who had replaced Jamie Overton at the Kirkstall Lane End, bowled Hodd for 24 with a ball just short of yorker length which uprooted his leg stump Yorkshire were 143 for 8 with nearly 50 overs remaining. There was applause for Hodd and shouts of, “Well done Hoddy.” This perhaps reflected the fact that Hodd had been recalled from the Second Eleven game at Taunton, is retiring at the end of the season, was one of five players to be out in the 80s in the two first innings of this match and had tried to take the fight to Somerset in the second.

Now, in searing sun, the Yorkshire lower order, in the form of Fisher and Willey, dug in. All five of Somerset’s bowlers tried their hand at removing them. Tea came and went at 163 for 8. Even as the overs ticked by Somerset supporters’ heads told them there was time, something would give, someone would get through, those two final wickets would come. Even Abell, as the new ball approached, tried his hand with the ball to no avail.

“C’mon Yorkshire. Get through these overs,” was the instruction from beyond the boundary. It was said more in hope than anticipation no doubt but the incoming text which read, “How many overs will we have with the new ball?” probably reflected the beginnings of anxiety among many Somerset supporters.

The sun had by now become so fierce I decided to retire to the Members Lounge behind the East Stand for some relief. There is something about watching cricket from behind distant glass which detaches from the raw emotion of watching from the stands. At least it does for me and I rarely stay long. As it was Somerset didn’t give me long.

I chatted to some other Somerset supporters in the lounge as I kept my eyes on the cricket. Jamie Overton returned from the Kirkstall Lane End and ended the match in two overs. Fisher, after nearly two hours of resistance chased a wide ball, edged it and Gregory, from third slip took the catch to his left in front of Trescothick.

In his next over Overton gave Brooks a decidedly brisk welcome until he stepped away and fended his third ball to Trescothick diving to his left at second slip. Yorkshire were all out for 194, Somerset had won by 224 runs and seven Yorkshire wickets had fallen when the ball was over 40 overs old. The match, hinting at a draw before Lunch, had ended suddenly with Somerset in the ascendant and the Somerset team seemed to have found a way to win on a flattish pitch.

There was no time for Somerset supporters to celebrate or swap stories. The Leeds Rhinos rugby match was about to finish and there were rumoured to be 10,000 spectators in the ground and the noise they had made did nothing to dispel that rumour. No-one wanted to get caught up in the exodus and have a long journey home delayed. The exit from the cricket ground was probably made faster than the one from the Marie Celeste. For the record the Rhinos lost 36-38. No wonder there had been a lot of noise.

Result: Somerset 399 (Ashar Ali 89, JC Hildreth 81, SM Davies 80, JA Brooks 5-116, DJ Willey 3-74) and 339 for 7 dec (TB Abell 132*, JC Hildreth 72, L Gregory 57, DJ Willey 3-72). Yorkshire 320 (AJ Hodd 85, T Kohler-Cadmore 81, A Lyth 45, JH Davey 5-65, C Overton 3-59) and 194 (KS Williamson 51, J Shaw 42, J Overton 4-25, L Gregory 4-33). Somerset won by 224 runs. Somerset 23 points. Yorkshire 6 points.

The original version of this report was first posted on grockles.com on 3rd September 2018.