Waiting to see the light – Hampshire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – AGEAS Bowl – Day 3

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Hampshire CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. 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.

County Championship Group 2. Hampshire v Somerset. 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th May 2021. AGEAS Bowl.

Hampshire. J.J. Weatherley, I.G. Holland, T.P. Alsop, S.A. Northeast, J.M. Vince (c), L.A. Dawson, F.S. Organ, L.D. McManus (w), K.J. Abbott, K.H.D. Barker, Mohammad Abbas.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, L. Gregory, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

Hampshire.

Overnight. Hampshire 79 and 92 for 3. Somerset 336. Hampshire trail by 165 runs with seven second innings wickets standing.

Third day 8th May – Waiting to see the light

The scene at the end of the third day here was reminiscent of that at the end of the fourth day at Edgbaston in the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020. Umpires on the outfield, players in the Pavilion, except for Tom Abell who was in conversation with the umpires. Bad light the reason for the absence of players, Somerset’s dominant position in the match the reason for Abell’s presence no doubt. It ended a frustrating day for Somerset in which only 9.3 overs were bowled. Continuous heavy overnight rain and its effect on the outfield the reasons for the umpires concluding play could not begin until half past five. That changed the dynamic of the game, for it gave Hampshire a chance, if a slim one, of saving a game that had seemed beyond their compass at the end of the previous day.

Overton and Gregory bowled the overs that were available in what appeared to be pretty dinghy light, at least as far as could be divined from watching the live stream. In truth though, only those present on the ground could form any meaningful conclusion about the state of the light or the conditions. Gregory seemed off target, repeatedly bowling, to my untrained mind, too wide of off stump where batsmen intent only on survival could safely leave the ball. “Make him play,” my frustrated note says at one point, reflecting what my ears would have expected to hear in the stands had I been sat in the midst of a Somerset contingent.

Overton offered no such respite to the batsmen. The batsmen were forced to play virtually every ball he delivered. He has been the bowler of the match beyond argument, and Somerset’s bowler of the season too. Overton bowled five overs, took one wicket and, according to my notes, conceded just two of the 18 runs scored. His second ball, to Weatherley, resulted in a huge appeal. He beat Weatherley again in his next over and the two runs scored off him came from a thick edge past slip, Weatherley again the batsman. The batsman again when he tried to leave a ball which hit the face of the bat, came straight down and would have hit a fourth stump. Oh, the trials and tribulations of the bowler.

The wicket Overton took was that of Sam Northeast. From over the wicket, he angled a ball across the right-hander. Off the pitch, the ball cut a little further, just enough for Northeast’s attempt to turn it to leg to lift it far enough for George Bartlett at short leg to take what, from the reaction of the fielders, must have been an excellent catch. Hampshire were 103 for 4, still 152 runs behind and my arms were in the air in accompaniment to my cry of, “Yes!”

Three overs and seven runs later, Abell found himself in conversation with the umpires with play ended for the day. The lack of play on the third day leaves the match open as a contest on the fourth. The forecast suggests little if any sun but a small chance of rain. How good the light will be under the forecast cloud remains to be seen. If there are no interruptions Hampshire may need to take play some way beyond tea to survive. Vince and Dawson in particular have held up Somerset interminably in the past, so the task is not an impossible one, if an unlikely one against this Somerset attack. If though, the forecast cloud hangs low in the sky, and the forecast has darkened as I write, we could have one of those days of unbearable tension where the two teams on the field battle it out while the one in the sky above hovers, like the sword of Damocles, threatening to intervene at the stroke of a light meter.

Close. Hampshire 79 and 110 for 4. Somerset 336. Hampshire trail by 147 with six second innings wickets standing.