County Championship 2017 ~ Hard pounding ~ Surrey

HARD POUNDING

~   SURREY   ~ 

“The Quantocks had given up the unequal struggle and the cloud had enveloped the ground as much as the applause. But what memories remain of that golden miraculous afternoon.” 

Specsavers County Championship. First Division. Taunton. 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th August 2017. Somerset v Surrey.

The Championship resumed for one round of matches the day after the T20 match against Surrey who remained at Taunton for the four-day game. The question was could Somerset build any momentum after the stunning and unexpected win at Scarborough a month previously. Tom Abell returned to the captaincy after a few unsuccessful appearances in the T20 competition. Lewis Gregory, after his spectacular foray into captaincy at Scarborough, was now finally unable to play for the remainder of the season following surgery on a longstanding back injury.

 7th August. First Day.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 8 August 2017 at 8.42 a.m.

“Perhaps the most important thing I saw yesterday were four primary school age children playing cricket in the car park and another still carrying a pair of inflatable batons from the previous day’s T20 so he at least had been brought to both games. I saw five others, or perhaps the same five, waiting for autographs by the Caddyshack only to all set off like a flock of Cooper Associates County Ground seagulls, in hot pursuit of Steven Davies’ six, presumably for the honour of throwing it back. They were foiled because it fell at the foot of the out of bounds, for this match, temporary stand. There were four or five children of a similar age in the top deck of the Somerset Pavilion from where I viewed today. Hopefully from small beginnings children at Championship matches in numbers will return perhaps gradually drawn in by T20 where they proliferate.

I think that is the first time I have seen an out of bounds stand at Taunton. Understandable given the seats were not needed, and the steep steps for access, but it does perhaps help explain Andy Nash’s* wish not to have a permanent huge stand there if the Championship atmosphere at the ground is to be preserved and which I remember him saying the team value.

Somerset needed to continue the return to form they had shown at Scarborough so Trescothick’s swish at a wide one in the first over sent a shiver. Then almost immediately he seemed to find his touch. Boundaries from perfectly struck drives and steers wide of gully unveiled the Trescothick of old. Heavily overcast skies perhaps the reason why Gareth Batty inserted Somerset were brightened by Trescothick’s stroke play and Batty might just have felt the slightest of shivers himself. Byrom too having been left standing by Trescothick at the outset soon started to show that perhaps Somerset have another left-handed opener of class in the making.

As the Trescothick Byrom partnership was developing I found myself discussing the future of domestic cricket in general and of Somerset in particular with someone I have watched Somerset with for years. We covered the decline in Test Cricket attendances and the long-term threat that might pose to the Championship. Whether Somerset can both prioritise the Championship and retain its best T20 players when the City-based T20 starts. Whether international matches and the potential profits are important to the Club. Whether Somerset can retain its First Division place this season. And, as they say, much more. After half an hour or so we had come to no serious conclusion about anything nor did we look likely to.

It didn’t take our eye off the cricket though. We still applauded Trescothick’s fours and commented on Byrom’s potential. Discussed the wisdom of playing on a used pitch; not that either of us knows the first thing about pitch preparation. That is the thing about the Championship. You can sit and discuss unlimited aspects of cricket endlessly, whether you know anything about them or not, and not miss a bit of cricket. You can’t do that with T20. You can’t do anything with T20 except watch it. If you don’t watch it incessantly you can’t keep up. Ever tried keeping a scorecard at a T20 match? Don’t.

Watching a T20 match is like riding a highspeed roller coaster. Watching a Championship match is heaven. At least it is when Somerset are 43 for 0 having been inserted. At 46 for 3 it feels rather different. Trescothick, after dominating, edged Meaker’s second ball to slip for 26. Rouse joined Byrom and almost as quickly departed for a duck having flashed a cut at a ball from Clarke which took the edge. Hildreth came in on the back of his hundred at Scarborough and played down the line of Clarke’s next ball only for it to straighten and take the pad or at least that is what it looked like from the top of the Somerset Pavilion. Déjà vu.

Then something wonderful happened. Tom Abell joined Byrom. He defended hard at the start and how hard he tried. Every ball that could not be left was met by the full face of the bat. We waited with trepidation for the ball that would breach his defence as déjà vu demanded. But it never came. Just a straight bat as wide as a Roman legionnaire’s shield or so it must have seemed to Surrey. ‘They shall not pass’ sprang to mind. Abell had walked to the wicket on a wave of hope that he might at last come good. The warm applause from the crowd testament to that.

At first he and Byrom defended for all they were worth. In T20 Somerset would have attacked, attacked and attacked again to break free. But this was the Championship and they just faced Surrey down. Then Byrom broke the stalemate with a beautiful clip through mid wicket to cries of ‘shot!’ from round about me. Abell responded with an equally impressive push off Clarke, wicket taker in chief, to the Ondtajee boundary. There are not many who can make a push look as sumptuous as a cover drive but this one was.

It prompted a buzz around the ground. No music of course but I could not get an ear worm tune out of my head from the previous day. Perhaps, just perhaps this might be the turning point for Abell and for this Somerset innings. I watched an over from the terrace above the Umpire’s head. Clarke was moving the ball through the air. Marginally but away from the right-handed batsman. The anticipation and hope were blunted by a blanket of cloud and rain that hung above the point of the Quantocks all morning. Threatening but from a distance.

Surrey kept at their task and Byrom and Abell theirs. At 56 for 3 the ball was changed. Abell despatched the replacement for three and four with square drives from the top drawer. Cries of ‘shot!’ again. Next the left-handed Byrom awoke the ghosts where the old Stragglers bar had been with a backward cut that streaked lighting fast into their midst. Two of the four slips that had stalked Somerset all morning had now retreated as Lunch approached. Then as if by way of a statement of intent Abell pulled the penultimate ball before Lunch to the temporary stand boundary. Shot! 92 for 3.

Gareth Batty opened after Lunch from the River End and Byrom promptly swept him behind square for four. Next ball he advanced far down the pitch to him and was bowled for 42. 96 for 4. In such moments are dreams shattered. Enter Steven Davies with an awful season with the bat behind him. Surrey prowled. Batty and Clarke bowled with the persistent accuracy which suggested hunters closing in on their prey. In the half an hour after Byrom departed seven runs were scored. Not a hint of T20 technique here.

Then the miracle began to take shape. First Davies broke free with the most delicate of late cuts, even for a left-hander, wide of the fielder to Gimblett’s Hill. Then Abell clipped Clarke to the Caddyshack boundary where the skimming ball was parried by the fielder diving full length only to run twenty yards along the boundary rope. ‘Shot!’ and ‘Shot!’ again. Sometimes such fine margins mark a turning point. The Quantocks certainly thought so for they drove away the ugly cloud and the rain for a better view and the day lightened for a while.

So did the cricket at least for Somerset supporters. Abell and Davies unleashed an array of sweeps, cuts, late cuts, pulls and drives of all types: straight, on, cover, off, back foot, especially from Abell the back foot drive. What a stroke that is when played with such precision and power. And the pulls apart hardly a ball was lifted off the ground.

I timed the boundaries as they flowed. 14.32 14.32 14.35 14.37 14.39 (6) 14.42 14.44 14.47 14.55 15.01 15.08 15.24 15.31 15.35 15.36 15.38 15.46 15.48. It was as good a display of controlled precision attacking batting to wrest the initiative from a circling opposition as you could hope to see. The applause, the ever more intense buzz that enveloped the ground, the cries of ‘Shot!’ that ever increasingly punctuated it was a sound for sore ears this season. This was the Somerset partnership of the season to date at least at home.

It had been a display that brightened Somerset hearts to the extent that I had not noticed how bright the figures on the scoreboard had become. The Quantocks had given up the unequal struggle and the cloud had enveloped the ground as much as the applause. But what memories remain of that golden miraculous afternoon. Somerset 234 for 4, Abell 88 not out, Davies 68 not out and that was it for the day.

Who would have thought it but as someone said to me after the players had come off, “Form is temporary. Class is permanent.” I hope those Primary School children took some of it in.”

*Andy Nash was Chairman of Somerset CCC until January 2018.

Close. Toss. Uncontested. Somerset required to bat. Somerset 234-4.

 

8th August 2017. Second Day.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 9 August 2017 1.45 p.m.

“There was a varied crowd at Taunton yesterday. Not least because on Gimblett’s Hill among the regulars were a group containing an Archbishop*, a Franciscan Friar, a Nun of what order I cannot say, a Roman Senator and one or two others of indeterminate religious persuasion, all eating fish and chips. Whether present to incant for divine intervention for Somerset’s salvation in Division One or refugees from a rained off T20 I leave the reader to determine. Perhaps the former for Somerset produced their highest score of the season at Taunton. I trust they gave thanks too for Somerset’s haul of five golden batting points.

The day had started in the top of the Somerset Pavilion for me. I stood on the terrace right over the Umpire’s head to watch Clarke’s first over. Although Davies edged the first ball of the day onto his pad to a strangled appeal I could see no movement at all through the rest of the over. The second ball Davies drove through the covers to the Caddyshack for four as if he had been middling it for a million years. The fifth he turned smoothly into the on side with the same stroke that had been his downfall early in his innings so often earlier in the season. Form is a cruel taskmaster for it gives and it takes away and turns from one to the other without notice or reason.

It was a quarter of an hour before a watchful Abell cut Meaker to the Ondatjee Stand and two overs more before he clipped him hard to the Somerset Stand. 96 not out. Then in a repeat of the stroke that seems to take his wicket too often for my liking he tried to flick past the keeper and was ‘strangled’ down the leg side off Clarke. I am not sure though that ‘strangled’ is the right term when, to my impression, he seems to be out this way more often than most. I heard someone say, “I wonder if they bowl some there deliberately to him”. Clarke is a wily old performer.

There was warm extended applause for Abell’s departure from around the ground and a group were standing on the players balcony applauding and as far as I could see through the glass some behind too. Around the ground some stood but what an ovation he might have had with a millimetre or two more bat on that flick or had he waited for the one to drive, cut or pull which he had done all innings long the day before. There was though generally relief all around. Not just for the runs but for the sheer class with which they had been scored.

There was an alarum of similar type too for Davies soon after as he tried to hook a high one from Clarke and succeeded in just brushing the glove of Foakes as he jumped at an angle down the leg side. Not enough of a brush to prevent the ball flying down to the Botham Stand but enough to bring cries of “Oooooh!” from the crowd. On such narrow escapes can centuries be made.

Allenby hit a perfect late cut to the Trescothick Stand off Clarke before Davies advanced down the track to drive Batty straight back over his head for a one bounce four into the Somerset Pavilion. The sound off the bat was perfection itself. Wilfred Rhodes attending cricket matches in his unsighted dotage would have known exactly what happened to that ball. I then contrived to miss the fall of Allenby but someone told me he played at one from Clarke and edged to the keeper. Soon followed Overton lbw to what looked from behind like a nasty quick one from Meaker which deviated off the pitch. To my mind Meaker was the pick of the Surrey bowlers. He certainly looked more threatening than either of the Currans with the ball seeming to often skid through.

The buzz which had permeated the air on the first day was now an anxious mumble for Somerset had lost three wickets in 5 overs for 19 runs. Batting points have been a rare commodity for Somerset this season and now Somerset were collapsing, seven down and still 30 runs short of a third point and the new ball less than five overs away.

Davies responded by cutting Batty to the temporary stand for four and Bess matched him with a perfect copy of the same stroke off Meaker to the Ondatjee. These were measured controlled shots not desperate mid-collapse ones. Somerset clearly meant business in this innings. What followed was a sight for sore eyes. A determined display of assertive assured stroke play all around the wicket against which any effect of the new ball passed unnoticed.

The much-vaunted Currans made no impact on this innings although the way they conducted themselves about the field spoke of an underlying confidence. Surrey changed the bowling around. They could not change the stroke play or the mounting accumulation of runs outpacing the clock towards a fifth batting bonus point. It was truly stirring stuff and the applause and chatter rose in volume to match the pace and growth of the partnership. People had been starved of such fare all season and were going to savour it now.

All the while another battle was going on in the skies above us. There was a band of high white cloud above the Quantocks, to the north, which bent round from above the Trescothick Stand and on behind the Ondatjee Pavilion to the east. The part of the Blackdowns to the south, behind the Somerset Pavilion, were swathed in rain when I looked, the Brendon’s beyond the Brian Rose Gates to the west were lost in the cloud as if they had never existed and darker cloud hovered above and beyond the flats. The no-man’s-land between the two sets of cloud, and more or less directly above the eastern half of the ground was the clearest band of blue sky you could wish for.

The flags on the Pavilion hung down unmoved as if they had not recovered from a good night out. Through the day the band of blue sky would edge infinitesimally one way or the other. If it stayed above the ground we played. If it edged to lie in a line from just behind the Ondatjee to the temporary stand edge of the Colin Atkinson it rained. I don’t think that band of blue sky ever went away. Had the ground been three miles to the east we might have played all day. Had it been three miles to the west we might have had no more than a dozen overs.

Throughout the day the Quantocks revelled in the good weather in which they were bathed. Not so much as a single raindrop after spending virtually the whole of the previous day swimming in them. And for Henry Blofeld aficionados as I watched the Quantocks a five coach train in Crosscountry livery slid into Taunton station as gracefully as one of Stephen Davies’ silky boundaries. Where it was headed I know not but perhaps taking some of its remaining passengers to the joys of Plymouth. If so I hope at least one of them found their way to that glorious view from The Hoe as some compensation for having missed Davies innings.

Meanwhile back at the ground Davies and Bess were both playing innings which bring blue skies rather than dark clouds to mind. There were clips off the legs, pushes into the gaps, cuts and late cuts, drives off the front and back foot, precision made pulls one of which from Davies off Tom Curran bisected the onside field and cruised to the Somerset Stand boundary to bring up his hundred. Much of the ground rose to him and players applauded from the balcony for a century is the true mark to which every batsman aspires and this one had increasingly been a thing of sheer silken joy to watch.

Now Davies started rolling his wrists over the short ball and coaxing other balls through the gaps as Bess hit pugnaciously about the place. We have seen Bess’s Championship bowling albeit on helpful pitches. If this is indicative of what he might be capable as a lower order batsman then it is easy to see where any threat to Max Waller’s** position in the Club may come from for with the way cricket is going clubs are going to need to offer T20 cricket opportunities to young players of Bess’ ability.

Somerset went to Lunch on 357 for 7, four batting points safely stowed, with Davies on 128 and Bess on 41 equalling his top first-class score. In three successive strokes off Clark immediately after Lunch Bess clipped to the temporary stand and flicked two more fours to the Botham stand. 53 not out. I wonder what price Tom Abell might have paid for just one of those flicks.

I had been delayed on my lunchtime perambulation of the ground and watched this passage of play from the gap between the Trescothick and Somerset Stands. As I watched someone who inhabits the Botham Stand as a matter of course stopped on his perambulations to talk. Again the talk turned to the future of Test and Championship cricket and whether Test cricket can withstand the T20 storm, though we did not miss a single one of Bess’s hat trick of fours. You can do both these things together at a Championship match and it makes you appreciate the value of what you are watching and the ambience in which you watch it.

All good things come to an end though and Bess finally, as I reached the scoreboard near where the old Stragglers Bar used to be, played back to Batty and his stumps rattled. “Why did it have to be Batty?’ someone mumbled.*** I carried on past Gimblett’s Hill, and the convocation of party clerics et al who were intently watching the cricket, and back to my seat in the Somerset Pavilion ‘gods’ just in time for Steven Davies to pop one to mid off. The applause this time carried him all the way back to the Pavilion.

The party though was not over for Somerset. Tim Groenewald joined Jack Leach who was in one of his, ‘they shall not pass’ moods. It was just as well for Somerset, nine down, were still 12 short of 400. Dangerous for the opposition when Leach plays like that and Tim Groenawald gets his eye in at the other end. What followed was not quite as pretty as the artistry that had gone before but it was mightily effective and Groenwalds’s hitting was as clean and powerful as you could hope to see.

Leach accumulated 17 including a cut to the Somerset Stand for four and one turned behind square for a single, both off the persevering Meaker. The single brought Somerset to 399 for 9. So close but not this time so far for in the next over Leach drove a Curran for a single to bring up the 400. Uproar! Leach must have nerves of tungsten for he seems to revel in these situations especially when Somerset are nine down.

Whilst Leach closed the gate on Surrey’s attempt on the tenth wicket Groenwald made hay. He hooked Sam Curran into the bottom of the temporary stand, pulled him in front of square to the Ondatejee, was hit hard and jolted by Meaker at the start of the next over and then deposited him square into the very top row of the Somerset Stand. Next he pulled Borthwick beyond the Caddyshack for another huge six, a young schoolboy fast disappearing after it to be the one to remember for many a year that he was the one to throw it back.

All good things must come to an end. Groenewald middled a vicious straight drive. Borthwick took off and caught the return unimaginably and horizontally to his left. Such an innings of ferocious clean hitting almost needed an end as clean and spectacular as that. 436 all out from 270 for 7. Miraculous or a sign of a benign pitch? Whichever there was a hum of relief around the ground for this season, Lord’s apart, 436 was unimagined riches in which to glory.

Somerset questioned the integrity of the ball before Craig Overton had bowled it three times at the start of the Surrey innings. The Umpires looked long and hard at it rather as if they had never seen a cricket ball before but in the end decided it was the real deal and threw it back. Thereafter the bowlers put their heart and backs into the task. Groenewald induced one edge just short of Trescothick at second slip and one just too wide of him. Allenby produced what would have been catching practice had there been a fifth slip. But beyond that the pace bowlers made no headway. Leach troubled the batsmen a few times to ‘ooohs’ and ‘aaahs’ towards the close from which some drew hope but the sense of an impending draw was beginning to settle on the place. Talk started to turn to how much the weather would impinge on the morrow and how many bowling points Somerset might winkle out of Surrey.

And the run out? A case of Burns head down running for the other end, Stoneman watching the ball as intently as the Umpires had done previously then half starting for the run then stopping and going back. Burns meanwhile had hesitated, then responded as Stoneman started, and found himself stranded three quarters of the way up the pitch as Stoneman turned back. ‘Yes. No. Wait. Sorry.’ sprang to mind but I wondered if there had been a call at all it was such a mess. Burns bristled off to my eye like a toddler who had had his teddy bear confiscated, turning to look pointedly at Stoneman as he went. If there is any of the speculated dissension in the Somerset camp there was no sign of it in their innings. There may have been some in the Surrey changing room when Stoneman got back to it.

And, finally, as the news of Middlesex’s defeat to Warwickshire came through during the day I wondered what odds could be got for a bet on Middlesex and Yorkshire to go down. Now that would be a thing”.

*I was subsequently informed that the Archbishop was actually the Pope.

**Max Waller. A leg spinner and highly effective white ball, particularly T20, bowler who has failed to break into the Championship side. There had been speculation that his contract might not be renewed. At the end of the season he signed a further one-year contract.

***Gareth Batty had been associated with two on-field incidents in Somerset matches in previous seasons.

Close. Somerset 438 (SM Davies 142, TB Abell 96, DM Bess 55, R Clarke 3-83, SC Meaker 3-87). Surrey 69-1.

 

9th August. Third Day.

Close. No play. Rain. Somerset 438. Surrey 69-1.

 

10th August. Final Day.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 10 August 2017 11.49 p.m.

“Today was a glorious day at the cricket. The sun shone all day and it was warm if you put yourself in its way. Cooler at the top of the Somerset Pavilion but still comfortable enough. I could see that the Quantocks, the Blackdowns and The Brendons had all reported for duty. Rain but an irritating memory. And there was the joy of watching a day of Championship cricket this season in a match which you knew Somerset could not lose. It was almost soporific but not quite for this was Somerset we were watching. The pitch was steadfastly unhelpful to the ball all day except possibly once or twice in the morning.

As I came past the end of Gimblett’s Hill on my way to the Somerset Pavilion, going in the other direction were three men pushing a huge pallet of cider. A harbinger of the T20 weekend to come even as the last day of this Championship match still held sway.

The ball was busy as we started, flying off the middle of the bat, Stoneman. driving and cutting as if he had something to celebrate. If being Alistair Cook’s twelfth disciple in the England opening partnership is something to celebrate. It has not much profited any of the other eleven. And the prelates’ convention of the second day was not in attendance to bless him either*.

It was just beginning to look as if Somerset might need divine intervention to take a wicket when the Captain produced a divine intervention of his own. He put himself at short cover and Dom Bess on at the Somerset Pavilion End to bowl in the off spinning allrounder footsteps of Vic Marks. Although from recollection Marks preferred the River End. Borthwick promptly checked a shot, hit Bess straight towards Abell, the carry of the ball started to die, Abell dived full length and Borthwick looked to the heavens.

Jason Roy marched to the wicket. Abell put Jack Leach on at the River End. The man next to me said, “Roy won’t be able to hold back for long.” He didn’t for soon he had driven Bess into the Somerset Pavilion and followed up with one into the Ondatjee Stand. “He won’t last long,” said the man next to me, “One-day players never do in the Championship.” That man must have the ear of the gods for one from Leach seemed to hold up just slightly off the pitch and Roy popped it straight to Abell perfectly positioned for it still at short cover. Next ball Leach would have removed Finch’s fourth stump if he had had one.

No need to bother with divine intervention if you have Tom Abell as captain for before we knew it Stoneman ended his celebration by popping Bess to him, again at short cover. That one looked like it might possibly have held up as well. 138 for 4 and an unlikely holy trinity of short cover catches. It was the last help Somerset got from the pitch. Soon Surrey were making headway towards the 287 they needed to avoid the follow on and remove any chimera of the prospect of a Somerset victory. No-one seriously expected such a miracle but in cricket it is impossible to completely silence that spirit deep within that dreams. It is one of the things that keeps us at the ground on days such as this.

The man next to me said, “He’ll put Overton on.” Abell promptly did just that and from nowhere Overton produced a ball to Foakes that took the edge and Steven Davies, rock still, took the catch. I was beginning to wonder just who the man next to me was. Surrey lunched at 183 for 5. A wicket short I thought for even that spirit deep within to believe. Abell’s bowling changes and field placements though had seemed inspired, almost Brearleyesque. Where was he getting his inspiration from I wondered? I looked at the man next to me again but no it wasn’t.

At Lunch Dean Elgar had a net in front of the Somerset Stand ahead of the T20 weekend. A force from the first half of the season who had stood firm when all about were falling short. At least he was seeing a vision of what Somerset can do when they get their act together and it had been together in this match.

The half an hour after Lunch started to put things into perspective. Finch seemed comfortable enough. Sam Curran didn’t but neither did he look like getting out. The score passed 200 and Surrey were in bonus points land. That was the tussle now. Bonus points. It always had been in reality but it does no harm to dream provided you don’t get too carried away.

It was Finch who got carried away. He tried to scoop Bess. He succeeded but only to the extent of popping it straight above Trescothick’s head and down into his hands at short leg. “See.” said the man next to me. “One-day players can’t play this.” The gods were certainly with Bess today. He didn’t need them though to remove Sam Curran. He just held on to a ferocious return drive as it whizzed past his ear.

Surrey 243 for 7. On this pitch this was a tremendous effort from Somerset but too much time had been lost for dreams to be realised. Surrey edged towards the follow-on figure with a growing inevitability. The edge though had not gone out of the game as it usually would on such an afternoon for bonus points were still to be had. It may have gone for the man in front of me for he pointed out a goods train grudgingly pulling out of Taunton Station. Pulled by a Class 70 locomotive apparently, or so he said.

Clarke and Tom Curran eventually pulled Surrey past the follow-on figure still seven down. Groenewald, persevering as ever whatever the state of the game, promptly had Clarke caught behind. 291 for 8. One more wicket and Somerset would have maximum bonus points for the first time this season. In football parlance that would be a ‘result’ in this match.

Achilles needed the assistance of the gods who handed him a spear to defeat Hector. Abell landed the final Somerset bonus point through his own powers. A phenomenally powerful spear-like throw to break the stumps with Tom Curran hurtling towards the crease but short. Tom Abell had had quite a match. 96 under extreme personal pressure and with the Somerset batting starting to look frail. Three catches in the key fielding position at the start of the Surrey innings and a run out of perfection. One swallow does not a summer make but he could barely have had a better return.

And yet this draw was not dead. Surrey nine down started to revive and still had a bonus point to get. Batty and Meaker started to go at the four an over needed for Surrey’s fourth batting point. They nearly made it to the growing cheers of a small group of Surrey supporters in the Somerset Stand. That they didn’t was down to perhaps the perfect combination to finish off this innings: Stumped Davies bowled Bess. And what a lightning stumping it was. The bails were off before Meaker could react. The gods in all their powers could not have done it better. And for Bess: 55 runs in the Somerset innings and five wickets in the Surrey innings. Vic Marks might not have done it better. A star may be rising in the west for this was not one of those spin friendly pitches on which he has taken his previous five wicket hauls.

In comparison with what had gone before this season, Lord’s and Scarborough apart, this match has been heavenly. Abell back to form and right on top of the captaincy as far as can be seen from beyond the boundary. Stephen Davies with an innings of true class. Dom Bess belying his years with an innings and bowling of real maturity. And Surrey outplayed in all departments. To stay in the First Division Somerset will have to play as well again and again for the rest of the season and hope the weather does not intervene as it has in this match but the route to salvation is no longer restricted to a prayer.”

*Mark Stoneman had been selected for the England Test squad for the first time. 

Result. Somerset 438. Surrey 345 (MD Stoneman 67, DM Bess 5-101). Match Drawn. Somerset 13 points. Surrey 11 points.

Somerset in seventh place had closed the gap between them and Middlesex in sixth place to 20 points. Middlesex had surprisingly lost to Warwickshire who remained in eighth and bottom place, 11 points behind Somerset. Five Championship games remained and the three current longest-standing First Division clubs continued to hold the bottom three places. The clubs in the bottom two places at the end of the season would be relegated to the second division.

The season now turned its back on the Championship for a while as the NatWest T20 Blast revived itself and headed towards its denouement.