Overton returns

County Championship Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June. Guildford.

Second day. 4th June – Overton returns

Overnight. Somerset 344. Surrey 0-0. Surrey trail by 344 runs with ten first innings wickets standing.

There are homecomings and there are homecomings. This was one to be treasured in the video archives of the memory bank. A fast bowler running in from the Pavilion End at Guildford under skies that would have done service to the opening scenes of a biblical epic. He looked for all the world a fast bowler. The long, easy, flowing run to the wicket. The flash of the arm as it came over the head. The torso twisting to the horizontal as it imparted energy to the ball. The ball spearing in towards the batsman’s pads. The flash of the bat as it tried to intercept the missile. The thud of ball on pads. The swivel of the body, arms aloft in expectation rather than hope. The roar and certainty of the appeal. The inevitability of the raising of the finger. The bowler running off from his follow-through pursued by a gaggle of fielders in celebration. The return of Jamie Overton.

Somerset supporters dotted about the crowd let forth involuntary cheers at the sight and at the thought of what they had. It was Overton’s first ball of his first spell after his loan period at Northampton. It was precisely what Somerset needed and what any team needs of its fast bowler. The ball removed Elgar, Surrey’s dangerous overseas batsman, for one. That ball did not flatter Overton. “The most important part of the day was to see Jamie Overton bowling like that,” said a random Somerset supporter only identified by the roar he let out as he stood behind me when Davies took a stunning catch off Craig Overton to end Borthwick’s interminable vigil late in the day.  That comment reflected the powerful impression Jamie Overton’s first spell made as he followed up that first ball with an exhibition of accurate, hostile testing of the batsman.

The reason for the lack of a second wicket in that stunning opening spell can be known only to the cricketing gods who hand out such miserly rations to bowlers who beat the bat. If the Elysian Fields exist it is a certainty they are governed by a batsman. The gods could not, in the end, protect Foakes. He had taken the fight to Somerset with an innings of controlled aggression, repeatedly finding the boundary on his way to 57. His assault was ended when he edged Overton to Davies. It looked from the square Woodbridge Road boundary where I have been sitting for this match like an ill-disciplined flash outside off stump. A review of the wicket filmed from behind the arm reveals a ball which swung away viciously and late. This was a homecoming to savour.

There are of course two Overtons playing in this match for the first time in the Championship this season. Craig did not suffer in comparison with his returning brother for he bowled spells of constant challenge to the batsmen and the gods permitted him an equal share in the spoils. They exacted a heavy price for those spoils by way of the number of balls with which he beat the bat without result. I had been late in my arrival due to having to fit the writing of these reports in between eating, sleeping and a two-hour plus commute across London to and from the ground. I do though know how to time my arrival. The first ball after I sat down was from Overton. It flashed across Burns who edged it neatly through to Davies and Surrey were 36 for 2. Burns had scored two of the 36 runs. The score became 38 for 3 when Jamie removed Elgar. Stoneman, who had apparently attacked the bowling with some gusto had already gone by the time I arrived, bowled when he left a ball from Brooks which, a later video review showed, had moved into him although its original trajectory did not seem far enough from off stump to be left.

The rest of the morning consisted of intense defence from Borthwick and controlled attack from Foakes. Borthwick had come in at three and his score was consistently below the number of overs he had batted. It was Foakes who took Surrey forward as the morning developed a similar pattern to the first when Somerset had lost three early wickets to the new ball and, through Banton’s attack and Bartlett’s defence, had arrived at lunch at 100 for 3. Surrey arrived at lunch on the second day on 101 for 3 with Borthwick on a glacial 17 and Foakes on 49 punctuated with boundaries. Twice he pulled Jamie Overton square to bring, “C’mon. C’mon,” from Abell ever on hand to encourage his team. When Abell replaced Groenewald, who went off briefly, having given his leg some exercise and attention, Foakes responded with an on drive and a glance. “C’mon lads,” from Trescothick was responded to by Foakes cutting Abell to the Woodbridge Road boundary. When Leach was tried just before lunch Foakes drove him, emphatically as they used to say, through the covers. It was a counterattacking innings perhaps only to be expected from the County Champions and it gave notice that Surrey were still in this match and intended to stay there.

My lunchtime circumnavigation resulted in a couple of conversations on the far side of the ground from where it soon became obvious that the cloud of the morning, which for the most part had hung low but not low enough to deposit rain, was closing in and the light was becoming more Stygian than Elysian. We concluded that a restart was at best doubtful. The umpires, so often castigated for taking players off for bad light, thought otherwise. It was only a temporary reprieve but just long enough for Jamie Overton to deliver that food-of-the-gods ball which removed Foakes and ensured that when the players did go off for bad light, and the rain which quickly followed, Surrey were 123 for 4, still 221 behind and Somerset held the advantage.

The rain, light for some time, became heavy; the ground staff, doubtless with access to rain radar, put the full covering on and pegged it securely to the ground. Spectators, with eyes on a sky heavy with dark cloud where the rain was coming from made their own deductions and left in numbers. Among those remaining were a significant number of Somerset supporters who had travelled up for the day, having selected it based on the weather forecast of two days previously. The weather gods are as lacking in generosity to spectators as the cricketing gods are to bowlers.

They can also be fickle. For having sent most people home the weather relented, aided by an incredibly fast draining ground, sufficiently for the players to return for an hour. It was enough for Craig Overton to remove Borthwick but also for Patel, Somerset’s nemesis with the ball here a year ago, to take 40 precious and pugnacious runs although with some considerable help from those on high who guide the ball past the edge of the bat. It left Surrey 156 runs behind Somerset with five wickets, including that perpetual thorn in Somerset’s side, Rikki Clarke still standing. This is a good game of cricket and, if the forecasters can be believed this time, two full days remain to see it to a conclusion.

Close. Somerset 344. Surrey 188 for 5. Surrey trail by 156 runs with five first innings wickets standing.