County Championship 2017~ Lancashire ~ Final day ~ Craig Overton stands tall

Specsavers County Championship. First Division. Taunton. 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th September 2017. Somerset v Lancashire.

Overnight. Somerset 335. Lancashire 133 and 247-8 (f/o). Lancashire lead by 45 runs with two second innings standing.

15th September 2017. Final Day.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 15 September 2017 11.07 p.m.
“Craig Overton stood just a little taller at the end of the Lancashire innings. The second match in succession in which he has taken wickets on a pitch favouring spinners. I was an over late to the ground. It was a good time to arrive. The first thing I saw was Jarvis’s off stump cartwheeling out of the ground propelled by a thunderbolt from Overton. I had not long sat down back at the top of the Somerset Pavilion when he speared one in at Bailey’s toes. Bailey could neither get his bat down nor his feet out of the way in time so lbw it was. It was like the days before they taught tail enders to bat a bit and in particular how to keep the pace bowler out. Somerset have a bowler who can bowl fast enough and straight enough on his day to shoot out a tail.

And so it was that Somerset needed 68 to win and not a rain cloud in sight, the sun in command and the maroon on the Quantocks standing proud in expectation although the paths in Taunton as I walked to the ground were wet enough for me to wonder if there would be a prompt start and the forecast spoke darkly of showers.

More than a modest number came to see if Somerset really could pull off their first home win of the season. It was a tensely quiet crowd as the Somerset innings started. The head told you the only possible result was a Somerset win but a bruising season left the heart needing just a bit of reassurance. Irrational but that is what the heart is. It was not just me. I received a text telling me that Somerset’s lowest ever score at Taunton was 48 in 1954.

After a couple of quiet overs during which Byrom turned McLaren square for two Somerset’s intent became clear. McLaren bowled a couple short and wide. Byrom cut them hard, one behind and one in front of square, to the boundary. Then Trescothick drove Jarvis to the boards in front of his stand and cut him like a rocket to wake up the ghosts of the old Stragglers bar. 19 for 0. That settled the nerves a bit and brought a cheer from the current inhabitants of that area.

Lancashire were not going to roll over. They brought their spinners into the attack early. Byrom responded by trying to hit Parkinson into the Somerset Pavilion, missed, and was bowled. That shot never looks pretty when that happens but the ball seemed to turn prodigiously. 19 for 1.

The intent now was very clear. Somerset did not mean to get bogged down or risk a freak shower with some forecasts suggesting rain later in the day. Bartlett arrived and looked confident as he took a single. Trescothick then took revenge for Byrom’s dismissal as he swept Parkinson viciously between two deep square legs stationed barely ten yards apart on the Somerset Stand boundary. They almost collided as the ball flew over the line. Trescothick rotated the strike to Bartlett who survived a huge appeal as his defence was beaten by the turn. And so ended Parkinson’s first over.

Parry’s first was accompanied by extended discussions among the Lancashire Brains Trust. Trescothick took a single and Bartlett found himself surrounded by three of the closest fielders you are likely to see. He quietly turned Parry through them for a single to the old Stragglers and it was Trescothick’s turn to face a huge appeal. Lancashire did not intend to go down quietly.

Parkinson started again from the Somerset Pavilion End and Bartlett lofted him over mid on’s head for four. I could see the sun glinting on the shine of the ball as it flew towards me. The stroke was then eclipsed by a coruscating back foot drive to the Somerset Stand. One way and another the boards in front of the Somerset Stand were taking a pummelling. Before we knew it Bartlett was pulling Parry fine to Gimblett’s Hill for another four. He may be only 19 but this was controlled targeted hitting not the brash bravado of youth.

Trescothick, clearly on a mission, tried an ugly reverse sweep against Parkinson and probably concluded the stroke was no more than a work in progress for he then tried the slog sweep and the ball almost instantly rattled among the seats in the bottom of the Somerset Stand. Then he mishit a pull into mid wicket’s hands. 46 for 2 in the ninth over, only two having been scored in the first two. Trescothick 21. Some may have thought Somerset’s assault reckless but it denied Parkinson the opportunity to exert any real pressure with the sharp turn he was getting from his slowly looping deliveries. Somerset did not mean to have an embarrassing hour or so of prodding at the turning ball risking the fall of more wickets than would be comfortable. Nor, I imagine did they mean to hang around long enough for the showers to return.

James Hildreth immediately edged to Hameed at slip which brought home the risk presented by a leg spinner on song. Tom Abell to the wicket. A different Tom Abell to the one we saw in the first half of the season. He walked out with a quiet calm looking naturally in command, and in control. The hat trick ball was a full toss and he drove it to where they store the covers, took three and retained the strike from where he settled nerves playing out a maiden from Parry. Bartlett, now more circumspect took a single boundary from Parkinson’s next over and a pair of singles were exchanged in Parry’s next.

13 were needed to which Parkinson contributed by bowling a no ball which Bartlett gently turned to fine leg for two and drove home the point by immediately lofting him into the lower ranks of the Somerset Pavilion for six. Abell finished the match by sweeping Parry to the much-peppered Somerset Stand boundary and, by the end of the day, just out of the relegation zone. Bartlett had 27 confident, purposeful well struck runs to his name. It should do his confidence a power of good. Somerset’s young batsmen are beginning to find their feet.
It had been an hour to savour at the end of a match to savour. No relegation favourites these. Somerset had completely outplayed in every department, possibly Parkinson apart, the second team in the Championship. Lancashire had tried their all to apply some pressure on the last morning but by dint of their no nonsense positive approach Somerset had swept it away, sometimes literally. All that was missing from the day was a victory roll appearance from the Spitfire but I imagine it was on more important duty given the day.

There are many convoluted calculations to come and doubtless a conspiracy theory or two along the way. But Somerset have two crushing victories behind them. The surest route to salvation is to concentrate on what is within their control. Namely to gather as many points as they can in their two remaining matches with a particular focus on outplaying Surrey, for if Somerset bowl as they did in the Lancashire second innings Surrey will not bat without pressure, and on beating Middlesex.

Let the rest do as they may. Let Somerset do as they know they can.”

Result. Somerset 335 and 69-3 (MW Parkinson 3-37). Lancashire 133 and 269 (f/o) (H Hameed 62, LS Livingstone 57, AL Davies 49, MJ Leach 4-94, C Overton 3-39, DM Bess 3-85). Somerset won by 7 wickets. Somerset 22 points Lancashire 3 points.

With Essex now Champions, Somerset by the thinnest of margins had moved out of the relegation zone for the first time in the season. They were in sixth position on the same points as Middlesex (123 from 14 games) but having won three games to Middlesex’s two. Yorkshire were one point ahead of Somerset in fifth position. Warwickshire were 49 points behind Middlesex and Somerset, and were relegated. By one of those quirks of the fixture list, in addition to their last match being against Somerset at Taunton, Middlesex’s penultimate match would be against, a possibly now deflated, Lancashire at Lord’s. At the same time Somerset were due to travel to London too. To play Surrey at the Kia Oval.