Demolished. Hampshire v Somerset – County Championship 2022 – 7th – 9th April. AGEAS Bowl. Final day.

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Hampshire v Somerset. 7th, 8th and 9th April 2022. Southampton.

The following were unavailable for selection by Somerset. Matthew Renshaw (with Australia), Lewis Gregory and Jack Brooks (ill), Craig Overton and Jack Leach (required to rest by England), Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Josh Davey and Sonny Baker (injured).  

Hampshire. J.J. Weatherley, I.G. Holland, J.M. Vince (c), N.R.T. Gubbins, L.A. Dawson, B.C. Brown (w), J.K. Fuller, F.S. Organ, K.H.D. Barker, K.J. Abbott, Mohammad Abbas.

Somerset. B.G.F. Green, T.A. Lammonby, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), R.E. van der Merwe, K.L Aldridge, P.M. Siddle, E.O. Leonard, M. de Lange.

Overnight. Somerset 180 and 15 for 0. Hampshire 428. Somerset trail by 233 runs with ten second innings wickets standing.

Third day 9th April – Demolished

Despite yesterday’s late revival, this was as dispiriting a day for Somerset supporters as any at the end of 2021. The makeshift team had kept its head up on the second day under the most intense pressure from a powerful Hampshire side. On the third day, after initial resistance, it crumbled. The team will be stronger for the match against Essex which follows this one. There are uncertain times ahead in English domestic cricket and supporters will rest more easily if the result in that match begins the process of re-establishing Somerset’s position as one of the stronger teams in the top division.

The day began well enough for the visitors as Ben Green and Tom Lammonby stood firm and made gradual progress against the opening spells of Mohammad Abbas and Kyle Abbott. As the Hampshire attack was resisted there was a tense quite in the ground. In the Shane Warne Stand, sheltered from the chill breeze, a warm sun caused coats to be removed and bare arms to appear for the first time in the match. On the pitch Green looked the more secure while Lammonby was more prolific, although his propensity to hook the short ball with more enthusiasm than success caused some deep intakes of breath. The intensity of the play was reflected in the first boundary not coming until the tenth over when Green drove Abbott along the ground through extra cover to a cry of, “Shot!”

Lammonby’s lack of touch against the short ball eventually resulted in him being hit on the helmet by Mohammad Abbas. Otherwise the two batsmen appeared to be playing within themselves, stroking the ball gently rather than forcing it, although the slow outfield may have aided that impression. When the ball eventually crossed the rope, it did so no more than a foot or two ahead of the chasing fielder. The batsmen were studied in defence, their bats were occasionally beaten, but the gasps from the slips came more often than seemed warranted as tends to be the case when the batting side has its backs to the wall.

It was the arrival of Keith Barker, and in particular James Fuller, into the attack that changed the shape of the morning. Suddenly the gasps from the Hampshire field had a spontaneity and a cutting edge to them and the batsmen began to look disconcerted. Lammonby took two comfortable twos off Barker but then played defensively, edged the ball wide of a diving third slip from where the ball ran down to the Hotel End boundary. Green clipped Fuller, bowling his first over from the Hotel End, firmly to the square leg boundary, but someone said, “Good over,” after the sixth ball. Green, the clipped four apart, had looked uncomfortable. “Fuller and Barker are moving it,” said the incoming text.

When Lammonby drove Fuller through the off side for three there was applause. Four balls later, Green attempted an expansive straight drive and his middle stump was sent cartwheeling, movement off the pitch sending the ball between bat and pad. Tom Abell followed in Fuller’s next over as he tried to guide an angled-in ball behind square and was struck on the pad. When Lammonby was rushed by a short ball from Fuller he was caught down the leg side by Brown. Somerset had fallen from 50 for 0 to 57 for 3 and Fuller had taken three wickets in three overs. It was a stunning turnaround which had Hampshire supporters buzzing and Somerset ones looking on in silent despair.

A brief flurry of resistance followed as Hildreth and Goldsworthy added 25 well-fashioned runs in five overs. A ground-hugging on drive off Fuller from Hildreth brought applause from the Hampshire crowd as it crossed the boundary. A drive through extra cover for four from Goldsworthy off Abbott brought a shout of, “Shot!” and a straight drive in the same over crossed the Pavilion boundary just ahead of the fielder as 12 came from the over. When Hildreth drove Abbott through the covers for another of those boundaries that barely beat the fielder to the rope he raised hopes of a repeat of his first innings and Somerset supporters perhaps dared to hope that something of a revival might be in the air. A ball later Abbott was punching the air in front of his knees as a rushed Hildreth defensive stroke failed to keep the ball out of his stumps. Somerset were 83 for 4 on the cusp of lunch.

My lunchtime circumnavigation resulted in a meeting in the concourse under the Colin Ingleby-Mackenzie Stand with another Somerset supporter, the main focus of our discussion was which side of tea the match would finish. The play since Fuller’s spell had had that sort of feel about it. A rampant bowling attack overpowering a weakened team. Hope for Somerset focused on the expected return of key players for the next match against Essex at Taunton. The return of Craig Overton in particular, for Somerset look a different team when he plays, particularly when he bowls in consort with Lewis Gregory and Josh Davey.

But for now, it was on with my circumnavigation. I saw only two other identifiable Somerset supporters during the second half of my walk. There have been far fewer at this match than used to be the case before the pandemic and many familiar faces were missing. The chat quotient was considerably down too. It could eat half the afternoon session in the old days. Even so, I had chatted longer than I had thought, for as I approached the sightscreen at the Hotel End the players emerged onto the field. Although the sun was shining, the warmth felt in the Warne Stand was absent, the protection against the decidedly chill breeze offered by the stand was still absent on the far side of the ground.

The post-lunch bowling began with Somerset on 88 for 4 and Abbas running in from the Hotel End. I waited to watch the first ball from as near the sight screen as I dared. I have yet to have an umpire shout at me for moving behind the bowler’s arm and I take great care not to break that tradition in my seventh decade of watching first-class cricket. Steven Davies played the ball defensively, but a long way from his pads, and edged it to a diving Liam Dawson at second slip. I continued my walk. Standing square of the wicket, on the very wide concourse next to the Warne Stand, I saw Roelf van der Merwe essay a huge drive at Abbas, a replay shows the ball cutting in, and have his off stump knocked askew. By the time I had entered the stand Goldsworthy had edged Barker to Vince at first slip and Somerset were 92 for 7. As I organised my things and tried to gather together some notes about the wickets which had fallen during the last quarter of my circumnavigation Peter Siddle edged a defensive stroke to Dawson at second slip.

A walk around a quarter of the ground with a few short stops to watch a few balls and take in the stark expanse of the AGEAS Bowl stands had resulted in the loss of four Somerset wickets. Inevitably, Horsham 2013 sprang to mind. It had during the cataclysmic defeats at the end of 2021 too. Four Somerset wickets fell in the first few minutes at Horsham between my buying my ticket at the entrance, walking around the ground, and finding and sitting in a seat. Here four had fallen during a quarter-circumnavigation of the ground for seven runs in less than five overs. 

“This is awful,” said a work colleague from the days of Botham, Richards and Garner who had seen my maroon Somerset backpack on my seat and awaited my return. For the rest, Kasey Aldridge showed some promise with the bat, totalling 25 not out in two short partnerships with Ned Leonard and Marchant de Lange. He found the boundary three times, once sweeping Dawson squarely and emphatically for four, but Leonard and de Lange both fell to expansive drives. Leonard to Dawson, caught at short third man by Barker, and de Lange bowled by Abbas. The match was over before three o’clock on the third day. It was not the start to the season of midwinter dreams, at least Somerset ones. It left Somerset supporters with drives or multi-change train journeys back to the West Country long enough in themselves, but which would feel all the longer as the match, and the Somerset performance swirled around the brain.

Result. Somerset 180 (J.C. Hildreth 87, K.H.D. Barker 3-33) and 135 (Mohammad Abbas 4-22, J.K. Fuller 23). Hampshire 428 (J.J. Weatherley 168, I.G. Holland 81, J.M. Vince 56, B.G.F. Green 3-31). Hampshire won by an innings and 113 runs. Hampshire 23 points. Somerset 1 point.