Somerset stun Tolstoy

RLODC. Glamorgan v Somerset. 5th May 2017. Cardiff. 

This match took place in the 2017 Royal London One-Day Cup. The references to matches against Surrey and Kent are to matches which took place earlier in the 2017 competition. The references to the Taunton scoreboards are to their propensity to break down at the time. A shortcoming now rectified by the installation of new scoreboards. 

And for those who were not there …

“If you look for perfection you will never be content,” wrote Leo Tolstoy in Anna Karenina. It is a dictum many cricket followers would do well to remember. No bowler can bowl as well as the critic at the back of the stand. No batsman bat as well as the one in the bar. Then on the field there is always the long hop or the full toss to irritate. The one left on to the stumps or the charged down the wicket to be stumped to exasperate. We watch a game perfect in every respect in our minds yet riddled with imperfections in the playing. Not though if you were a Somerset supporter at Glamorgan’s Sophia Gardens of old on Friday. Somerset’s performance was all perfection or as near to it as any cricket is ever likely to be.

Even the scoreboards recording the performance worked to perfection. This is a perfection unknown at Taunton where the scoreboards have a tendency to be their own masters untroubled by what is happening in the middle. Glamorgan have three scoreboards. They all worked to perfection. Perhaps they might donate one to Taunton. It may even be that some home supporters were wishing, by the end of the day, that Somerset would take them all home.

Apart from the early demise of Steven Davies, a bright defiant innings of 63 from Carlson and a miserly opening spell from Hogan the day was one of unremitting gloom for Glamorgan. Their supporters were stunned for they were on the wrong end of a right royal trouncing. As he left the ground one was overheard saying, “It’s only a month into the season and the writing is already on the wall.”

It must too have been a depressing prospect for the Glamorgan players that half an hour before the start the ground was virtually deserted. By the start there were barely, to my eye, 300 spectators and Somerset supporters were making, not entirely fanciful, claims that they were in the majority. Had the match been at Taunton it is likely the crowd would have approached ten times that. At Cardiff it perhaps reached around 500 at its peak. Measly fare for a professional cricketer.

As to the cricket, Glamorgan won the toss, put Somerset in on a green pitch with some cloud cover and promptly removed Davies at 16 and then Trego at 42. From there it was virtually all downhill for the home side. Elgar started to play his now almost customary innings for Somerset. A push here, a glide there, a drive to the boundary fielder by way of variety. Then an occasional boundary and a couple of random sixes. By such stealth, almost invisibly, he accumulated 96 at nearly a run a ball until he barely touched a short ball down the leg side to the keeper. The edge was as fine as the innings and the score was 229 for 3 in the 43rd over on an uneasy pitch on which many felt 250 might be par.

Allenby’s score kept company with Elgar’s all the way into the 90s although off more balls. At the fall of Elgar’s wicket in the 43rd over Hildreth strode down the pavilion steps with a look on his face which suggested he was either maddened by the short amount of time Allenby and Elgar had left him or he was determined to use the impressive edifice they had constructed as a base from which to build something far more intimidating. He stretched immediately to his first ball for a hard driven four which gave notice that Somerset’s infantry-like accumulation was over and the cavalry were about to be unleashed.

And so they were. From the position of security that Elgar and Allenby had painstakingly built Hildreth sallied forth with drives, pulls, cuts, glances, chips and strokes without name in whatever direction the fancy took him. Glamorgan fielders flew in every direction in a forlorn attempt to halt the onslaught. Allenby took Hildreth’s lead and brought in the heavy artillery. He hit four sixes to add to the two with which he had punctuated his long vigil with Elgar and Hildreth added two more for good measure.

At the fall of Elgar’s wicket Somerset had scored 229 for 3 at 5.3 an over. After it Hildreth and Allenby routed Glamorgan with 109 in 7.3 overs or 14.8 an over, 85 of which came off the last five. Hildreth hit 58 from 28 balls. Allenby finished on 144 from 146 balls. This was good clean hitting and they never looked in danger except when Allenby was dropped in the deep just before the end. Dropped perhaps as a result of the nerve numbing pummelling Glamorgan had taken. There was no hint of slogging. Many of Hildreth’s strokes were unorthodox, if orthodoxy remains a valid concept in one-day batting, but they were all deliberately executed and directed either to where the fielders were not or where a well taken run could be gathered. In the 7.3 overs of the partnership there were seven dot balls.

It was a magnificent sight that left Somerset hearts racing and Glamorgan ones barely beating. 338 for 3 was a devastating total to have to face on that wicket with morale that must have been broken by the unremitting professionalism and dominance of a merciless Somerset side.

 

And so to the Glamorgan innings which started with the Somerset bowlers further turning the screw. By the twelfth over the Glamorgan batting looked broken at 27 for 3 with their two champions, Jaques Rudolph and Colin Ingram, gone for four between them. Craig Overton the destroyer. Rudolph was out in the second over, trying to cut a wide ball, already more in desperation than in anticipation or so it looked to me.

Then Ingram was caught at mid-on off Davey, millimetres off the ground, by a flying Craig Overton diving full length straight down the line of the approaching ball. Dominant sides do seem to pull off the most miraculous of catches. When all the senses are fired up and aligned by success the impossible becomes possible. Overton’s figures of 5-3-8-1 in the opening ten overs, a mark of his dominance, played a big part in Glamorgan’s ten over score being 24 for 2, soon 27 for 3, against Somerset’s 43 for 2 at the same stage.

Carlson and Bragg then counter-attacked. They put on 55 in just over 8 overs for the fourth wicket. It was Glamorgan’s best passage in the match. Then Bragg went, stumped as he lost his balance to Allenby’s inquisitorial medium pace. The partnership had brought Glamorgan a chimera of parity. At the end of the 20th over they had scored 85 to Somerset’s 86 at the same stage. Somerset though had lost two wickets, Glamorgan four, and there was Somerset’s 85 off the last five overs to match.

The Somerset bowlers did not relax at the fall of the fourth wicket. They closed in on Glamorgan’s middle and lower order. Methodically and without ceremony they gave the batsmen no leeway and picked them off one by one in the same period of the innings in which Elgar and Allenby had built the foundation for all that followed. It seemed clinical and inevitable. After Carlson was bowled by Groenewald for 63 van de Merwe summed up the Somerset approach by quietly removing three of the Glamorgan tail for 21 runs. Overton and Davey were not needed at the end and five overs remained in each of their legs for another day.

The five over scores for this period of the two innings paint the picture. 20 overs: Somerset 86 for 2, Glamorgan 85 for 4. 25 overs: Somerset 110 for 2, Glamorgan 110 for 5. 30 overs: Somerset 138 for 2 Glamorgan 138 for 6. 35 overs Somerset 176 for 2 Glamorgan 160 for 9. An indication here perhaps that in the current one-day game it is not speed of scoring in the first 30 overs but retention of wickets whilst rotating the strike which lays the foundation for large totals. Elgar scored only one third of his 96 in boundaries although scoring very close to a run a ball. And 338 for 3 was a huge total on that pitch.

Somerset’s eventual victories against Surrey and Kent were won against the odds after Somerset fell behind in both matches. In this match Somerset determined the odds virtually from the outset and they were odds that overwhelmed Glamorgan. There was flair in Hildreth’s innings and explosive hitting at the end of Allenby’s but this match was won by tungsten-like discipline guiding razor sharp skill across the Somerset team.

Won by the innings of Elgar and Allenby on a difficult pitch; trusting their judgement that they were pacing it right, denying themselves any temptation to speed up too soon. Elgar hitting with incomparable precision to keep the scoreboard moving over thirty overs. Hildreth, knowing Elgar’s and Allenby’s base gave him licence for all-out attack yet keeping his nerve to hit out at ball after ball with controlled, directed strokes which gave no hint of vulnerability. Allenby, emboldened by Hildreth’s rapier-like assault, responded with judicious application of the bludgeon.

Then the bowlers and fielders, reflecting their disciplined performances all season, continued in like vein. Overton led the way with bowling that pressurised and never strayed to remove Rudolph and a wonder catch to remove Ingram. Davey continued his top order wicket taking start to the season and gave nothing away. Groenewald, Allenby and van Meekeren went for a few more runs in the face of the Glamorgan middle order’s attempt to break the Somerset stranglehold but held their nerve well enough to remove three of the batsmen who made the attempt. Then came the end with the silent efficiency of van de Merwe’s removal of the tail and Tolstoy turned in his grave at the sight of such perfection. 

Result. Toss. Glamorgan. Elected to field. Somerset 338-3 (50 overs) (J Allenby 144(146 balls), D Elgar 96(100), JC Hildreth 58*(28)). Glamorgan 168 (36.4/50 overs) (KS Carlson 63(59), RE van de Merwe 3-21(econ 3.70)). Somerset won by 170 runs. Somerset 2 points. Glamorgan 0 points. 

First published on grockles.com on 7th May 2017