All Willis Trophy matches are being played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Somerset CCC’s live stream of the match. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live. He would like to pay tribute to the excellence of the Somerset CCC multi-camera live stream without which the writing of this report would not have been possible.
Bob Willis Trophy. Central Group. Somerset v Glamorgan. 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th August 2020. Taunton.
Somerset. E.J. Byrom, T.A. Lammonby, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, R.E. van der Merwe, J.Overton, J.H. Davey, J.A. Brooks.
Glamorgan. N. J. Selman, C.R. Hemphrey, W.T. Root, C.B. Cooke (c) (w), D.A. Douthwaite, G.G. Wagg, K.A. Bull, K.S. Carlson, M. de Lange, M.G. Hogan, R.A.J. Smith,
Overnight. Somerset 296. Glamorgan 8 for 0. Glamorgan trail by 288 runs with ten first innings wickets standing.
Second day. 2nd August – A stunning Somerset performance
At tea on the first day Somerset were 164 for 8, and the Glamorgan bowlers had dominated proceedings with some persistent, often late, movement. By the close of the second day Somerset were 296 runs ahead with eight second innings wickets and two days in hand. In the process Tom Abell and James Hildreth had added 93 for Somerset’s third wicket at five an over against a ball that continued to move. The transformation in the match had begun on the first evening with those 147 Somerset runs scored for those final two wickets. But it had been driven home by a performance on the second morning from the Somerset bowlers, Craig Overton in particular, that put the Glamorgan performance of the first day in the shade.
The ball was still moving on the second morning, but it had to be directed. Overton and Davey opened, and Somerset never looked back. My note of Hemphry’s dismissal reads, “Hemphrey – late movement away – drive – edge – caught at gully. Lammonby. 15 for 1.” Craig Overton, from the River End, the bowler. The words, “movement,” and “swing,” appear repeatedly in my notes on the morning’s play. The Glamorgan batsmen were given no respite by Overton and Davey as ball after ball asked searching questions of their technique. The unrelenting persistence of the bowling built up a wall of pressure on the batsmen which, in the first division of the County Championship, is as much a skill of the game as bowling, batting and fielding.
The ball with which Davey removed Selman was a perfect example of what the Glamorgan batsmen were up against. It was angled in, swung in just a little more and then, as Selman’s bat was held high above his head, cut in further to hit the pad to leave Ian Blackwell with no alternative but to raise his finger. The appeal from the Somerset players was instantaneous, unanimous and perfectly synchronized with the one from my chair. “Out!” the involuntary word with which I followed my appeal. Glamorgan were 23 for 2, Somerset’s 296 was beginning to look a formidable total and the beat of the heart was being fuelled by anticipation. The Somerset bowlers were bowling as if a wicket might fall with every ball.
The ball with which Overton removed Carlson was another which moved away late. It took the edge of a slightly tentative forward push and flew low and wide of van der Merwe at third slip. Van der Merwe, dived, scooped the ball with both hands as it was about to make connection with the grass and Glamorgan were three down for 33. To this Somerset supporter it felt as if they were gradually being caught in an ever-tightening Somerset net. The heart was beating faster now, for the advantage of the previous evening was ruthlessly being pushed home.
Just three balls later Overton angled another ball, this time into Cooke, and it swung in just a trace. There was a moment’s hesitation before the bat jabbed down at the ball, but the batsman’s feet did not move. The ball took the edge again and flew straight towards Jamie Overton’s left ankle at second slip. His hands moved neatly to intercept and Glamorgan were 34 for 4. As Overton’s hands were intercepting the ball mine were meeting above my head in instinctive applause. It was a two-wicket over, and the camera could have chosen no better moment to home in on the River End and the view beyond of those Quantock fields, billowing white Somerset clouds and crystal-clear, blue sky. Could Somerset cricket exist without the Quantocks looking on? It was a heavenly sight to match some heavenly Somerset cricket.
And while the Quantocks looked on, Davey took the ball from Overton, and with the first delivery of the next over produced another beautiful example of late away swing to the left-handed Root. Again, the bat jabbed down, again the ball took the edge, and again Jamie Overton moved, this time to his right, and took another slip catch. Three slip catches in succession, all perfectly taken. Glamorgan had dropped three. It makes a difference. Glamorgan were 34 for 5. “Brilliant!” the word I could not keep behind my lips, nor my hands from giving one firm loud clap.
Douthwaite did move his feet, got across to a ball from Overton, got the bat to it, but again just an ounce of away movement was enough for the ball to find the edge, and again it flew to the slips. This time, straight into the hands of van der Merwe at third slip. It was as if the ball knew its destiny and went uncomplainingly straight to it. Van der Merwe barely had to move a muscle and stayed in the pose he was in when the ball arrived as if to emphasise the point. 38 for 6. Now, clapping and cheering done, I looked on in amazed silence. Glamorgan were 38 for 6, still 252 distant runs behind Somerset’s, admittedly unlikely, 296.
It had been a stunning Somerset bowling performance. It was as if the ferocity of the momentum built by the Davies-Brooks partnership of the evening before had flowed unhindered through the night and been carried forward into the morning by Overton and Davey. Momentum though has its term and Somerset’s momentum had run its course, at least for the moment. The expectation of instant wickets which had marked the first hour ebbed away, perhaps punctured by a squall of rain which sent the players and umpires scurrying from the field, perhaps by some wayward deliveries from Brooks. Twice in an over he presented Wagg with an opportunity. Twice Wagg grabbed it with both hands. The first, overpitched, was driven straight back along the ground to the Trescothick Pavilion. The second, short, was pulled in front of square to the Ondaatje Stand boundary. A few balls from Jamie Overton showed his own personal momentum carrying his follow-through almost to the batsman. Always a sign, to my mind, of Jamie Overton in form. And then the rain came.
Not for long, and Brooks had only conceded two boundaries, but the wicket-taking spell was broken, Somerset’s momentum was halted for the moment at least, as Wagg and Bull attempted to establish themselves and regain a foothold in the match for Glamorgan. After the rain, Brooks developed some control and Jamie Overton hurried the batsmen with some well-directed deliveries, although a no ball from Overton which bounced over Davies head and went for four byes and the last ball before lunch bowled wide down the leg side by Brooks suffered a similar fate and Glamorgan lunched at 71 for 6. It hardly warranted the word ‘recovery’ but the Somerset mind wanted the bubble lanced soon after lunch.
On the resumption, Wagg and Bull carried Glamorgan further forward, or at least a little closer to that still-distant Somerset total. Wagg drove hard at the returning Craig Overton and edged the ball to the Ondaatje boundary for four. When Jamie Overton strayed outside leg stump, Bull guided him to the Colin Atkinson boundary. For the most part though, the brothers tested the batsman, and although the constant Somerset first-hour expectation of a wicket did not return, it came as no surprise when Craig Overton moved another ball away, this time from outside off stump. Wagg’s defensive jab sent the ball flying straight at Hildreth’s head at second slip. Hildreth’s heads held firm as his hands took the catch as they might a tennis ball tossed to them on a beach. No fuss, no hurry, no mistake, and Overton had taken five wickets in the innings. Glamorgan were 91 for 7. Wagg 28. It was the Glamorgan top score, and none of the six batsmen above him in the order had reached double figures. He and Bull had added 53 runs.
That partnership was the high watermark of the Glamorgan innings, for now Jamie Overton’s accuracy and pace, he conceded just 16 runs in nine overs, began to tell and the expectation of a wicket began to grow again. Overton forced an inside edge from Bull which went to fine leg for a single, but it could have gone anywhere, including the stumps. When Overton once veered to leg, de Lange clipped him to the Ondaatje boundary for four, but when, two balls later, he cut a ball into de Lange, the batsman, in reacting, lost control of his bat and the ball ballooned over Overton’s head to where Davey ran from mid on to take the catch. When Brooks, finding his range, persuaded a ball to swing back late and home in on leg stump, Ball departed, lbw, for 23, the momentum was fully back with Somerset and Glamorgan were 107 for 9.
There was a brief flurry from Smith, batting with a runner, which produced three fours and a six in an over form Davey. Momentarily, it raised the spectre for Somerset supporters, and perhaps hope for Glamorgan ones, of a Brooks-type innings. But, almost inevitably it seemed, Jamie Overton restored order for Somerset with a short ball to Smith. Smith pulled, the ball looped skywards, and Davies ran around from behind the stumps to take the catch. Glamorgan had made 131 and Somerset led by 165 runs. The follow-on was not an issue because under the regulations for the Willis Trophy it had been increased to 200 runs following the lack of preparation time for bowlers because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
And in relation to that pandemic, there was a curious postscript to the Glamorgan innings. I received a text from someone who had been walking by the ground late in the innings. It said, “I checked the score on my phone and saw that Glamorgan were nine down. I was outside the ground when the Glamorgan last wicket fell but being unable to see into the ground at that moment I only knew when I got to the Viv Richards Gates and could see the scoreboard. There was no crowd to applaud the wicket, no sound to be heard.” That hit home.
The Somerset innings was delayed by some squally showers and 12 overs were lost from the day’s play. When, eventually, Byrom and Lammonby started for Somerset, the Glamorgan bowlers bowled with discipline, found the movement that had been there for most of the match and made Byrom and Lammonby work for their runs. For an hour they held Somerset, in spite of the huge Somerset first innings lead, for still the ball moved. Lammonby was out when, having turned Wagg towards the River Stand for two, repeated the stroke but only succeeded in getting a thin edge and was caught, acrobatically, down the leg side by Cooke. Somerset 26 for 1. Lammonby 8.
Abell joined Byrom, who had struck a couple of scintillating fours off Wagg and Hogan, both through the covers. So constraining was the bowling of Douthwaite and de Lange after Lammonby was out that they were able to hold Somerset to 12 runs in seven overs before de Lange angled a ball across Byrom and he was caught behind for 27. Somerset 38 for 2.
And then that sublime unbeaten third wicket stand between Hildreth and Abell lit up a gloomy evening session during which the floodlights were called in aid. The Somerset pair started slowly at first but picked up the pace and took Somerset along at nearly a run a ball as the Glamorgan bowlers seemed to lose their edge. It was Abell and Hildreth and so it was a picture of classical correctness from one end and images of apparently effortless brilliance from the other. The words in my notes are the same for each: “drove through the covers – four,” or, “four – driven square,” or, “pulled square – four.” But a drive through the covers from Abell is a thing of the finest cricketing technology. It could be drawn by a design engineer as a model for others to learn from. A drive from Hildreth is a thing of artistic beauty. It could only be drawn by an artist and would be beyond copying. It was a glorious hour and a quarter of Somerset batting which finally carried the momentum of the match so far in Somerset’s favour that Glamorgan will need the effort of a Hercules to find a way back. Another hour on the third morning like the last on the second evening will be fervently desired by every Somerset supporter, and feared by every Glamorgan one.
Close. Somerset 296 and 131 for 2. Glamorgan 131. C. Overton 5-38. Somerset lead by 296 runs with eight second innings wickets standing.