Pink ball blues

The introduction to this report was written during the winter of 2017/18. It remains as it was written then. Things have moved on in relation to pink ball cricket, but the issue of Championship crowds, except in a few counties like Somerset, has not. This post includes an attempt at a light-hearted poem on cricket, at least from the batsman’s viewpoint, played with a pink ball. 

PINK BALL BLUES 

~   HAMPSHIRE   ~ 

“It was a perfect afternoon’s cricket in the middle of a lovely summer evening.” 

Specsavers County Championship. First Division. Southampton. 26th, 27th, 28th and 29th June 2017. Hampshire v Somerset.Read More »

A personal memory of Godfrey Evans

A Personal Memory of Godfrey Evans

I once met Godfrey Evans, Kent and England wicketkeeper throughout the 1950s, and one of the greats of England cricket. Not a Somerset memory but a memory to be treasured nonetheless.

It was at a cricket event in London. I have long since forgotten which. It was not too long before Evans died. He was presented to the event and said a few words but his voice was weak and he looked very tired. I had taken my cricket-playing, barely teenage son to the event. I managed to corner Evans at the end of the event to introduce my son to him so that he could at least say he had met the great man. “This is my son, he is a leg-spinner,” I told Evans. Evans’ tired eyes lit up and he suddenly became animated. “Leg spinner! Leg spinner! Loved leg spinners. Lots of chances. Lots of chances, Stick with it young man.” And with that Evans went his way and we went ours, but with another jewel of a cricketing memory to bank.

Valiant charge – the 2017 RLODC quarter-final at Taunton

The latest in my series of ‘Farmer White’ match reports written during Somerset’s 2017 season.

VALIANT CHARGE

~   ROYAL LONDON ONE-DAY CUP QUARTER-FINAL   ~

“It was now that Elgar showed how a classical batsman can adapt to fast scoring in one-day cricket.” 

RLODC Quarter-Final. Taunton. 13th June 2017. Somerset v Nottinghamshire

A match in which well over 800 runs were scored in 98 overs. Supporters were on the edge of their seats until the very end as Somerset launched a ferocious assault on an impossible target.Read More »

County Championship 2017 ~ So Close

SO CLOSE 

~   YORKSHIRE   ~ 

“Yorkshire eyes perked up although the couple in front of me could not bear to applaud. Too tense. Too close. Somerset faces looked at each other. So close and yet now a little further away.”

Specsavers County Championship. First Division. Taunton. 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th June 2017. Somerset v Yorkshire.

In this match Adam Hose replaced Peter Trego. This was the first sign that the guard might be changing in the Championship batting line up.

9th June. First Day.

Farmer White (IP Logged) 10 June 2017 8.30 a.m.

“Isn’t it time Ryan Sidebottom retired?” said the incoming text just before the close after he had taken three Somerset wickets in his first five overs. And that after he had batted 18 overs to help add 31 for the last Yorkshire wicket with more ease than virtually any of the Yorkshire batsmen had shown. He is a remarkable player. Read More »

County Championship 2017 ~ Signs of revival

Somerset’s fifth County Championship match of the 2017 season after three defeats and a desperate draw. For the first time in 2017, Somerset got the better of a Championship match, although the first victory of the season remained elusive. Lewis Gregory made a stunning maiden first-class century and was inolved in a huge partnership with Dean Elgar who made 158. The debate about the fragility of the Somerset batting continues. The reports starts with a match preview which looks back at a fighting Somerset draw at Lord’s in 2013.

The match report itself includes a description of what it was like to be in London during the first London Bridge terrorist attack which took place during the course of this match.

As always the original reports are in a darker font and begin and end with quotation marks.

SIGNS OF REVIVAL 

~   MIDDLESEX   ~ 

“As to my weekend in London the Saturday night and London’s response to it will leave a mark long after the match…has merged in with memories of many other matches.” 

Specsavers County Championship. First Division. Lord’s. 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th June 2017. Middlesex v Somerset. Read More »

County Championship 2017 ~ Nadir

NADIR 

~   HAMPSHIRE   ~ 

“The difference in the way Somerset and Hampshire batted in their second innings was stark and telling.” 

Somerset’s dismal start to the 2017 Championship season continued with a third defeat in the first four matches. The cricket is described, but the reports also reflect the lively debate among supporters about the reasons for the slump and thoughts about the possible reasons. Different times to some of the heights of 2018 and 2019, and a different type of report.

Specsavers County Championship. First Division. Taunton. 26th, 27th and 28th May 2017. Somerset v Hampshire. Read More »

County Championship 2017 ~ Narrow escape

NARROW ESCAPE 

~   WARWICKSHIRE   ~ 

“It is therefore possible that Somerset may be operating in a perfect cricketing storm this year.” 

Specsavers County Championship. First Division. Taunton. 19th,20th,21st and 22nd May 2017. Somerset v Warwickshire.

The Championship to Date.

Just before the start of the next Championship match against Warwickshire I reviewed Somerset’s poor start to the Championship season in April which had brought much criticism from supporters. In fact, all the posts on this match were written in the context of and in part were a response to the growing sense of alarm among supporters at the direction the season, especially the Championship season and particularly the Championship batting, was taking.Read More »

Somerset in the Royal London One Day Cup 2017 – Part 2

This post contains the ‘Farmer White’ match reports on the final three of Somerset’s 2017 Royal London One Day Cup group-stage matches.

The fourth, against Middlesex, was washed out by biblical quantities of rain. In place of the report which might have been written, had it taken place, is a look back to the Gillette Cup semi-final of 1977 between Middlesex and Somerset, also at Lord’s. It too was rained off on five seperate days, before being settled in a 15 over “farce”, at least that was the view of Brian Close in his final season as captain of Somerset.

On the night before the first day on which the match was scheduled to take place, Elvis Presley died, an event which impinged on the day and which found its place in my report.

The matches include contest with Gloucestershire at Bristol, a consummate Somerset victory, in which Adam Hose made his mark with a stunning century which took the breath away.

The post ends with a couple of light-hearted ‘poems’ triggered by the prospect and the consequences of the rain.Read More »

Somerset in the Royal London One Day Cup 2017 – Part 1

This post contains the ‘Farmer White’ match reports on three of the first four 2017 Royal London One Day Cup group-stage matches. There is also a preview of one of the matches and some additional information to set the context of matches. All reports were written at the time. The time and date of the original posting on grockles.com is contained at the head of each report.

WHITE BALL ADVENTURE (1)

~   ROYAL LONDON ONE-DAY CUP 2017   ~ 

“Fifty over cricket is not for the fainthearted.” 

In 2017 the Royal London One-Day Cup (RLODC) group stages were played in a three-week block beginning at the end of April. During the course of the competition there was much discussion among supporters about the length which Somerset’s bowlers bowled, particularly about short-pitched bowling, and some reflection of that can be seen in my posts.Read More »

County Championship 2017 ~ Reality affirmed

This is the third in the series of 2017 season ‘Farmer White’ Match reports reproduced here from the reports posted on grockles.com at the time. I did not attend the second match of the season, against Lancashire at Old Trafford. Instead, I listened to the online commentary whilst constructing a patio in my garden. I wrote ‘reports’ on what I had heard after the first and second days of the match. Laying a patio is heavy, precise work and I worked until the light went late in the evening. As a consequence, I did not write reports on the third and fourth days. The reports I did write were ‘offbeat’, the second in particular. The reports themselves appear between quotation marks and in a slightly darker font to differentiate them from the contextual information added in the winter of 2017/18. 

REALITY AFFIRMED

~   LANCASHIRE   ~ 

“The Championship season now looked a very different prospect than it had at the start of the season.” 

Specsavers County Championship First Division. Old Trafford. 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th April 2017. Lancashire v Somerset. Read More »

County Championship 2017 ~ Championship reality

This is the second in the series of ‘Farmer White’ reports from Somerset’s 2017 season. The originals appeared on grockles.com immediately after the cricket was played. and are reproduced here with additional information which sets the context of the match. The original reports are contained within quotation marks, appear in a slightly darker font and are headed by the grockles.com post header which gives the time of the original posting of the report. I was unable to attend the final (third) day of the match due to travelling to London for a quinquennial event. There is a brief resumé of the day after the reports on the first two days. The reports start with a brief season preview. The lesson to be learned from the preview – predictions are for soothsayers and not for humble cricket-watchers. 

CHAMPIONSHIP REALITY 

~   ESSEX   ~ 

“And so, in the end, yesterday was more cold water than warm glow and the breeze from beyond the Trescothick Stand … was chill to the bone.”

Specsavers County Championship. First Division. Taunton. 14th, 15th and 16th April 2017. Somerset v Essex. Read More »

County Championship 2016 ~ Championship Dream

This is the first of the series of posts about Somerset’s 2017 season which will be published at approximately weekly intervals during the winter of 2019/20. To set the scene for 2017 the first set of reports and articles is about the experience of being a Somerset supporter during and just after the dramatic and controversial final two days of the 2016 season. The actual reports and articles posted at the time appear in a darker font and each begins and ends with quotation marks to differentiate them from the explanatory material added subsequently.

CHAMPIONSHIP DREAM

~   2016   ~

“In that same flash the dream that had sustained us through the last four days was no more. The Championship was gone.”      Read More »

Palairet 1895

Lionel Charles Hamilton Palairet played for Somerset from 1890 to 1909. He scored over 15000 first-class runs at an average of 33.63 in an age when pitches were far from as reliable as they are today and when they were left exposed to the elements in inclement weather. He made 27 first-class centuries. He has often been referred to as the archetypal classical batsman of cricket’s ‘Golden Age’. He played with immense grace off the front foot with an off drive second to none. The grace of his driving could be matched by its power and it was not uncommon for him to launch a drive into the River Tone or St James churchyard. In this poem I have tried to capture what it would be like to be transported back in time to watch Palairet – the nonpareil …

Palairet 1895

Come with me down to the County Ground

Where we’ll cast our sight to its past.

We’ll take a breath, then glaze our eyes

And make the moment last.Read More »

The County Championship goes east

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th September 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. No play on Day 3. Somerset 203. Essex 25 for 0. Essex trail Somerset by 178 runs.

Final day. 26th September – The County Championship goes east

The final day of this match left a montage of memories crashing around in the mind. Marcus Trescothick walking out to a tremendous ovation just before the end to field at slip for the last time is one to be treasured. The eerie emotion-pummelling silence every time a bowler left his mark during that, at last, sunlit hour when Somerset supporters hoped, and Essex ones feared, a Somerset miracle might happen. The tumultuous cheers of Somerset supporters and chants of “Somerset La La La” every time an Essex wicket fell or a batsman was beaten and the applause of Essex supporters and chants of “Essex, Essex” whenever a boundary was struck. The pulsating atmosphere surged, roared, throbbed, ebbed and flowed in every corner of the ground. It was as if it were some physical entity you could reach out and touch. You couldn’t of course, but you could feel it in every sinew in your body.Read More »

Championship hopes cloud over

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th September 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 203. Essex 25 for 0. Essex trail Somerset by 178 runs.

Third day. 25th September. No Play. Rain and wet outfield.

Championship hopes cloud over

It was a day of checking weather Apps, low fast-moving grey cloud, pulses of rain, covers coming off and going back on, umpires inspecting, ground staff mopping up just in time for another blast of mizzle or spate of heavier rain and, in the end, waiting endlessly for wet ground to dry out. The sky dropped repeated visitations of the sort of mizzle against which an umbrella acts as a trap to hold it around your face, and heavier bursts of rain. The sky brought no hope at all to Somerset supporters, just a conveyor belt of low grey cloud. Seeing no immediate prospect of play I took a more leisurely stroll around the ground than is usually possible at the start of a day’s play. The conversations were as much about the weather as they were about the cricket, for the weather was taking an increasingly strong grip on the match and in so doing tightening Essex’s grip on the Championship.Read More »

“I want Roelof in the side”

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th September 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 75 for 4.

Second day. 24th September – “I want Roelof in the side”

“I want Roelof in the side. He makes thing happen.” So said my cricket-watching companion before the teams had been announced on the first morning. My protestations that Somerset would not need three spinners, for only two can bowl at once, and that van der Merwe seemed to have ‘lost’ his red ball batting were swept aside. Well, Roelof was in the side, along with Bess and Leach, and on the second day he indeed did make things happen. In a glorious three-quarters of an hour in the afternoon sun he swept the all-conquering Harmer aside. Whether he did enough, and whether the weather will hold long enough, to give Somerset a chance of turning the top of the Championship table upside down remains to be seen. The odds against Somerset succeeding remain horribly long for Essex still hold all the cards, the time remaining in the game is desperately short and the weather stubbornly autumnal. But van der Merwe has kept the flame of Somerset’s hopes alight and, it seems, he does “make things happen”.Read More »

Five spinners and a deluge

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th September 2019. Taunton.

Essex travelled to Taunton for the last match of the season 12 points ahead of second-placed Somerset. To win the Championship Somerset would need to win the match. For Essex a draw would be sufficient. The forecast for all four days was poor as the remnants of the latest tropical storm swept in from the Atlantic.  

Somerset. M. Vijay, S.M. Davies (w), T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, T. Banton, G.A. Bartlett, L. Gregory, D.M Bess, C. Overton, R van Der Merwe, M.J. Leach. 

Essex. N.L.J Browne, Sir A.N. Cook, T. Westley, D.W. Lawrence, B.S. Bopara, T.N. ten Doeschate (c), A.J.A. Wheater (w), S.R. Harmer, A. Nijjar, J.A. Porter, S.J. Cook. 

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day. 23rd September – Five spinners and a deluge

As we left the house the high white cloud, blue sky and sun recalled the summer warmth of the days before the weekend just gone. The chill on the air hinted, but no more, of autumn. The forecast might have had Noah worried. And so, the final round of County Championship matches of 2019 began on the day of the Autumn Equinox. The Quantocks had cast off their bright summer colours and were dressed in drab winter dowds. The Atlantic storms, which end their days passing through these parts in autumn and winter have begun their annual pilgrimage. They shroud the Quantocks from the view of those of us in the valley as they push by.Read More »

The ‘thousand-mile stare’

County Championship Division 1. Hampshire v Somerset. 16th, 17th and 18th September 2019. Southampton.

Overnight. Hampshire 196 and 176 for 8. Somerset 142 (K.J. Abbott 9 for 40). Hampshire lead by 230 runs with two second innings wickets standing.

Final day. 18th September – The ‘thousand-mile stare’

This was a crushing defeat in a match in which victory would have taken Somerset a long way towards their first County Championship. They succumbed to outstanding bowling in both innings by a bowler who bowled throughout as if ‘on a mission’, although 68 wickets thus far this season suggests he has been rather effective against other teams too. Abbott’s 17 wicket’s in the match, apparently the first time the feat has been achieved in the County Championship since before the Second World War, is a phenomenal achievement. At lunch on the final day nothing seemed less likely. Somerset, 62 for 0 in pursuit of 281, with Abbott having bowled an apparently innocuous opening spell, seemed to be in little trouble. Within an hour of the restart the innings was almost over and by the end the only surprise was that Abbott had only taken 17 wickets.Read More »

Abbott unleashed

County Championship Division 1. Hampshire v Somerset. 16th, 17th and 18th September 2019. Southampton.

Overnight. Hampshire 196. Somerset 30 for 2. Somerset trail Hampshire by 166 runs with eight first innings wickets standing.

Overnight. Hampshire 196. Somerset 30 for 2. Somerset trail by 166 runs with eight first innings wickets standing. 

Second day. 17th September – Abbott unleashed

This is a match in which the balance has swung first one way and then the other but by the end of the second day the overall direction of travel was heavily in Hampshire’s favour. With Essex only eight points behind Somerset at the start of this round of matches and well ahead in their match against Surrey at Chelmsford, defeat in this match could end Somerset’s Championship challenge, for although Essex and Somerset meet in the final round of matches the forecast for the final week is poor.

There are no such issues with the forecast here. There will be a result in this match and if Somerset are to maintain their position in the Championship, they will have to win it. I do not recall seeing a cloud in the sky all day. The decision to end play for bad light can only have been related to shadows covering the pitch and the setting of the sun on a day that, along with the heavy defeats at Chelmsford and Headingley, may, if Somerset cannot safely negotiate the new ball in their second innings, cast a shadow over Somerset’s season. Read More »

In the balance

County Championship Division 1. Hampshire v Somerset. 16th, 17th and 18th September 2019. Southampton.

Somerset travelled to Southampton eight points clear at the top of the Championship. The match against Hampshire would be the second of their last three matches. All three involved other the teams in the top half of the table. Meanwhile Essex would play Surrey who had won only two matches in 2019 to Essex’s eight. Somerset’s final match of the season would be against Essex at Taunton. 

Somerset. M. Vijay, S.M. Davies (w), T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, T. Banton, G.A. Bartlett, L. Gregory, D.M Bess, C. Overton, R van Der Merwe. J.H. Davey 

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

Toss. Hampshire. Elected to bat.

First day. 16th September – In the balance

One of the greatest barriers to following Somerset around the country is the A303. In 2017 I went to the first ‘pink ball’ match in which Somerset had played. The ball went soft before its time, the weather was awful and Somerset’s run chase nearly ended in disaster. There was an accident on the A303 and it took us five and a half hours to get back to Somerset. There was no accident this time as we travelled towards Southampton on the day before the match. But there was traffic. Endless traffic. Tailbacks at every roundabout and at every one of those places where a stretch of dual carriageway or your priority on a single carriageway section ends. That is the A303 on a summer Sunday and, the onset of autumn notwithstanding, this was a glorious summer Sunday. It was while we were in one of those queues that my phone rang.Read More »