Quite an evening

T20. Glamorgan v Somerset. 18th July 2019. Sophia Gardens.

Glamorgan. J.L. Lawlor, D.L. Lloyd, C.A. Ingram (c). C.B. Cooke (w), W.T. Root, A.O. Morgan, A. G. Salter, D.A. Douthwaite, G.G. Wagg, M. de Lange, M.G. Hogan.

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), P.D. Trego, T.B. Abell, L. Gregory (c), R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, J. Overton, M.T.C. Waller, J.E. Taylor.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

Quite an evening

What on earth is a ‘cross origin’ policy? I have done an internet search but I made as much sense of the technical description which resulted as I did of simultaneous equations when I was at school. Which is none. Whatever a ‘cross origin’ policy is it claimed to be denying me access to the Glamorgan live stream for this match. Just as the railway timetable made it too risky for me to go to the match and be certain of getting home. So, the commentary it was. The commentary and an assault on an overgrown dog rose made my evening.

The dog rose had been bugging me all season rather like Essex are now bugging Somerset in the County Championship. The more I had gone to the cricket the bigger that rose had grown. It lives in a ‘natural’ hedge in a bit of our garden which adjoins a field. Normally it fits in perfectly. But at ten feet tall and growing fast, and ranging in all directions it gave the impression that it was auditioning for a part in a re-make of The Day of the Triffids. As I had no intention of retreating to the Isle of Wight (Have you seen the price of ferry fares?), as apparently the opponents of the triffids did, I decided the time had come to fight back. It was Somerset against Glamorgan. Me against the dog rose.

A dog rose can be a dangerous opponent. All those be-thorned tentacles waving in the breeze are liable to come to the aid of any of their colleagues to which you take a pair of secateurs. Pull at one to get a decent grip and another swings around and embeds itself in your arm. There is no point in trying to avoid them. It’s what dog rose tentacles do. When there are dozens of the things, many six feet or more long, they are all over you. A bit like the Glamorgan batsmen were all over the Somerset bowlers in the opening overs. At least as far as I could hear. Which wasn’t a lot because the commentary was floating away on the breeze and it is difficult to turn up the volume on a laptop when it is several yards away and you are firmly attached to a dog rose. Detaching yourself from one tentacle of a dog rose isn’t the easiest thing in the world to do because you have to do it with your free hand whilst it is still holding the tentacle you are trying to cut. You can’t let that go because if you do it will take revenge and let fly at you too. Just like the Glamorgan openers were letting fly at the Somerset bowlers as far as I could hear. If one of them wasn’t hitting the ball to the boundary the other was.

So the initial detail of what happened at Cardiff floated away on the breeze as the detail of what happened in my garden was embedding itself in my memory. Not to mention my arm. I could hear enough to know the ball was flying and it didn’t matter much whether it was Max Waller or Jerome Taylor bowling. Or Jamie Overton or Lewis Gregory come to that. All I could hear was the sound of ever more excited Welsh voices fairly obviously describing Glamorgan running riot. Just like the dog rose was running riot all around me.

When I finally escaped and managed to get a look at the screen Glamorgan were 56 for 0 from four overs. Much more of that I thought and Somerset would have as much chance of overcoming Glamorgan as I seemed to have of restraining the dog rose. A debutant by the name of Lawlor had being laying about himself, not least by hitting Jamie Overton for six. The more experienced Lloyd meanwhile had hit Gregory for three successive fours. Glamorgan were going at 14 an over. Not exactly the start I had hoped for.

Then just as I was working out how to keep myself free of the tentacles of the dog rose Glamorgan found themselves trying to work out how to avoid being caught up in the bowling tentacles of Roelof van der Merwe. I assumed he was shuffling in to bowl as he normally does, looking as innocuous as he normally does, a lot more innocuous than that ten-foot-high dog rose looked when I glanced up I have to say, but apparently the Glamorgan batsmen were about as successful as I had been in getting away from him, or at least in getting him away.

It wasn’t quite a turning point. Dog roses can be pretty persistent, and so apparently could the Glamorgan batsmen. After Taylor, Waller and Gregory had followed van der Merwe Glamorgan were 86 for 0 from eight overs. If you are at a T20 match that sort of opposition score glowers down at you from those high scoreboards like the ones they have at Sophia Gardens. So does a ten-foot-high dog rose when it is getting the better of you and your shirt. We had been staring intensely at each other intently for those last three overs whilst the Somerset bowlers tried to work out how to get a grip on the Glamorgan batsmen and I tried to work out how to get a grip on the dog rose without it getting a grip on me.

When Somerset let van der Merwe loose on Glamorgan for the second time I decided to launch another attack on the dog rose. I took the long handle to it. Literally. I remembered we owned one of those ultra-long-handled tree clippers. I and it combined have a longer reach than even a ten-foot-high dog rose. My eyes lit up at the prospect. Meanwhile, after four balls from van der Merwe Glamorgan had scored two runs. When van der Merwe bowled a full toss with his fifth ball Lawlor’s eyes must have lit up for he took the long handle to ball. The ball looped to Waller on the boundary and there is only one outcome to that. A single off the last ball meant just three runs and a wicket came from the over.

It proved to be a turning point. The long-handled clipper had three tentacles off the dog rose before the next over was out. And a Waller over at that. Now I set the secateurs loose on the detached tentacles and cut them into lengths short enough to stop them grabbing my arm. It was a turning point in Cardiff too. No sooner had Van der Merwe cut short the Glamorgan charge than Waller and Craig Overton tightened Somerset’s grip. Even Ingram, the most threatening of the Glamorgan batting line-up, was as caught up in some tight bowling as my arm had been in those dog rose tentacles.

Van der Merwe, Waller and Overton bowled three overs for 13 runs, barely a Championship ration these days. They so entangled the batsmen that nothing more than singles were scored in those three overs. Potentially devastating in the middle overs of a T20 innings. Another over from van der Merwe and 56 for 0 off four overs had become 107 for 1 off 12 with Ingram still unable to disentangle himself. Overs tripled, score less than doubled. A possible target in excess of 200 had shrunk to one of perhaps 180 according to the commentators. As so often this season Somerset’s bowlers were beginning to turn a match as they gripped tight onto the opposition batting.

That is the sort of Somerset cricket you need when tackling a dog rose. You need something to inspire you. I wielded the long handle with mounting confidence. No matter how tightly the remaining tentacles hung on to their severed colleagues a gentle grip and a good tug with the long handle had them out. All the while my laptop was shouting encouragement. Gregory was rotating his bowlers in mainly one over spells, trying to prevent the batsmen from settling to the task of breaking free. Then, just as I was extracting another tentacle, Craig Overton extracted another batsman. Lloyd, on 59, hit him to Abell. As terminal as hitting one to Waller.

Gradually though Glamorgan regrouped and threatened to break free, aided by a six off Gregory from Cooke which took Glamorgan to 133 for 2 from 15 overs. It was now that van der Merwe bowled his last over. No dog rose tentacle ever did a better job. One run, Cooke lbw and Douthwaite trapped to the extent he could not score a single run off the last four balls. Just one run from the 16th over of a T20 innings. It was mesmerising stuff from Somerset. My ear was glued to the commentary and my mind was sitting high in the stands at Sophia Gardens soaking up the effects of van der Merwe’s bowling. A piece of advice. Never underestimate a dog rose’s ability to surprise. As I absorbed myself in the cricket it was in like shot and fixed a tentacle tight to the back of my shirt. At least it gave me some idea of how the Glamorgan batsmen had felt when van der Merwe was bowling.

It isn’t easy to remove a dog rose from your back. And it wasn’t easy for Glamorgan to get going again as Jerome Taylor bowled an over for six runs, Craig Overton bowled one for two, each took a wicket and Jamie Overton stopped two ‘certain’ boundaries with a couple of examples of his astonishing running boundary fielding. Somerset’s fielding sounded as unyielding as it normally is as it snared ball after ball.

With two overs left in their innings Glamorgan were 142 for 5. Finally, Ingram, as I had done, decided he had to act. Like me he also let fly with the long handle. Four sixes and two fours came off the final six balls he faced. Craig Overton, after two wickets for a miserly 15 runs from his first three overs conceded 26 from his last. 180 for 5 the Glamorgan final score. A bit like the tallest tentacles at the back of the dog rose. Challenging but not as out of reach as it had once appeared it might have become before van der Merwe got a grip on it. Meanwhile the dog rose needed another concerted effort from me.

I stopped to look for inspiration. The Blackdowns becoming ever more imposing under the changing light of an ebbing blue sky coated in the thinnest of hazy clouds is a sight to lift anyone from these parts. It had me picking up my long-handled clippers again. As I did Banton scooped the first ball of the Somerset innings from de Lange over the keeper’s head for four, drove the second back over the bowler’s head for another four and then before the over was out scooped two more balls, each for six. He had me raising my long-handled clippers to the heights. The dog rose seemed to wilt at the sight as I imagined the Glamorgan fielders doing the same at the sight of Banton’s miraculous stroke play.

When, in the third over, Banton played a left-handed pull for six over third man it spelt the end for that rose. There was no holding back now. Babar Azam joined the cause, repeatedly driving straight and steering fine for fours as the laptop, now on maximum volume shouted Somerset’s success to me and to any dog-walking stranger. Banton continued the assault with two more sixes over the leg side boundary and a sweep for four. It sounded to have been the most spectacular of innings. When the text arrived saying, “It’s the Trescothick and Kieswetter T20 show all over again,” the final tentacles of that rose were cut and dragged to earth with the alacrity with which the pile of Somerset runs was rising.

93 for 0 from eight overs with just 88 needed from 12 came just as the remaining severed tentacles were neatly lined up ready to be clipped into pieces and deposited in the garden waste bin. As I began the task Babar was finally caught hooking Douthwaite, and Banton followed, pulling Salter to deep midwicket. Somerset were 112 for 2 with 69 runs needed from ten overs. Not the greatest of challenges provided the situation was approached with a calm head.

And that is what we did, Hildreth, Trego and I. I set about methodically cutting the tentacles into lengths short enough to maximise the number I could get into the waste bin whilst minimising the risk of another strike at my arms. Hildreth and Trego, just as methodically, scored the rest of the runs at a rate which reduced the risk of a wicket whilst taking advantage of the opportunity provided by the Banton-Babar partnership to reach the target with two overs to spare and start Somerset’s campaign off with a healthy net run rate. It was all neatly done. The strips of dog rose tentacle pieces being laid out in the garden waste bin, Hildreth rotating the strike and Trego finding a boundary an over, one of them by way of variety was a six, mixed in with a steady supply of singles and the occasional two. An occasional beaten bat apart the batsmen soon made the outcome seem inevitable.

By the end there was no more than ‘mopping up’ to be done. A few loose tentacle pieces to be carefully picked up from the grass for me and four runs to be carefully gathered in singles from the 18th over by Hildreth and Trego. The offending parts of the dog rose were all in the green bin, Somerset’s 181 runs were safely on the board and two points were lodged in the South group table. It had been quite an evening. In Cardiff and in Somerset.

Result. Glamorgan 180 for 5 (20/20 overs) (D.L. Lloyd 57 (37 balls), C.A. Ingram 50* (28), J.L. Lawler 43 (30), R.E. van der Merwe 2-17 (econ 4.25), C. Overton 2-41 (10.25). Somerset 181 for 2 (18/20 overs) (T. Banton 64 (34), P.D. Trego 47* (31), Babar Azam 35 (23)). Somerset won by eight wickets. Somerset 2 points. Glamorgan 0 points.