Somerset legends: Peter Trego

It was the dark flowing locks that first caught my attention. It was almost as far back as the start of the current millennium. I specify the current millennium because it does seem that Peter Trego has been around an awfully long time. I was sitting in the old River Stand at Taunton and Trego was running in hard from the River End. I don’t remember the match, just the locks, and the bowler putting everything into his bowling. He looked like he had a future in the game.

Not an immediate future, for soon he had left Somerset. There were brief dalliances with other counties and a period out of the game. In 2006 he returned to play for the county of his birth and from there what a future he forged for himself. And what commitment he has shown to Somerset. Apparently, the Australian wicketkeeper, Wally Grout, said of Ken Barrington that whenever he walked to the wicket in a Test match it was as if a Union Jack trailed behind him. The same might be said of Peter Trego and the Wyvern.

Now, in 2019, he has retired from the red ball game. That future which he began to build for himself in 2006 still has some business to conduct with the white ball and that metaphorical Wyvern will trail behind him still as he walks out from the Andy Caddick Pavilion. For now though, before the new County Championship season starts without him, some memories of the red ball future he so brilliantly carved with Somerset over nearly a decade and a half.

There is nowhere else to start but on 3rd July 2009. Somerset had been set 476 to beat Yorkshire in 90 overs. When Yorkshire had batted on in the morning the draw was the inevitable outcome. Marcus Trescothick (96) and Arul Suppiah (131) started steadily enough and raised no suspicions that something incredible was being investigated. But it was. Gradually, almost imperceptibly, it became apparent that they were batting with determination and with intent. ‘On a mission’ to use the modern parlance. A base was being built and the possibility of a run chase being prepared.

When Trescothick went James Hildreth rotated the strike for Suppiah. When Suppiah went at 246 for 2 the Somerset bugle sounded the charge as David Stiff marched out five places above his normal position. Still Hildreth rotated the strike as Stiff peppered the Sir Ian Botham Stand with four sixes and 49 runs from 32 balls.

By the time Trego marched to the wicket Hildreth and Craig Kieswetter had gone and Somerset were 338 for 5, still 138 short. The match was in the balance with all four results, as they say, possible. What followed, as clouds began to close in, was a never-to-be-forgotten sight. Supported first by Langer and then by Zander de Bruyn, Trego launched one of the all-time-great Somerset batting assaults.

The ball flew, again and again, to and over the boundary. The Trescothick and Somerset Stands took particular punishment as I recall. When the boundary was not challenged the field was. The tension rose with the score as Trego flayed the bowling, whoever bowled, at a rate of nearly two runs a ball, 11 an over. Disbelief, hope and anxiety that it might end too early merged into one as the faster the total rose the more time seemed to stand still.

I watched, pinned to my cinema seat like an astronaut after lift-off, from the top of the Old Pavilion. But no cinema could put on a show to match what we saw that day. As time stood still it was as if the film was on fast forward. The eye could not keep up with the film and the mind could not keep up with the eye. The enormity of such an improbable chase numbed the feeling in every frayed nerve end possessed, I imagine, by every Somerset supporter in the ground.

The pummelling of the boundary apart, Trego’s innings is a blur. The scene is not. As the impossible turned into reality everyone I could see in every part of the ground was transfixed as if in a photograph taken at the moment the realisation dawned that they were witnessing a rare miracle on the cricketing stage. Perhaps they were held there by the fear that if they moved they might break the spell. Perhaps trying to absorb what they were seeing. Between the gaps in the stands stood people with statue-like stares fixed on the middle. Among the statues were dotted about the high-viz jackets of the stewards. All had deserted their posts, drawn inexorably to the boundary by a happening that transcended all duty, their eyes as fixed on the middle as the eyes of those they were supposed to steward. And, in truth, there was nothing to steward for no-one but the figures in white moved. The figures in white, and the thickening clouds gathering as they threatened rain and added another layer of tension to the Somerset supporter’s overloaded mind.

Then the tension exploded into instantaneous and thunderous applause and cheering as Trego reached his hundred. In an instant all that could stand stood, with arms, if like mine, numbed with nervous exhaustion, applauding above heads in every part of the ground. And then, just as the win had become as inevitable as the draw had been at the start of the Somerset innings, the clouds that had tantalised began to deposit their contents in play-stopping quantities. Too late. De Bruyn drove Azeem Rafiq over mid-wicket to where the Ondaatje Pavilion now stands and Somerset had completed the highest successful run chase in their history and Peter Trego had unlocked a gate through which he entered the pantheon of Somerset legends.

Legends are rarely made in an afternoon and Peter Trego’s status does not depend just upon that afternoon. Another run chase took place on another afternoon. This time in glorious sunshine. 7th September 2012 at Hove. Sussex had been bowled out in the middle of the third day leaving Somerset 396 to win. Trescothick and Suppiah both made 70s on the third afternoon but Somerset entered the final day with four wickets down, still needing 241 to win with Hildreth and Alex Barrow at the wicket, barely a run on the board between them and only Peter Trego, of batsmen who might offer hope, to follow.

The Sussex bowlers put Somerset under real pressure but Hildreth and Barrow, in one of his most valuable innings for Somerset, battled through almost to lunch with the tension and hope in every watching Somerset heart rising in tandem as the overs were survived and the total rose. Then Barrow fell for 40 to the first over with the new ball.

I was sat in the midst of a group of confident Sussex supporters, for 396, a formidible target in itself, would be, by nearly 90 runs, the highest score of the match. The fall of Barrow, with still 165 runs needed, appeared to promise, if one more wicket could be taken, the opening up of the Somerset lower order. In fact, with Hildreth holding an end secure whilst still purveying strokes of genius, Sussex had merely opened Pandora’s box out of which emerged Peter Trego.

And from Trego’s bat the ball flew, if through the air. The frequency with which it flew through the air put hope and anxiety in equal measure into every Somerset heartbeat and, I imagine into every Sussex one too. But as the Somerset total grew through the afternoon, the realisation dawned that those airborne boundaries were flying between rather than over the fielders. The realisation dawned too on those of us holding our breath that a match that had started the day as a defeat waiting to happen was turning into another Somerset cricketing miracle.

It was Hildreth who walked away with a century with which he had anchored the Somerset cause on the last day. Trego took 89 and a treasure trove of fours and sixes which he had brought with him when Sussex opened that box. And Somerset took the match by five wickets with the second highest successful run chase in the Club’s history. Only that 479 for 6 stood above it. There was not the atmosphere of 2009 for this was an away match and the Sussex supporters were at the other end of the emotional seesaw to those of us from Somerset. We walked on air just the same, some of us to clap the team coach out of the ground. From there I walked along the front at Hove until the sea air brought me back to earth.

Peter Trego, of course, is not just a batsman. As if seeing those two monumental performances was not enough I was fortunate to be at Headingley for his career best bowling performance. 26th September 2014. He bowled with his usual determination and accuracy and he bowled more overs than anyone else through a long Yorkshire second innings of 365 to take 7 for 84. It didn’t quite leave Somerset enough time to win the match. However, it did result in numbers of the Yorkshire members around me on the Pavilion terrace shouting warmly and with feeling, “Well played lad!” as he walked in at the end of the Yorkshire innings. Yorkshire members are objective an even-handed in their praise of good play but the praise has to be earned to be received. Their shouts, as they saluted a Somerset legend, will long remain in the memory.

Those were some of the highlights of my red-ball Trego-watching days but they were not the only ones. There was his 120 against Lancashire at Taunton in 2011 as he fought desperately to stave off defeat. He didn’t quite make it but it was a four-hour vigil of toe-clenching, stomach-wrenching, un-Trego-like defence against a title-chasing Lancashire. I sat in front of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion wondering how long I would be there as Somerset started the last day five runs ahead with five second innings wickets down. Trego stretched the game, and my stay on the Colin Atkinson terrace to within half an hour of the scheduled close. Well played lad!

There was too that nail-biting century partnership with Jim Allenby on the last morning of the Nottinghamshire match at Taunton in 2015. It took Somerset close enough to the 401 needed for victory for Michael Bates and Abdur Rehman, with three crisply struck boundaries, to take Somerset over the line.

Those are just segments of the Somerset legend that is Peter Trego. There is much else, much of which I did not see, which others will recall and savour. But whenever I think of his contributions my mind never wonders far from that day in 2009 when he played an innings which made the impossible manifest. Those hundreds of us who formed that last day crowd, fixed rigid to whatever spot we happened to be in, saw, and will never forget, something the like of which we had not seen before, and may not again, for 479 for 6 is an almighty score to win a cricket match. Well played lad indeed.