“We are loving this”

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Leicestershire. 4th, 5th,  6th and 7th July 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. D.P. Conway, S.M. Davies (w), L.P. Goldsworthy, J.C. Hildreth*, G.A. Bartlett, T.A. Lammonby, C. Overton (c)/K.L. Aldridge*, R.E. van der Merwe, J.H. Davey, M de Lange, J.A. Brooks.  *C. Overton was called into the England ODI squad before the start of day 3. J.C. Hildreth replaced him as captain and K.L. Aldridge replaced him as a player.

Leicestershire. R.K.Patel, L.J. Hill, M.S. Harris, C. Ackermann (c), J.P. Inglis, H.J. Swindells (w), B.W.M. Mike, C.F. Parkinson, G.T. Griffiths, E. Barnes, W.S. Davis.

Overnight. Somerset 461 for 9 dec. Leicestershire 390 for 7. Leicestershire trail by 71 runs with three first innings wickets standing.

Final day 7th July – “We are loving this?”

The scene for the final day was set by the weather forecast which, with some certainty, predicted perhaps half a day’s play at best. With Leicestershire’s first innings still to be completed and the follow-on having been saved early on the previous evening, all that seemed to remain for decision was the nature of the draw that would result. Leicestershire had the best of the remains of the match, and their two supporters sitting behind me who had travelled from Leicester to watch their team away from home for the first time this year lapped up every moment of it. “We are loving this,” one of them said as the Leicestershire score passed 450, “We are not used to it. It is usually us on the receiving end.”

Leicestershire added 85 runs in the 30 overs bowled before the promised rain came, a little early, at lunchtime. Somerset took no wickets, although Barnes was dropped by Steven Davies diving hard down the leg side with the score on 415 for 7. De Lange and Brooks opened the bowling for Somerset, but de Lange’s pace was noticeably down. Even so, he and Brooks occasionally troubled the batsmen, and each beat the bat more than once with de Lange letting forth a huge leg before wicket appeal against Barnes.

Barnes, who had launched a concerted assault on the Somerset bowling in the latter part of his innings on the third day, played a much more defensive innings on the final morning, adding 29 runs to his overnight 54 and scoring just three boundaries in the process. Swindells, in contrast, added 52 to his overnight 119, including a six, hooked high to the back row of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion Terrace off Aldridge. There were six fours as well, all played into the off side, either steered, driven or cut, although one stroke off a short ball from Aldridge might best be described as a swat.

With no result in sight, Somerset did not extend their bowlers. Goldsworthy bowled for the rest of the morning from the River End once Brooks had delivered the first five overs. He presented no more threat than any of the other bowlers, but the batsmen took no liberties with him. Barnes once swept him for four, to the long leg boundary at Gimblett’s Hill, but in total his 10 overs cost 16 runs. Aldridge and Lammonby meanwhile conceded five an over as Swindells accelerated towards the end, but by then the only issue of interest was whether Swindells might reach 200 before the match was washed away by the approaching rain. He had 171 by the time it came, and he and Barnes had added 203 for the eighth wicket. Both had exceeded their previous highest first-class score and the Leicestershire first-class record for the eighth wicket which had been passed when the partnership reached 197. For Somerset, progression to the first division of the second phase of the competition was now entirely in their own hands, with only Surrey at the Oval standing in their way.

Result. Somerset 461 for 9 dec (D.P. Conway 88, R.E. van der Merwe 76, J.H. Davey 75*, G.T. Griffiths 3-93). Leicestershire 475 for 7 (H.J. Swindells 171*, E. Barnes 83*, C.N. Ackermann 67, M. de Lange 3-110). Match drawn. Somerset 15 points. Leicestershire 14 points.