Somerset in the Royal London One Day Cup 2017 – Part 2

This post contains the ‘Farmer White’ match reports on the final three of Somerset’s 2017 Royal London One Day Cup group-stage matches.

The fourth, against Middlesex, was washed out by biblical quantities of rain. In place of the report which might have been written, had it taken place, is a look back to the Gillette Cup semi-final of 1977 between Middlesex and Somerset, also at Lord’s. It too was rained off on five seperate days, before being settled in a 15 over “farce”, at least that was the view of Brian Close in his final season as captain of Somerset.

On the night before the first day on which the match was scheduled to take place, Elvis Presley died, an event which impinged on the day and which found its place in my report.

The matches include contest with Gloucestershire at Bristol, a consummate Somerset victory, in which Adam Hose made his mark with a stunning century which took the breath away.

The post ends with a couple of light-hearted ‘poems’ triggered by the prospect and the consequences of the rain.

WHITE BALL ADVENTURE (2)

~   ROYAL LONDON ONE-DAY CUP 2017   ~ 

“Fifty over cricket is not for the fainthearted.” 

In 2017 the Royal London One-Day Cup (RLODC) group stages were played in a three-week block beginning at the end of April. During the course of the competition there was much discussion among supporters about the length which Somerset’s bowlers bowled, particularly about short-pitched bowling, and some reflection of that can be seen in my posts.

RLODC. Taunton. 10th May 2017. Somerset v Hampshire.

Toss. Hampshire. Elected to field.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 12 May 2017 12.41 a.m.

“On Friday after Somerset’s all but perfect performance at Cardiff I reported that Leo Tolstoy, denier of perfection, turned in his grave. Today at Taunton Oscar Wilde must have smiled in his for we had the cricketing version of The Picture of Dorian Gray. The scoreboards, both of them, like Dorian Gray the man were the epitome of presentational perfection. Not a digit wrong or a blank screen all day. Not normally anything to remark on at a cricket match. But a scoreboard achieving perfection at Taunton these days is.

Meanwhile on the field Somerset’s performance, in counterpoint to the scoreboards, like the painting of Dorian Gray, seemed to decay horribly. Unlike Dorian Gray’s picture which had the good grace to do decay out of sight in the attic Somerset’s performance did it in full view of everyone.

Ryan Davies, opening in place of the injured Steven Davies and out of place in the batting order, was the first bit of paint to peel. A fast late inswinger, or so it looked from my perch at the top of the Somerset Pavilion, straight onto his pads from Kyle Abbott would hardly have been his introduction of choice. Jim Allenby fared little better against Fidel Edwards popping one back to the bowler. At least at 1 for 2 Somerset were in familiar territory in this competition this season. A few blemishes in the developing portrait but none that have not been repaired in other matches.

Dean Elgar has applied Somerset’s base coat on which the rest of the four innings to date have been portrayed. He set himself to do the same again on Wednesday. Peter Trego, laying on the vibrant colours at speed worked in tandem with him. Elgar’s solidity giving Trego the freedom to attack and Trego’s scoring rate giving Elgar the time to build a base. Trego had some of the good fortune which fast workers sometimes need. Dropped before he had barely started, one or two fortuitous edges and some miss-timed shots falling safe, but for the moment his fast brushwork served Somerset well in this age when 300 plus first innings are needed to fill the canvas of a competitive 50 over cricket match.

Then once too often he tried his no-nonsense expressionism, missed the ball altogether and another piece of the Somerset painting fell away. 86 for 3. Trego had scored 55 from 46 balls in a partnership of 84 in 13 overs. Elgar remained and a restoration job, given Somerset’s recent performances, remained a realistic if demanding possibility. Hildreth, following an innings worthy of the colour and genius of a van Gogh at Cardiff, had barely lifted his palette when he pulled a ball straight down the throat of long leg. Modern art at its worst. Difficult to understand. 90 for 4 and a long partnership was becoming a necessity if the flaking picture which Somerset were presenting was not to disintegrate beyond repair.

Step up Adam Hose. He is yet to display the brilliance of a Hildreth or the dominance of a Trego but he has, in this tournament, shown the confidence and controlled aggression necessary to repair the sort of damage which awaited his arrival at the wicket. A confidence increasingly evident in today’s young cricketers. With Elgar he started to rebuild the crumbling canvas which 90 for 4 represented. His hand was a little shaky against the leg spin of Mason Crane, the ball taking or missing the edge on several occasions. Otherwise he went about the second re-touching job of the innings with assurance along with Elgar who worked away steadily at one end while Hose reached a deserved 50 at the other.

The Somerset innings, although nowhere near reflecting the perfection with which the scoreboard continued to portray it, was beginning to show signs that, with judicious application of technique, it might get somewhere near a presentable exhibition. Then Hose, emboldened, tried a Tregoan flash of colour, attempted to hit Crane back over his head, slightly misjudged the leg break and skied it to Dawson at long off. And so, the part-repaired portrait of Somerset’s innings peeled away for the third time as the scoreboard continued its dogged perfection.

Enter Roelof van de Merwe whose majestic masterpiece worthy of a Turner or a Constable destroyed Surrey. He set out with Elgar to, yet again, repair the increasingly serious and largely self-inflicted dilapidation of the innings. Two glorious sixes left no doubt that he knew the scale of the restoration project ahead of him. The score, when he rolled up his sleeves to start work, was 170 for 5 in the 31st over. At least another 130 would be needed in the last 20 overs although a doubling of the 30 over score would normally be expected in this day and age before the innings could claim to be fully restored. Just as those two sixes, with Elgar apparently secure at the other end, gave hope that this might just be achieved Elgar and van de Merwe tore a huge strip right out of the middle of Somerset’s fragile canvas by racing each other, neck and neck and flat out, to the same end of the pitch. 203 for 6.

The picture which Somerset would have intended to portray at the outset was in tatters. Beyond repair. By 224 for 9 the art of stealth run collection that is Elgar’s batting was spent. He has given so much this season but the disintegration at the other end in this innings was more than even he could repair. He had nothing more to give. What had seemed a painstaking filigree of an innings actually fashioned 78 runs from 88 balls. Apart from the occasional six, two this time, he scores his runs almost invisibly. Were he an artist he might be accused of forging his runs, for the eye seems to leave no evidence in the memory of how quite how so many came to fill the scene.

Jamie Overton tried his best to patch up one or two of the holes and hit 28 from 24 balls before summing up the totality of the innings by apparently trying to despatch a Fidel Edwards yorker to the boundary. And that was it. 249 all out, more than five overs unused and a bigger hole in the canvas than the bowlers could reasonably hope to patch over. The scoreboard meanwhile, faithful to the end to Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, remained a picture of absolute perfection. Would it had been kept in the attic for it painted a perfect representation of an imperfect innings.

And so to the Hampshire innings of which the scoreboard kept an ominously perfect record throughout. Roscoe Rossouw played an innings of which Jackson Pollack might have been proud. Just as Pollack poured paint repeatedly and at speed in every direction on huge canvases so Rossouw scored at speed, hitting the ball repeatedly and in every direction to every corner of the canvas which was the Cooper Associates County Ground. As with Pollack there was coolly directed method in the apparent mayhem and the result was decisive. Hampshire reached the halfway point in the 18th over with nine wickets left and Somerset’s canvas in shreds.

Somerset tried to stop Roussow’s innings before it started by pitching short and, in the case of Jamie Overton, fast. No doubt there was theory behind the approach. There was enough discussion on the field about it. All it seemed to achieve though to my untrained eye was the same as would have been achieved by handing Pollack more paint. The canvas was filled all the more quickly. Davey went for 10 an over. Overton for 40 in his first three overs. By comparison Tim Groenewald, pitching it up, had one spell of 8-0-31-1 although for most of his spell the pressure such as it had ever been, chasing only 250, was off Hampshire.

The answer seemed to be that the secret of the art of bowling is to pitch it up. Yet the more I think about that the more a doubt nags. Even Groenewald’s four an over spell with one wicket would not have put Hampshire under enough pressure at any stage in their innings with a target of 250. It needs to be remembered too that the one wicket that did fall in the first half of the Hampshire innings was that of Alsop caught skying a pull shot off a short ball from Craig Overton. In his second spell Jamie Overton bowled very fast and dropped it short as much as he pitched it up yet the figures for that spell were 6-2-24-4 with the short-pitched balls looking particularly effective.

Perhaps the real picture of this match was this. A Somerset score at least 50 below par was no obstacle to a long innings of endless artistic perfection from Rossouw. At the innings break I found no-one who could see a route to a Somerset victory. The bowlers, in the knowledge that a containment policy alone would present the match to Hampshire, perhaps tried to attack on an unhelpful pitch. Pitching it up worked to a degree for Groenewald but firing some in short also worked to a degree for Craig Overton, bowling short failed for the slower paced Davey, bowling fast and short failed in Jamie Overton’s first spell; bowling fast and short and fast and full worked brilliantly in in his second spell. It was a spell to savour.

Another thought. Rossouw hit as many boundaries forward of cover and midwicket as he did behind them. They could not all have been off short balls. In fact, his innings was a piece of near-symmetrical, abstract art that you could understand. Perhaps in the end it would have made no more than a few overs difference wherever Somerset had bowled to him.

Cricket is as much art as science. Perfection is rare. Perhaps Somerset had theirs at Cardiff. Perhaps Rossouw had his on Wednesday. The Somerset batsmen overall could undoubtedly have done better than they did in this match. But perhaps the bowlers, whether under instruction or not, and faced with a near impossible task, rather than keep it tight until the match ebbed away as inevitably as a Salvador Dali clock, tried for a win. It didn’t work but they did after all, in spite of Rossouw’s monumental masterpiece, come within four wickets of it.

And a final thought. In spite of all the criticism most of Somerset’s top seven and some of the bowlers in this competition have been subjected to over the past couple of weeks Somerset did come into this match having won four out of four, the only unbeaten team in either group of the competition. They cannot have played that badly. In the old days, once (occasionally if) a side had disposed of its minor county four wins was what it took to win the Gillette Cup. Overall the picture Somerset have presented in this competition to date is not a bad one.”

Result. Toss. Somerset 249 (44.2/50 overs) D Elgar 78(88 balls), PD Trego 55(46), AJ Hose 50(63), GK Berg 3-44(econ 5.50). Hampshire 250-6 (37.2/50 overs) RR Roussow 156(113) J Overton 4-64 (7.11). Hampshire won by 4 wickets. Hampshire 2 points. Somerset 0 points.  

~ 

RLODC. Bristol. 12th May 2017. Gloucestershire v Somerset.

Somerset had no Dean Elgar, briefly back in South Africa, for this match. Adam Hose scored his first, and as it turned out, only century for Somerset. Johannes Myburgh, a very different batting proposition, replaced Elgar.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 13 May 2017 7.26 p.m.

“And for those who were not there…

What struck me about Hose’s century against Gloucestershire was the air of permanence which he displayed from the start. There was a maturity to his shot selection. Not least in the way he reached his century. On 93 with four balls of the innings remaining he was at the wrong end. Whether it was the middle of the wicket discussion that resulted in Craig Overton’s push to long off for a single I have no way of knowing. Never mind. Hose was at the right end for the last three balls with 7 to get. No run off the first he went down on one knee to the second and swept it with such power that it landed not many rows in front of me as I sat square at the back of the stand next to the main scoreboard. 99. Then as cool as you like he positioned the last ball well enough for two. 101. This was not the finishing of someone desperate for his first hundred. This was the finishing of someone intent on it happening.

The response from the rest of the team was instantaneous and rapturous. Overton hugged Hose with such gusto it is as well they are of similar size or he might have done him an injury. The entire team, and as far as I could see the coaching staff too, were on the balcony and applauding hands over heads with sheer joy. Their applause continued unbroken and undiminished throughout Hose’s departure from the field. And still it continued as he crossed the concourse and ascended the dressing room steps which at Bristol are not what the mind’s eye associates with a victorious batsman ascending through ranks of applauding spectators but rather a good impersonation of a fire escape attached to the front of the Pavilion. When he reached the top the team continued to applaud him as they followed him into the dressing room. This looked to me more than the usual reaction of a team to a good performance. This was something special. Perhaps an understanding that they had witnessed a rite of passage from promise to arrival.

What is for certain the Gloucestershire supporter who asked me during the warm up football match, “Who is the tall one in the red socks?” will not need to ask again.
The day had started with Allenby surprising some in the Somerset contingent in the crowd by choosing to bat first with rain about. The inclusion of Waller with his leg-spin and googlies, the very dry looking pitch and Bristol’s reputation for being slow and difficult to chase on perhaps gave the answer.

Myburgh opened and attacked from the start. He did not look secure. A cover drive, though middled, only evading cover’s diving left hand by a foot or so being indicative. It was no great surprise when, after four boundaries, he was tucked up on the back foot, drove across the line and was bowled. 23 for 1 with Allenby on 0. Trego followed. Three quick boundaries before he too was bowled playing back when perhaps he might have been forward. 46 for 2. Allenby on 7. Someone suggested there may have been policy here. Allenby to play the Elgar role whilst Myburgh and Trego attacked the balls (for there are of course two in white ball cricket) whilst they were still hard.

Enter Hildreth. He started more circumspectly than Myburgh or Trego but then pulled one straight to mid wicket. It was reminiscent of his dismissals against Hampshire on Wednesday and in the second innings against Essex in the Championship although those both reached the fielder at long or fine leg but on the same low trajectory that this one followed. It was as if they were misdirected rather than mishit. 65 for 3. Allenby on 16.

Hildreth, 8 from 17 balls, sat long and still on the balcony after his innings looking contemplative as he watched Hose and Allenby bat. It was precisely a week since his genius at Cardiff had been the final straw that broke Glamorgan. It can only be a matter of time before another such innings. Someone may pay for that period of contemplation.

When Allenby went at 188 for 4, for 90 from 110 balls, Hose was on 48 from 66 balls. When he left the field he had scored another 53 from 27 balls. Van de Merwe and the two Overtons added 49 between them from 31 balls and Somerset had reached 294 for 6 in the 46 overs to which the innings was restricted by rain. Only Allenby and Hildreth scored at less than a run a ball.

The Overtons made an impact in different ways. Jamie produced another of those fearsome hard-hitting cameos with which he is inclined to end Somerset innings by taking the score that little bit further than the opposition had hoped in the final overs. In this innings every scoring stroke went between cover and mid wicket. 26 in 16 balls. Pitching the ball up does not always work. As for Craig, the single with which he gave Adam Hose those three precious balls to complete his century may produce riches for Somerset way beyond this match.
Craig Overton with the ball is becoming a force to be reckoned with. He gives the opposition nothing as they start their innings and usually takes a wicket or two from them in the process. Pitching it up does work sometimes. This time he took two wickets for 24 runs in five overs with Klinger trying to break free. With Tim Groenewald applying his usual straightjacket from the other end enough pressure had been applied for Roelof van de Merwe to come on before the end of the first powerplay.

After five overs van de Merwe’s figures were 5-1-8-1. The pressure created opportunities for some judicious and well directed use of the short ball from Jamie Overton at the other end. As Klinger tried desperately to break free Overton bounced him high and fast. One top edge from a hook brushed the fingertips of Steven Davies gloves as he jumped and stretched skyward. Four. Another, slightly lower brought another top edge to Davies. 62 for 4.

Fifty over cricket is not for the faint hearted. No sooner were Somerset supporters relaxing when Jack Taylor announced himself by hitting the gaoler, van de Merwe, for 20 in an over. There followed a fascinating tussle as Taylor and Hankins proceeded to build a partnership whilst Craig Overton, Tim Groenewald and Max Waller applied themselves to trying to stop them getting away. The batsmen looked secure and Somerset anxieties and Gloucestershire hopes were both beginning to rise.

The required run rate though rose from about 7.5 at the beginning of the partnership to approaching nine. Both sides seemed to sense that decisive action was needed. Enter Jamie Overton. Taylor responded by hitting his third ball for six. Two balls later he tried again and van de Merwe swallowed the catch at long on in front of Gloucestershire’s flats. Van de Merwe immediately returned at the other end and bowled Hankin in his first over. 169 for 6. Required run rate above nine. The sudden change from containing to attacking bowling just at the point when Gloucestershire needed to attack was decisive.

“And that’s the difference between the First and Second Division,” said the Gloucestershire supporter behind me. And Friday was in so many ways. I think the supporter was reflecting the persistent coolness and intensity with which Somerset continued to work even though the Gloucestershire score rose and the Duckworth Lewis gap narrowed; and then the speed and, so it felt, the inevitability with which the sixth wicket followed the fifth before Gloucestershire had time to regroup.

There were other differences too. One Somerset supporter said to me in the interval between innings, “Whatever happens we won’t field as badly as they did.” And we didn’t. I can only recall one Somerset miss-field. For Gloucestershire one poor fielder dropped two skyers that fell well within reach within ten minutes of each other, one straight through his hands into his chest. A Gloucestershire supporter put his head in his hands and said, “What makes it so dispiriting is he got both hands around the ball both times.” There were other Gloucestershire fielding errors too and groans from the crowd.

The crowd too was Second Division. I did a rough count and came up with 600. Someone else came up with the same number. At Cardiff there were barely 500. At Taunton on Wednesday there were 3500. I can understand why the ECB thinks there is a problem with County Cricket at least in some parts of it. As someone said, “this is a local derby of very longstanding for heaven’s sake.”

As to the rest of the match a rudderless Gloucestershire were clinically disposed of by Max Waller with a bit of help from Jamie Overton. That may sound a little harsh but it is how it was and how it will have to be if Somerset are to be in with a chance of winning this competition”.

Result. Somerset 294-6 (46 overs) AJ Hose 101*(93 balls), J Allenby 90(110), MD Taylor 3-48(econ 5.33). Gloucestershire 215 (41.5/46 overs) JMR Taylor 68(50), MTC Waller 3-37(4.72) J Overton 3-53(6.62). Somerset won by 81 runs (D/L). Somerset 2 points. Gloucestershire 0 points.  

~ 

RLODC. Taunton. 14th May 2017. Somerset v Essex.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 15 May 2017 8.35 p.m.

“Somerset came up against the prevailing wind on Sunday. Not the one from the west that usually governs these parts and leaves the trunk of the small tree in my front garden with a permanent eastward list. In this match the stronger wind blew from the east, all the way from Essex, with a powerful unceasing force. Somerset stood hard against it at times but somehow did not seem to be quite on top of their game and, in the end, were blown away.

Essex played with unremitting force throughout and it will take a team capable of applying greater force throughout, and it will have to be throughout, a game to overcome them in this competition. How Glamorgan managed to beat them at Cardiff, for no-one else has, is a mystery. It seemed in Cardiff as if Essex folded under the pressure of the chase. It seems unlikely they will allow that to happen again. And they may have come back even stronger. Middlesex were despatched by 7 wickets in the following game and, in the end, Somerset wilted in the gale yesterday.

After a near faultless fielding performance at Bristol Somerset were, to a startled crowd not used to profligacy in the field, well off the pace at the start of the Essex innings. In the first dozen or so overs the ball went through hands as if it was coated in the best organic butter more times than I suspect it has all season. It perhaps gifted Essex twenty or so runs. There had been a lot of overnight rain. Perhaps the ball came off the grass a little greasy but if it did there was not enough getting the body behind the ball in the old-fashioned way. Whatever the reason, and it may have nothing to do with a greasy ball, it cost Somerset dear.

Tim Groenewald’s, I imagine unprecedented for him, four wides in the first over and 26 runs off his first three added to Essex’s advantage. Unless they expected some early life, which did not materialise, Somerset must have expected to chase upwards of 300 on this flattest of pitches when they chose to field. At the end of the twelfth over Essex had breezed along to 79 for 1, the immediate pressure was off, and the straws in the wind were of a total upwards of 350. A pity when a good ball from Craig Overton had pinned Chopra early.

In the next 10 overs 61 more were added mainly against some Somerset persistence from Waller and Allenby and a fast-improving fielding performance. Only three fours and a six as Essex minimised risk. In current 50 over cricket 6 an over is not storming along but with the pressure taken off from the start Essex were perhaps freed up to push an extra run an over above the 5 an over norm for this stage of an innings in spite of Somerset’s improving fielding and bowling. 140 for 1 from 22. With the modern rule of thumb to estimate a 50 over total with wickets in hand being to double the 30 over score 380 was the darkening storm cloud threatening Somerset’s horizon.

Enter Jamie Overton after another 11 runs in the 23rd over to bowl with pace and control to tempt Cook to waft a wide fast last ball through to Davies. Cook 65. Essex 156 for 2. Now Somerset really put their faces into the wind and the bowlers, van de Merwe, both Overtons, a returning and more familiarly accurate Groenewald and the fielders, now fully back on song, started to constrain Essex. 12 overs for 55 runs with only three boundaries. 182 for 2 in the 30th. 209 for 2 in the 36th. A spirited comeback by Somerset but a tremendous base for the final Essex assault although not quite in range of the huge total that might have been.

Somerset’s application of pressure after the fall of Cook eventually told. Van de Merwe bowled Westley for 100 and ten Doeschate for 3 in successive overs. 215 for 4 in the 38th. The game, if not exactly back in the balance, was less uneven than it had been. Essex steadied themselves, perhaps remembering Cardiff, and responded to pressure with pressure in the form of Bopara and Zaidi. 39 runs in the first 5 overs of their partnership and 42 in the second 4. 297 for 4 off 47. Somerset still clung on and two wickets in the 48th, Zaidi to a stunning, swooping Walleresque boundary catch from Hose and Foster to a sharp run out momentarily raised hopes of finally slowing the Essex charge.

Perhaps they might be held to 320. Then the West Country prevailing wind blew in a shower from over the flats and delayed play for 15 minutes. Somerset bowl their overs at such a speed these days that there was time both for Essex to regroup and to fit in the final two overs before the cut off time from which they hit 27. 334 for 6. Perhaps 40 less than Essex might have hoped for before Cook was out and perhaps 40 more than Somerset would have hoped for when they put them in.

Somerset showed no signs of being cowed. They started their innings by puncturing the unrelenting Essex storm with a tornado of their own. Johannes Myburgh, the almost forgotten man among Somerset’s batsmen, having popped one straight to mid on in the first over and been inexplicably dropped by Walter, suddenly let loose a flashing bat with such speed, ferocity and frequency that, had it had a sharp edge, it could have cleared Essex of more trees than the Great Storm of 1987.

Eventually and inevitably he miss-hit a vicious pull which climbed steeply towards and far above the height of the flats. Even so he might just have survived with another six had the ball not been hit full in the face by that home wind which roared from over the flats. As it was, the ball fell away to Chopra three or four yards inside the boundary. Myburgh had hit six fours, four sixes and 57 in total from the last 23 balls of his innings having hit none off the first 5. 64 for 1 in 6.3 overs, the original required rate of 6.7 reduced to 6.2 and the target from 335 to 272. Myburgh had undone the damage of the first dozen overs of the match.

Now, the two teams were eye ball to eye ball, both in with a chance. Somerset needed 6.2 an over. Over the next 15 overs they kept going, face to that persevering Essex wind, scoring at 5.5 an over in the face of tight bowling, the required rate rising to only 6.6 an over. But Trego, Davies and Hildreth, the experienced heart of the top order, had fallen away in the attempt to keep the score moving. Somerset were still just in the game but the unremitting pressure from Essex was now beginning to tell. 149 for 4 and still 186 needed.

Now Allenby, who had pushed and occasionally hit his way past 50, and Hose tried to make headway against Bopara, ten Doeschate and Zaidi. Hose in particular strained to increase the run rate but after another 10 overs they had barely managed 5 an over and the required rate was approaching 8. Still at 202 for 4 in the 33rd another 133 in 16 overs was a far from impossible hope in today’s one-day cricket.
Then, as Somerset were trying to gauge when to unleash their charge Essex unleashed the whirlwind run up of Wagner and the silky-smooth one of Harmer. Somerset could not withstand the gale that blew then as four wickets fell in 6 overs for 28 runs and apart from a final flurry from Craig Overton and Tim Groenewald the innings subsided.

Somerset’s batsmen had kept going throughout. They were ahead of Essex in runs scored at the end of the 10th, 20th, 30th, and 40th overs. It was the wickets that fell away. The respective scores in ten over blocks were: 10 overs: Essex 73 for 1 Somerset 82 for 2. 20 overs: Essex 126 for 1 Somerset 142 for 3. 30 overs Essex: 182 for 2 Somerset 187 for 4. 40 overs Essex 229 for 4 Somerset 231 for 8. It was Cardiff in reverse.

If Essex continue to play like this Somerset will probably have to beat them if they want to win this competition. They will have to play with the unremitting determination and application that Essex showed here and which Somerset showed at Cardiff and Bristol. Even if they do they will be met with the same from Essex and the match will go to the team that can outlast the other and which blinks last. The preparation needed will be more than hard cricket skills practice. The team will need to go into the match as mentally tough as the east wind that was Essex on Sunday.

And a final observation. The scoreboard operated to perfection as in the Hampshire match. Dorian Gray lives.”

Result.  Essex 334-6 (50 overs) T Westley 100(98 balls), RS Bopara 92*(81), AN Cook 65(71), Somerset 262 (43.2/50 overs) J Allenby 77(89), JG Myburgh 57(28), N Wagner 3-55(6.87), SR Harmer 3-56(5.60.) Essex won by 72 runs. Essex 2 points. Somerset 0 points.  

~

RLODC. Lord’s. 17th May 2017. Middlesex v Somerset.

The Royal London Cup match against Middlesex at Lord’s was rained off without a ball being bowled. I was not present. By all accounts one of my better deliverances. In the light of no play I posted a memory of another victory for the rain forty years before.

Result. Match abandoned. Each side awarded 1 point. 

Reminiscence

Farmer White (IP Logged) 17 May 2017 at 2.58 p.m.

“Fortunately for me, it seems, I have stayed away from Lord’s. I was not always so prescient. In 1977 I was in that part of my exile which passed in what was then designated ‘the most boring town in England’. I had booked leave for the Gillette Cup Semi-Final against Middlesex at Lord’s. My brother had done the same on the South Coast for we always conducted a pincer movement to descend on the big set piece battles that 60 over Quarter and Semi-Final matches always were. The straight knock out format from the outset and the three or four weeks build up to each match saw to that.

We had finalised our strategy over the telephone the night before, for if you wanted instant communication with a distant someone in those days that was the only way. We spoke with deep foreboding for the forecast was even more cataclysmic than it was for today and the still young Botham was out with a stress fracture of the foot. We had no ticket for even in those days it was safe to leave buying one for a Semi-Final until the day at Lord’s. That unfathomable well of optimism about the weather which afflicts cricket supporters planning to go to a wet match overrode the forecast. And it was Somerset at Lord’s and Brian Close’s final season too so nothing for it but to go.

I arose to the brief voice of the BBC reporting torrential rain and resultant flooding on the London Underground. I rushed off regardless with my lunch and my hopes. As the train plummeted southwards the skies though heavy let fall no rain. We reached Hatfield before the windows started to fleck but no more. On to the Circle and Bakerloo and up the escalator at St John’s Wood with that irrational optimism rising again until I was met by my brother and mizzle blown in through the station entrance.

The sign outside the ground said ‘Inspection at 2.00pm’ but my brother had spoken to someone leaving the ground who had told him there would be no play today “and probably none tomorrow either”. No refunds in those days even for Noah so we found a bench in St John’s Wood Church Gardens and talked of matches and players past. The rain stopped but the air hung heavy with moisture and though in our hearts we knew the person leaving the ground was right we hoped for a miracle still.

Then along the path towards our bench came a Dickensian figure in a dilapidated dinner suit, battered top hat bedecked with badges and an embryonic beard which spoke more of neglect than intent. “The KING is dead. The KING is dead. The King is DEAD,” he cried with a plaintiveness which more than matched the weather. He looked too as if he might have imbibed more than one glass in honour of his King. As so often in such circumstances it was clear that he was driven, if erratically, by a homing device which had selected my brother and I as targets.

As he reached us he dropped to his knees, not for the first time that day, if the amount of mud encrusted on them was any guide, and raised his arms in supplication to the slightly brightening sky. “The KING is dead!” he cried. “The King is DEAD.” For it was a fact. The ‘King of Rock and Roll’ had died late the previous evening in Memphis, Tennessee and the heavens in London had in response wept on Lord’s.

The sun did poke through the clouds around lunch time to an enormous cheer from the Somerset contingent outside the gate but it was a false dawn and the match was called off for the day soon after. And for the next day and the day after that too for in those days three days were put aside for a Semi-Final.

Even in those days one-day cricket could push aside the Championship for Gillette Cup Semi-Finals then had a cachet hard to credit today. They really were major features on the landscape of the season second only to Test Matches and the two Cup Finals. The match was re-arranged for the following week in a slot when Somerset were due to be playing Middlesex again, at Lord’s, in the Championship, then played over three days. The Championship match was postponed. It rained incessantly again until on the last day a fifteen over match was judged to be just about possible. Somerset lost the toss, Middlesex bowled, Viv Richards opened and Somerset were all out for 59. Garner took four in reply, Somerset lost by six wickets and Brian Close said it was a farce, “just like my whole career”. So untrue, about his career that is, it jarred so much it has stuck in my mind.

The sequel to these events was that Middlesex’s postponed home Championship match against Somerset was played at Chelmsford at the end of August. It was badly rain affected, drawn and Middlesex came away with just seven points. Perhaps though not as rain affected as it would have been if it had been played on its original dates during which only 30 overs were deemed possible in the re-arranged Semi-Final.

Whilst the re-arranged Semi-Final waited for the rain to stop Kent were due to be playing Essex in the Championship at Colchester. It rained there for three days and the match was abandoned without a ball being bowled. No draw points in those days. Kent came away with nothing. Had the Semi-Final not been re-arranged Middlesex would almost certainly have come away from their Championship match at Lord’s pointless too.

At the end of the season Middlesex, with the seven points from the Chelmsford match, tied with Kent for the Championship. That is not to say had the Semi-Final not displaced the Championship match Kent would have won the title outright, for the dynamic for the rest of the season would have been different and so might results have been, but perhaps fixtures should be fixtures.” 

Elgar’s Batting Position

Some on ‘grockles’ termed Dean Elgar ‘Nimrod’ and there was some debate on his anticipated return to the side at Lord’s about where he might bat. To lighten the gloom of the cataclysmic forecast for the match at Lord’s I penned a ‘poem’.  

Farmer White (IP Logged) 16 May 2017 5.45 p.m.

“If Somerset lose the toss at Lord’s
May Elgar’s slot an enigma remain.
For in this match we’ll be off the sward
Within ten minutes in biblical rain.

Our Nimrod is down at four I’ll wager,
And if he takes guard before the rain
It’ll mean once more he comes in as saviour.
For, no variations, we’ll be two down again.

Now please don’t doubt me or look on askance
Lord’s will have more rain than wet season Samoa.
It’ll come down with great pomp and circumstance
For the first Nimrod was great-grandson of Noah”.

And in response to an ironic call, due to the length of my posts in comparison with those of others on ‘grockles’, for ‘eight paragraphs’ on the abandoned match I responded with this in the light of the likelihood of Somerset having to face Nottinghamshire in a Quarter-Final playoff for a Semi-Final place:

Quarter-Final Blues

Farmer White (IP Logged) 17 May 2017 6.39 p.m.

“Eight paragraphs, eight paragraphs on nothing at all?
I’m more worried we may have to face Ball.
But then, why with him should we be awed
For he’ll be a doddle compared to Broad.

Not to mention young Hales and old Patel
And a team with internationals too many to tell.
So if we beat that lot our team I’ll laud,
But for now just eight lines from my brain have I clawed.”

And that for the moment was the Royal London Cup, for before Somerset could take on Nottinghamshire in the quarter-final, a return to the County Championship beckoned.