The Day the Dream Died – Yorkshire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – Scarborough – 5th and 6th September – Final Day

Due to being unable to travel to Scarborough for this match this report was written through watching Yorkshire CCC’s live stream with Yorkshire CCC being advised, and after the stream became unavailable for the final session from the evening highlights package. Without the live stream and highlights 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 Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 5th and 6th September 2021. Scarborough.

Yorkshire. A. Lyth, G.C.H. Hill, T. Kohler-Cadmore, G.S. Ballance, H.C. Brook, D.M.Bess, H.G. Duke (w), J.A. Thompson, D.J. Willey, M.D. Fisher, S.A. Patterson.

Somerset. T.B Abell (c), T.A. Lammonby, Azhar Ali, J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, S.M. Davies (w), T. Banton, B.G.F. Green, M.J. Leach, J.H. Davey, M de Lange.

Overnight. Somerset 134. Yorkshire 159 for 5. Yorkshire lead by 25 runs with five first innings wickets standing.

Final day. 6th September – The day the dream died

This was effectively the day Somerset’s 2021 County Championship dream died. Two matches remain, but by the end of this round any remaining hopes will be, at best, mathematical. At the start of the day Somerset could still cling to a slender hope. By the end, Harry Brook, Jordan Clarke, the Yorkshire lower order and the terminal pressure applied by the Yorkshire bowlers had won the match. The 2021 Championship dreams of Somerset supporters were no more.

In ancient times, societies used to look for omens when on the brink of great events. With a colossal pre-lunch effort needed if Somerset were to turn this match around, Marchant de Lange opened the bowling. Had an ancient priest or priestess been called upon to read Somerset’s auguries for the day, de Lange’s first three balls going down the leg side, one for four byes, would have had them holding their heads in their hands. De Lange never found his mark in his standard four-over opening spell. Even a brief rain break at the end of the second over did not allow him to reset his radar. One ball did move away beautifully to beat Duke, but otherwise the ball tended to either go down the leg side or swing too wide of off stump to trouble the batsmen who showed no interest in anything that did not threaten them.

Davey asked more questions, beating both batsmen with away movement, once resulting in a tumultuous appeal from the cordon against Duke for caught behind. Duke was also beaten by a ball from Davey which cut in sharply, but the leg before wicket appeal was studiously declined by the umpire. More accurate than de Lange Davey may have been, but when he twice strayed onto leg stump, once against each batsman, the ball was emphatically clipped to the boundary. But then a combination of Davey’s increasing accuracy and the batsmen refraining from attacking de Lange’s waywardness held the Yorkshire advance to two runs from four overs.

The Yorkshire lead was now 41, still five wickets down. Somerset’s fingertips were just holding on, but on a pitch helpful to the bowlers. Abell replaced de Lange as he had on the first day and the grip began to loosen. He was immediately pulled for four by Brook. The stroke was emphatic and the omens apparent in de Lange’s first over still held potency. Davey meanwhile continued to press. Eventually he comprehensively defeated Duke’s defences to bowl him for nine. Duke though had held Somerset at bay for 60 balls while Brook shifted the balance of the match Yorkshire’s way. Even more did the Somerset heart sink when Brook brought up his century from 122 balls by twice driving Abell through the off side to the boundary. Abell withdrew from the attack, replacing himself with Leach’s slow left arm. Yorkshire were 57 ahead, now six down, but with Brook in full flow harvesting runs in conditions not entirely conducive to batting.

Leach bowled until lunch with de Lange and then Green at the other end. Leach obtained some turn, but the batsmen took no risks. De Lange held a tighter line than in his first spell but still conceded four byes with a ball to Thompson which started wide of off, swung further, bounced high and defeated Davies’ dive as his hand reached high towards the space above first slip’s head. In the remaining ten overs to lunch a drive from Brook to the long on boundary off Leach and another from Thompson off Green, strike rotation and quiet accumulation pushed the score a further 32 runs ahead of Somerset. The accumulation was so understated that when Thompson’s on drive brought up the fifty partnership it came as a surprise. Lunch arrived with Yorkshire on 229 for 6, a score innocuous enough hanging on the scoreboard in isolation, but in the context of Somerset’s 134 and two Yorkshire batsmen seemingly well set, it meant a depressing lunch for those Somerset supporters who had made the trip, and for those who had not. The omens of the early overs had already proved prescient enough, and those five pacemen of the apocalypse still awaited the Somerset batsmen in their second innings.

Leach and Green continued after lunch, and in spite of Somerset’s precarious position both held firm, persisting with a restrictive if not threatening line. The batsmen, patience personified in response, recorded one run in four overs. In the end persistence triumphed over patience. When Brook attempted to break free with a cut off Green, he connected only with the edge and Abell, diving wide from second slip held his third catch of the innings. Brook, 118, was applauded almost all the way to the rope. The applause might have lasted longer if had he been caught at the height of his innings at the end of the morning rather than as he worked to re-establish it at the start of the afternoon. His innings had lasted ten minutes short of four hours, and the intensity of concentration and precision of attacking stroke selection was evidenced by 78 of his 118 runs having come in boundaries. Yorkshire were 230 for 7, now 96 ahead. Brook’s innings had been invaluable to the Yorkshire cause. Now Thompson iced the Yorkshire cake.

David Willey joined him, and the new ball was taken at the start of the next over. Had Overton not been with England there is little doubt he would have taken it. Here, Abell handed it to Lammonby, normally a fifth, perhaps a fourth seamer, ahead of de Lange. “Lammonby is taking the second new ball,” the text I sent. The recipient, an experienced club cricketer replied, “Is there a left-hander in?” “Two,” I replied. “That may be the reason,” his opinion, and immediately Lammonby was swinging the ball away from the batsmen. In his first over, to Thompson, he beat the bat twice, resulting in appeals for caught behind and then leg before wicket as a ball pitched on leg and swung towards middle.

Davey again caused the batsmen problems, beating the edge and finding the thick part of it more than once in his new ball spell. Thompson though soon had the measure of Lammonby, flicking a ball that strayed to leg over the square leg boundary and into the midst of rows of smiling, applauding Yorkshire supporters arrayed on the mass of wooden benches. In successive balls, he flick-drove Lammonby through wide long on for four and pulled him over the diving Davey at long leg for another six. An electrifying drive through midwicket for four saw Lammonby withdrawn from the attack having conceded 25 runs, mostly to Thompson, in five overs. He had tended to stray onto leg stump or beyond, perhaps searching for the away swing with which he had threatened in his first over. In the first ten overs of the new ball Yorkshire advanced by 37 runs. Their lead was now a distant looking 133, tellingly only a single run less than Somerset’s entire first innings total.

Attempting to find a way through the final three wickets, Abell rotated his hand of pace bowlers. In response, Yorkshire added another 41 runs to end on 308 with a first innings lead of 174. Thompson went to his fifty with a pull off Davey which clattered past the rope towards the ice cream van, one of the features of festival cricket, at long leg. It had taken him 94 balls, first in support of Brook and then in partnership with Willey. He was eventually out for 57, caught cutting de Lange to Lammonby at backward point. Willey reached 23, driving Green twice through the off side for four and cutting de Lange through backward point and past Davey on the boundary. Fisher then managed to farm the strike to add 12 for the last wicket and register Yorkshire’s third batting point before Patterson drove de Lange through the air, straight of Azhar Ali at mid-on. Azhar dived sharply to his left and took the catch to end Yorkshire’s innings on 308.

Predicting the future course of a cricket match can be a fruitless occupation. But speculation about its future course is one of the favourite pastimes of the hardened cricket supporter. On the second afternoon at Scarborough, I doubt anyone speculated that a second innings score below 350 would suffice for Somerset, and most would probably have been looking at 400 or beyond. Such scores need a good start. Hope always springs eternal, but reality is as unforgiving in cricket as in any other aspect of life. It struck Somerset early. At the end of the second over, Lammonby tried to defend against a ball from Willey. It swung away, Lammonby edged it low and straight to Brook at third slip. Somerset were 2 for 1 and the opening partnership woes which had bedevilled them throughout the season had struck again. Then, when Fisher angled a ball into Azhar and moved it away off the seam it too took the edge. It flew low just to Lyth’s left at second slip. Lyth’s hands followed the ball across and down as if directed by radar and took it just below knee height. Somerset were 7 for 2 and any hope that Somerset supporters might have harboured of a long rearguard action, unlikely as it had been at the outset on the North Marine Road pitch against Yorkshire’s five pacemen, now seemed more forlorn than ever.

Even more so when in the space of an over both Hildreth and Bartlett fell leg before wicket to Fisher, Bartlett playing across his pads as he does so often early in his innings. A Somerset supporter once watched a similar dismissal with me from the top of the steps in front of the Garner Gates at Taunton and asked, “Why, when he has so many strokes, does Bartlett feel the need to play across his pads so early in his innings?” When Abell, so often the backbone and guide of Somerset’s batting in the first phase of the Championship this year, was bowled by Fisher whilst offering no stroke to a ball which cut back from outside off stump Somerset were 18 for 5, still 156 behind and, to use an old cricketing phrase, in complete disarray. It was as if the innings were a sandcastle on Scarborough’s North Bay beach being demolished by an overpowering surge-driven wave, and the hearts of Somerset supporters felt as crushed as that of the child whose pride and joy the sandcastle had been.

It had been a devastating rout of Somerset’s top order which confirmed the first innings dominance of the Yorkshire pace attack. North Marine Road is known for its pace and bounce, conditions which Craig Overton had used so mercilessly with his height, pace and accuracy in the 2017 Championship match at this ground. Now, generating movement, particularly off the seam, the Yorkshire bowlers had demonstrated how sustained discipline of line and length could overwhelm a top order which had struggled for form all season.

Davies and Banton now tried to bring some order to the batting. For a while they succeeded, but it was as if they were a damage control party trying to repair damage caused by an East Coast storm surge while the storm was still raging. In an over from Willey, Davies managed to drive back past the bowler, the ball reaching the boundary with the batsmen having no need to run, and then, as the ball swung away from him, Davies drove through the covers to the boundary again. They were strokes of quality but, reality striking again, a look at the score after the second boundary revealed it standing at 26 for 5. If any had clung to hope after Somerset’s first innings, the grip had been broken now. The Championship was gone for another year, and in shattering style.

Banton found the boundary twice, clipping Thompson through midwicket and rising to his toes to drive Patterson beautifully through the covers. But when Thompson angled a ball into him, Banton’s defensive stroke deflected the ball off the inside edge to Duke behind the stumps and Somerset were 45 for 6, still 129 behind with no omens needed to predict the outcome. Davies continued to defy Yorkshire with some determined, extended defence, but the pressure from the Yorkshire attack was unrelenting. Ball after inquisitorial ball tested the batsmen. Davies did find the boundary again, driving Hill uppishly through the covers, but in the end he too succumbed. He was neatly caught by Kohler-Cadmore over his left shoulder at first slip trying to steer the ball behind square. Davies had made 25 in nearly an hour and a half at the wicket but as he walked off the scoreboard registered only 69 for 7, Somerset still 105 adrift.

With hope extinct, there followed a tail-end flourish led by Green and Leach. Green batted just short of two hours, longer than any other Somerset batsman in either innings. He found the boundary just three times, twice off successive balls before the departure of Davies when he had hooked Willey off the edge to fine leg and risen to his toes to turn him behind square. And again just after Davies had gone when he drove Willey straight of mid-off. From there he held an end secure while Leach attacked the Yorkshire bowling. The pair added 42 runs in 14 overs for the eighth wicket. ‘Too little too late’ is an oft used phrase but it was never more apposite than here. In the circumstances the partnership was a sterling effort, but Somerset’s match was long gone, destroyed in two top order collapses. Both innings were seven wickets down by the time the score reached a hundred. It was a task beyond even the Somerset lower order and a depleted pace attack to retrieve.

Leach sent some faint beats through Somerset hearts with some well-struck boundaries in a score of 26, second only to Green’s 32, but the corpse of Somerset’s Championship hopes was beyond revival. Leach was harsh on Fisher, destroyer of Somerset’s top order, with three boundaries in two overs. Hill and Patterson suffered two more before Leach found himself facing his erstwhile Somerset colleague, Bess, who he had snared into being stumped in Yorkshire’s innings. Now, Bess returned the compliment with a ball that barely turned but found the edge of Leach’s defensive bat. From there, it was deflected off the keeper’s gloves neatly into the hands of Lyth at first slip.

And that, the de riguer end of innings assault from de Lange apart, was virtually that. Green finally tried to whip Thompson into the leg side and had his off stump flattened. De Lange lofted Thompson straight back over his head for six, and Bess over long on for another six. A lofted four followed before a low full toss went through an indeterminate stroke to shatter the stumps. Two days and one ball remained and Somerset’s Championship hopes, already badly damaged by the defeat to Nottinghamshire at Taunton, were symbolised by the wreckage of de Lange’s stumps.

Result. Somerset 134 (M.D. Fisher 5-41) and 141 (M.D. Fisher 4-23, J.A. Thompson 3-32). Yorkshire 308 (H.C. Brook 118, J.A. Thompson 57, M. de Lange 4-55, J.H. Davey 4-72). Yorkshire won by an innings and 33 runs. Yorkshire 22 points. Somerset 3 points.