Somerset T20 2017 ~ Myburgh spectacular

This match, which contained a spectacular innings from Johannes Myburgh, came towards the end of Somerset’s 2017 T20 campaign. Somerset needed a win to sustain their challenge for a place in the quarter-finals. The match was decided off the last ball.

NatWest T20 Blast. Taunton. 13th August 2017. Somerset v Glamorgan.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 14 August 2017 8.46 p.m.

“As I walked out of the ground it seemed Somerset had dug a hole for themselves, helped considerably by the Glamorgan openers, dug themselves out of it through sheer hard work, gained a secure footing at the top and then fallen straight back in again for no apparent reason. Usually when I leave a one-day game at Taunton the crowd is either bubbling after a victory or contemplative after a defeat. Bemused would be a better description after this defeat. It had been as if a runner coming from the back in a race found themselves breathing freely and moving smoothly ahead of the opposition only to find their legs turning to sponge as the line approached.   

Before the start the styles of the two teams had been very different. Somerset played a slow measured passing game. Glamorgan a quicker, player on player tackling game. Football now the usual precursor to a game of cricket. The goals seemed to be breached in more or less equal numbers whichever game you watched. Meanwhile the mobile cricket nets stood forlornly by on the square, betwixt the two football matches, like pieces of equipment hurriedly abandoned by a retreating army. Then the football matches ended more or less simultaneously and the large white balls were replaced by small white ones being hit high in the air.

All the while the music blasted the air unabated. At least I assume it was music for I recognised not one bar of it. I concluded I must come from a different demographic than the target audience or at least from the one that chooses the music. Even so there was more than a smattering of heads as grey as mine spread about the stand I was in and the one next to it. I sat in the temporary stand near the Colin Atkinson Pavilion from where I could see two and a half of the three iconic church towers which mark the Cooper Associated County Ground. St James, St George’s, and St Mary’s, only the pinnacles atop the tower of the last were visible for the tower beneath had been obliterated by the new press box. I could see the St James’ Street entrance through which came a stream of sunny faced people flowing at a Sunday afternoon amble only momentarily halted by that ubiquitous image of our age, bag checks.

Somerset won the toss and elected to bowl as much because they had been put in to bat yesterday and lost, as far as I could tell from the patchy PA in the temporary stand, rather than any plan related to this match. Glamorgan soon made light work of that decision once they had negotiated a typically miserly opening over from Max Waller. Waller, perhaps in his last season for Somerset or perhaps not*, with his trademark quick return to his mark and run up operating together at the speed of a weaver’s shuttle. No wonder the batsman does not have time to score many runs. Five off this first powerplay over.

Van Meekeren bowled a miserly over too with the only boundary coming off the edge. From my vantage point he looked quick and eager and may yet have a part to play in stiffening Somerset’s beleaguered pace attack when the Championship re-starts. The biting edge cannot all be left to Craig Overton and Tim Groenewald; and van Meekeren does appear to have bite.

Despite the bowlers’ efforts Glamorgan edged ahead of Somerset, reaching 85 for 0 at the end of the seventh over. There were worried comments about chasing somewhere beyond 200 on the same wicket on which Somerset had failed to make 150 the day before. Perhaps the Glamorgan support sensed this too for “Glammy, Glammy, Glammy, Glammy, Glamorgan,” sprang up from the two ends of the Somerset Stand. “Glamorgan are always very noisy,” said the woman a couple of seats along from me to her friend who had apparently queried such a thing at a cricket match. “Somerset La La La, Somerset La La La,” responded the Somerset contingent in the same stand although with rather less intensity perhaps reflecting the teams’ relative positions in the match.

It had all looked rather easy for the Glamorgan opening batsmen but these days there is always an Overton about the place when you need one. He bowled the first three balls of the ninth over without conceding a run; the Glamorgan batsmen trying not one traditional stroke against any of them. Waller had bowled the previous over for only seven and the pressure now told. Donald tried to clear the ropes and Elgar, fielding at the old Stragglers end of the Somerset Stand moved along the front of it to take the catch. As he positions himself for those high catches doubt never enters your head. Smooth as silk the ball falls into his hands. 87 for 1. Overton’s over had gone for two runs.

Now Somerset started to peg Glamorgan back a little. Nothing spectacular although Waller again rushed Glamorgan for five in one over, the next four overs going for 8, 7, 5, 6, Allenby, Gregory and van de Merwe helping Waller out. 113 for 1 off 13 hardly riches for Somerset but it did at least mean Glamorgan might finish without a ‘2’ at the front of their score.

The crowd was of two halves or to be precise a crowd of a quarter and three quarters. The two ends of the Somerset Stand periodically trading, ‘Somerset La La La’ and ‘Glammy, Glammy, Glammy, Glammy, Glamorgan.’ The two now almost on equal terms although the Glamorgan tendency the more persevering. The rest of the ground applauding interspersed with chatter and cheers. The Family Stand kept its end up with the furry heads waving in the breeze and the inflatable batons beating their applause.

As the innings sped towards its close the two sides locked horns and fought each other topsy turvy to neither’s eventual advantage. Glamorgan took 13 off an over from Gregory and another 13 off an over from Overton but lost Ingram (35) and Rudolph (7) in the attempt. 17 from an over from van de Merwe had been replied to with another five run over from Waller and something special for the last over from van Meekeren.

It went for only four runs and included the demise of Meschede. Wagg drove van Meekeren hard just to the off, van Meekeren moved as if to take the catch but twisted his body and steered the ball onto the stumps before Meschede at the non-striker’s end had got into his stride. The crowd erupted, furry heads and batons waving, ‘Somerset La La La’ rampant, the rest of the ground applauding and van Meekeren dancing a jig to the beat of the music. This I suppose is what T20 should be about. Hard fought cricket under pressure and a huge crowd each enjoying themselves in their own way and in their own place mostly without destroying the enjoyment of others or so it seemed from where I sat. But do make sure you get a ticket for the right part of the ground. There was one incident in the Somerset Stand which briefly drew a small group of stewards although the reason for it was not discernible from the distance I was from it.

When it was all done and dusted Glamorgan had posted 183 for 6. A ‘challenge’ for Somerset as the modern parlance for ‘difficult’ goes. But not impossible. The weather though had gradually closed in as the Glamorgan innings progressed. High white cloud had come lower revealing its true nature as autumnal grey with a chill breeze to match, the flags on the Caddyshack blowing horizontally away from the ground.

That wind had once fooled Waller who had set off full pelt 35 yards towards those flags in pursuit of a long distance caught and bowled. The wind carried the ball ahead of him and he always looked a yard short of where he needed to be, failing to take the catch by a yard as he seemed to impede Gregory coming in. “Glammy, Glammy, Glammy, Glammy, Glamorgan,” responded one end of the Somerset Stand. Spelman the batsman, in his fifties at the time, fell to Waller three overs later for 66. The smoothest quietest stumping you are ever likely to see. Waller promptly ran flat out backwards in celebration, arms pumping in overdrive, to the spot where he had missed the catch. “Somerset La La La. Somerset La La La,” sang the Somerset contingent in the Somerset Stand. Steven Davies is so unassuming behind the stumps I almost wonder if he has a guilt complex about those clinical assassin-like stumpings.

Just as clinically Davies hit his first ball straight to backward point and Somerset were 1 for 1. Gregory momentarily circumspect then started to attack in his adopted T20 mode. A four fine of mid off and another lofted wide of mid off to the group standing between Gimblett’s Hill and the Somerset Pavilion. Then from the other end a six over long on to the gap between the Trescothick and  Botham stands. If you are going to hit a six, where more appropriate than between those two Somerset leviathans. Next he removed two stumps at the bowler’s end with a rocket powered drive before failing to clear the deep square leg boundary fielder. He had hit with such power it was difficult to believe he had scored but 18 and Somerset had reached only 26 for 2 in the fourth over and a more than passably tuneful “Bread of Heaven” flowed forth from where the old Stragglers Bar once held sway. Sacrilege.

This Somerset T20 side keeps up the batting attack whatever the casualties, Matthew Maynard’s “risky” approach presumably. It is certainly exhilarating if nerve jangling. Myburgh was on message. He played the innings of the match starting with as classic a late cut to the covers store next to the Ondatjee Stand as you could hope to see in any form of cricket. Soon he drove a six into the front of the Somerset Stand just along from the Bread of Heaveners as if by way of riposte. It resulted in chanting of “Barmy Army!” from whom I know not nor why.

Elgar and Myburgh then started to pull Somerset into the match with a six apiece and a range of well struck fours and nicely placed singles. Elgar’s six bouncing off the front of the temporary stand just below me and setting the corporate spectators at the front of the stand aflutter as it approached and agog as it hit the stand for they seemed to have come to watch the cricket but had not perhaps expected to get quite that close. The rest of us applauded and the Family Stand erupted.

Elgar rotated the strike as Myburgh hit out, along the way cutting Carey perfectly behind square to the gap between the Somerset and Trescothick Stands triggering another chorus of ‘Somerset La La La’. The Duckworth Lewis gap that had opened up at 26 for 2 narrowed and then edged marginally in Somerset’s favour. Less than 100 needed and hope of another Somerset revival grew. Then Elgar completely misread one from Hogan and looped it horribly to mid off for 24. Hildreth came and went when he was tucked up trying to uppercut and directed it straight at short third man. 102 for 4 in the 12th over, 82 still needed, and Somerset’s newly hard-won margin neutralised. ‘Glammy, Glammy…” rang out again as the knots in Somerset stomachs tightened.

Now came what would be, one way or the other, the determining partnership of the match. Jim Allenby and Johannes Myburgh. Neither apparently, if not officially, destined to play for Somerset next year*. Allenby rotated the strike from his first ball. Myburgh seemed to step up a gear in response. He hit six fours and a six to Allenby’s two fours but Allenby gave Myburgh the strike so well they added 62 in exactly six overs. Myburgh pulled his six off Ingram through mid wicket to the boundary boards of the Somerset Stand and followed with a finely swept four through two flailing fielders to the Somerset Pavilion. Next he turned one fine to the Botham Stand to a huge chorus of ‘Somerset La La La’ and cheers and applause from every quarter of the ground for this was stirring stuff as Somerset put the wickets behind them and closed in on their target.

Then for good measure Myburgh drove one hard to the old Stragglers area which provoked the PA into joining in with a song which was finished off by the Somerset chorus in the Somerset Stand with tunefulness if not volume to match the earlier rendition of “Bread of Heaven”. Myburgh was running the Glamorgan bowlers ragged, Allenby rotating the strike all the time as Myburgh straight drove beautifully to the Botham Stand between two despairing boundary fielders. “Hey Jude” struck up the PA. Myburgh responded by sweeping behind square to the temporary stand to bring the required rate below 8. 164 for 4. Just 20 needed. 16 balls left. Somerset’s earlier “sad song” was indeed being “made better”.

Everyone was beginning to believe now. “Somerset La La La” was almost continuous, the chatter and the buzz in the rest of the ground cacophonous. Every single applauded, every four cheered. The sun had driven the clouds that had shrouded the Glamorgan innings away and Somerset were charging to victory in glorious sunshine, the flags now hanging limp. The atmosphere was so reminiscent of those glorious John Player League Sunday afternoons in the Seventies I almost forgot we were watching T20 forty years on.

Then Jim Allenby charged once too often, badly misjudged the quick single to give Myburgh the strike and was run out two yards short. As he walked off he half gave what to me looked like a farewell wave with his hand but it may just have been acknowledgement of the applause, crossed the rope and threw his bat down. He and Myburgh had got Somerset so close. Somerset needed 20 from 15 balls. Two balls later it was 20 from 13 as Myburgh tried to hoist a de Lange yorker into the Ondatjee Stand and was bowled.

Trego joined van de Merwe. 20 were still needed off the last two overs. A six, among some singles and a 2, from van de Merwe left 8 off the last over. It was a truly painful over to watch. Trego, who once would have won for Somerset from here at a canter, seemed to have no touch at all as he missed a drive. A single followed before Van de Merwe’s scoop netted a leg bye rather than the match winning six, Trego missed one altogether and succeeded only in pushing the next back along the ground to the bowler, de Lange. The man next to me said as Trego shaped up to take the final ball, “We need a six.” Eight off six had become six off one. Of such things are nightmares made for they are not supposed to be possible in this day and age. Trego tried to drive the ball into Gimblett’s Hill but, almost inevitably it now seemed, it bounced at least once before it crossed the rope.

No “Somerset La La La” now. No “Glammy, Glammy, Glammy” either, just prolonged applause from the Glamorgan supporters. Perhaps they too were stunned by such an improbable turnaround. Somerset supporters were left with nothing to do but shake their heads in disbelief. This match will long be talked of in Glamorgan circles and perhaps, for different reasons in Somerset ones too.

I am not one much for changing the batting order, and if I am honest probably would not have done so in this case, for my impression is that it rarely works. Although as I walked along St James’ Street after the match I did ask myself, “Where was Craig Overton when we needed him?”
*There was much speculation that Waller might not receive a new contract. In fact, at the end of the season he signed a further one-year contract.

**Ultimately Allenby was released whilst Myburgh signed a white ball contract.

Result. Toss. Somerset. Elected to field. Glamorgan 183-6 (20 overs) NJ Selman 66(42 balls), CA Ingram 35(25), AHT Donald 33(29), C Overton 2-35(econ 8.75). Somerset 182-6 (20 overs) JG Myburgh 87(51), GG Wagg 2-20(6.66). Glamorgan won by 1 run. Glamorgan 2 points. Somerset 0 points.                                                                                                                                                                                                              
Two matches before this defeat Somerset had been second in the table. Suddenly they found themselves needing a crushing win in their last match and other matches to go their way to have any chance of qualifying for the Quarter-Finals.