James Hildreth – Somerset Steel – Batting Genius

James Hildreth – Somerset Steel – Batting Genius

James Hildreth has retired from professional cricket. His career will one day, no doubt, make a classic cricket book. But now, as Somerset supporters everywhere are remembering one of the last great single-team domestic careers, here are one person’s personal memories of some of the greatest moments of Hildreth’s Somerset career. There was more, much, much more that I did not see, but I hope this will give something of a flavour of the joy of watching James Hildreth, once Somerset cricketer, now Somerset legend, playing at the top of his game.

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Hildy

Re-published to mark the announcement of James Hildreth’s end-of-season retirement:

Some talk of Vivian Richards and some speak of Gimblett,
Of Botham and Bill Alley and many others yet.
But of Somerset’s great heroes, there’s none finessed and played
With the glorious art and poetry that Hildy’s bat arrays.

Those heroes of our history all scored with cannon balls,
They played with force like thunder to cause the bowlers’ fall.
O’erwhelmed the opposition, but none would serenade
With the glorious art and poetry that Hildy’s bat arrays.

Whene’er they are commanded to storm the palisades,
Our spinners bowl their tweakers that land like hand grenades;
Our pacemen send stumps tumbling, but watch our rivals fade
To the glorious art and poetry that Hildy’s bat arrays.

And if they break his ankle he’ll stand there just the same.
Their spinners may bowl tweakers that land like hand grenades.
Their pacemen bounce him roundly; he’ll leave them all dismayed
With the glorious art and poetry that Hildy’s bat arrays.

Then when the match is over we to the bar repair.
While from the team’s pavilion famed ‘Blackbird’ fills the air,
For now we have a team friends that does not doubt or fade
And the glorious art and poetry that Hildy’s bat arrays.

And when we’re in our dotage we’ll drink a health always
To those who played so proudly, and graced our summers’ days.
We’ll call great feats of players, and pray our memory’s saved
The glorious art and poetry that Hildy’s bat arrayed.

James, thank you for the memories.

This was first published on grockles.com in the autumn of 2016 and subsequently appeared in James Hildreth’s Testimonial brochure. It can be sung, and is based on the traditional song, The British Grenadiers.

Essex ahead after a day of production line cricket – Essex v Somerset – County Championship 2022 – 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th July – Chelmsford

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Essex v Somerset. 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th July. Chelmsford.

The author was unable to travel to this match due to illness. The match was therefore watched on the Essex CCC live stream, with the knowedge of Essex CCC, without which this report would have not been possible.

Josh Davey, Sonny Baker and Ned Leonard were unavailable due to injury.

Somerset. M.T. Renshaw, T.A. Lammonby, T.B. Abell (c), G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, J.E.K. Rew (w), L. Gregory, K.L. Aldridge, C. Overton, P.M. Siddle, M.J. Leach.

Essex. N.L.J. Browne, Sir A.N. Cook, T. Westley (c), D.W. Lawrence, P.I. Walter, M.J.J. Critchley, A.M. Rossington (w), S.R. Harmer, A.P. Beard, S. Snater, J.A. Porter.

Toss. Essex. Elected to bat.

First day 25th July – Essex ahead after a day of production line cricket

After two and a half years of avoiding COVID I contrived to develop a dose when Somerset were playing cricket! Mild fortunately, but the recommended isolation period meant travel to Chelmsford was impractical and so it was back to the live stream for the first time this year. Few matches were live streamed when I began writing match reports in 2017, and the few that were, tended to be on such a narrow bandwidth the picture occupied a few square inches of the screen, came without commentary and from a fixed camera. What a transformation the intervening five years have brought. Full screen streaming, several moving cameras following the action, commentary, although I watch without, and action replays. A veritable feast of cricket-watching for the committed supporter who is unable to attend a match.

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Playing on the face of the moon – Essex v Somerset – County Championship 2022 – 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th July – Chelmsford

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Essex v Somerset. 25th, 26th, 27th and 28th July. Chelmsford.

Josh Davey, Sonny Baker and Ned Leonard were unavailable for selection due to injury.

The author was unable to travel to this match due to illness.The match was therefore watched in its entirity on the Essex CCC live stream without access to which this report would not have been possible.

Somerset. M.T. Renshaw, T.A. Lammonby, T.B. Abell (c), G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy/T. Banton*, J.E.K. Rew (w), L. Gregory, K.L. Aldridge, C. Overton, P.M. Siddle, M.J. Leach.

*T. Banton replaced L.P. Goldsworthy under the ECB Concussion Protocol on the final day.

Essex. N.L.J. Browne, Sir A.N. Cook, T. Westley (c), D.W. Lawrence, P.I. Walter, M.J.J. Critchley, A.M. Rossington (w), S.R. Harmer, A.P. Beard, S. Snater, J.A. Porter.

Overnight. Essex 505 for 8 dec. Somerset 359 for 3. Somerset trail by 146 runs.

Final day 27th July – Playing on the face of the moon

The pitch on which this match was played could have done service on the face of the moon so little life was there to be found in it. Wickets fell, across the match, at the rate of four a day, and some of those when attempts were made, as Essex approached 500 and Somerset 600, to accelerate ahead of a declaration. Had the match been timeless, ten days might not have been sufficient to complete it. It took nearly 177 overs of the Somerset innings for six wickets to fall, and one of those fell to a run out with Gregory halfway up the pitch, suggesting he had fallen asleep when he set off, and another when Craig Overton tried to send a ball back to Taunton and was stumped by nearly as much as Gregory had been run out by.

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A Bowlers’ Day – T20 Finals Day 2022 – Edgbaston

After travelling back to Somerset from Southport on Friday afternoon, a six-hour journey, I was on the supporters’ coach to Edgbaston at 7.00 a.m. on Saturday morning. It was a wonderful day at the cricket. Could have done with some shade. The Somerset seats, at least the tranche I was with, were in the R.E.S. Wyatt Stand, full in the face of the sun all day until the sun finally set behind the stand half an hour into the final which made it a very pleasant evening. I watched most of the second innings of the first match on a screen in an open fronted bar to ration my exposure to the heat and the sun. It really was quite fierce in the morning, less so in the afternoon.

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The Return of Jamie Overton – Somerset v Surrey – County Championship 2022 – 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th June – Taunton – First Day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th June. Taunton.

Sonny Baker was unavailable for selection by Somerset due to his continuing back injury while Jack Leach was on Test duty with England and Matt Renshaw on international duty with Australia.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, B.F.G. Green, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton/M. de Lange, J.H. Davey/K.L. Aldridge*, P.M. Siddle.

*J.H. Davey was replaced by K.L. Aldridge on the first day and C. Overton by M. de Lange on the second under the ECB Concussion Protocol

Surrey. R.J. Burns (c), R.S. Patel, H.M. Amla, B.B.A. Geddes, J.L. Smith (w), W.G. Jacks, C.T. Steel, J. Clark, J. Overton, A.A.P. Atkinson, D.J. Worrall.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day 12th June – The return of Jamie Overton

If anyone needed a reminder of what Somerset might have missed when Jamie Overton left for Surrey two seasons ago, they received one if they were at the Cooper Associates County Ground on the first day of this match, and many were. Perhaps not as many as might have been present on a good pre-pandemic day, but not far short, and for a post-pandemic crowd it suggested the old cricket-watching habits were returning. In a piece of controlled, precise, destructive fast bowling Overton ripped the heart out of Somerset’s middle and lower order. Three wickets, two opposing pace bowlers forced to retire hurt, if only temporarily in the case of brother Craig, and pace rarely seen in the modern County Championship, the sum of his contribution. He was not alone in breaking the back of the Somerset batting. With less pace but similar accuracy, Dan Worrall and Gus Atkinson formed the perfect backdrop against which Overton struck, each taking three wickets of their own. Somerset, largely courtesy of three of their own pace bowlers, two hobbled by Jamie Overton en route, scrabbled their way to 180 on a pitch which, with Surrey 56 for 1 at the close, looked to have had significantly more runs than that to offer.

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An almighty fightback – but just one point – Somerset v Surrey – County Championship 2022 – Division 1 – 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th June – Taunton – Final day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 12th, 13th, 14th and 15th June. Taunton.

Sonny Baker was unavailable for selection by Somerset due to his continuing back injury while Jack Leach was on Test duty with England and Matt Renshaw on international duty with Australia.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, B.F.G. Green, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton/M. de Lange, J.H. Davey/K.L. Aldridge*, P.M. Siddle.

*J.H. Davey was replaced by K.L. Aldridge on the first day and C. Overton by M. de Lange on the second under the ECB Concussion Protocol

Surrey. R.J. Burns (c), R.S. Patel, H.M. Amla, B.B.A. Geddes, J.L. Smith (w), W.G. Jacks, C.T. Steel, J. Clark, J. Overton, A.A.P. Atkinson, D.J. Worrall.

Overnight. Somerset 180 and 319 for 8. Surrey 382. Somerset lead by 117 runs with two second innings wickets standing.

Final day 15th June – An almighty fightback – but just one point

The moment of the day was the sight of Jamie Smith’s off stump being sent cartwheeling by Kasey Aldridge and the delight from the bowler which followed. This was Aldridge’s second Championship match as a playing substitute and his third in all. He had finished the first two matches wicketless. He had finally taken his first wicket in the first innings of this match, and another to break Surrey’s racing opening partnership in this innings. Now, the sight of that stump careering out of the ground set the Somerset blood coursing, for here was a young man making a mark. Cheers rent the air, for with three wickets in two overs Aldridge and Roelof van der Merwe had stopped a Surrey team hurtling towards a crushing victory in its tracks. “There may be only two or three hundred here,” someone said, “but what a noise they are making, what an atmosphere they are creating.” It was three quarters of an hour into the afternoon session, Surrey were 70 for 3 and the spark of Somerset hope had been kindled. Fifteen minutes earlier, at 65 for 0, scored at five runs an over, a target of 193 had seemed only a few skips down the wicket away and the cheers were coming from the small enclave of Surrey supporters in the Lord Ian Botham Stand.

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A formidable base – Gloucestersire v Somerset – County Championship 2022 – 12th, 13th and 14th May – Bristol – First day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Gloucestershire v Somerset. 12th, 13th and 14th May. Bristol.

Sonny Baker was unavailable for selection by Somerset due to his continuing injury.

Gloucestershire. M.S. Harris, G.F.B. Scott, J.R. Bracey (w), M.A.H. Hammond, G.L. van Buuren (c) R.F. Higgins, J.G. Bethell, Z.J. Chappell, Zafar Gohar, M.D. Taylor, B.T.J. Wheal.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, J.C. Hildreth, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, J.H. Davey, P.M. Siddle, M.J. Leach.

Toss. Gloucestershire. Elected to field.

First day 12th May – A formidable base

The large proportion of Somerset supporters present among a smallish crowd was obvious when I arrived two overs after the start. A two-hour bus ride, a walk through the centre of Bristol and another bus ride to reach the ground my excuse for a late arrival. For the record, the scoreboard, always the first thing a cricket supporter will look for on arrival, read Somerset 2 for 0. After a meander to identify a vantage point, and looking for a bit of height, I took a seat in the second row from the back of the Mark Alleyne Stand at the Ashley Down Road End with the sightscreen to my right.

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Hampshire with the edge – just – Somerset v Hampshire – County Championship 2022 – May 19th, 20th and 21st – Taunton – Second day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Hampshire. 19th, 20th and 21st May. Taunton.

Sonny Baker was unavailable for selection by Somerset due to his continuing back injury.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, J.C. Hildreth, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, J.H. Davey, J. Leach, P.M. Siddle.

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

Overnight. Somerset 211. Hampshire 29 for 0. Hampshire trail by 182 runs with ten second innings wickets standing.

Second day 20th May – Hampshire with the edge – just

The rain that fell for a few minutes towards the end of the afternoon session looked as if it was auditioning for a part in a blockbuster film about Noah. It could be seen from the top of the Trescothick Pavilion before it fell, first approaching from the west, blotting out the view of the Brendons beyond the Brian Rose Gates, before spreading like a primordial duvet along the Quantocks. When it began to fall on the ground, the players fled to the Caddick Pavilion while umbrellas blossomed like mushrooms in the stands. Cricket in England. Within minutes, the ferocity of the deluge became apparent to the occupants of the elevated section of the Trescothick Stand as it dropped what sounded like heaven’s entire supply of tin tacks on the roof.

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An Almighty Tussle – Somerset v Hampshire – County Championship 2022 – 19th, 20th and 21st May – First Day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Hampshire. 19th, 20th and 21st May. Taunton.

Sonny Baker was unavailable for selection by Somerset due to his continuing back injury.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, J.C. Hildreth, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, J.H. Davey, J. Leach, P.M. Siddle.

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

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day 19th May – An almighty tussle

Hampshire were a different proposition than either Warwickshire or Gloucestershire. The pitch too was of an altogether different nature. The ball asked questions of both sides all day. Playing and missing was an occupational hazard which had to be endured. Hampshire were 29 for 0 after 15 overs of their innings at the close. Somerset had been 31 for 0 after 15 overs of theirs at the start. After 78 overs Somerset were 211 all out, or 2.68 an over, and that after a calculated assault of 44 in 54 balls from Craig Overton. It was that sort of day. Bowlers offering batters next to nothing. Batters, Overton apart, scavenging for runs among the scraps of thick edges, pushed or guided singles, and the occasional ball of doubtful length or line. And yet, all day, the cricket held the attention. Eyes, at least those around me in the elevated section of the Trescothick Pavilion, were rarely diverted from the action being played out on a strip of green set on an increasingly lush, newly seeded outfield. It was a day of cricket of the old sort.

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Descent Into Oblivion – Somerset v Hampshire – County Championship 2022 – 19th, 20th and 21st May – Taunton – Final Day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Hampshire. 19th, 20th and 21st May. Taunton.

Sonny Baker was unavailable for selection by Somerset due to his continuing back injury.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, J.C. Hildreth, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, J.H. Davey, J. Leach, P.M. Siddle.

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

Overnight. Somerset 211. Hampshire 144 for 5. Hampshire trail by 67 runs with five second innings wickets standing.

Final day 21st May – Descent into oblivion

Early on the third morning Hampshire were 59 runs behind Somerset’s first innings total with six wickets down. There was even talk of a small Somerset first innings lead among some home supporters. Peter Siddle had just removed Ben Brown with a vociferous leg before wicket appeal, a replay showing there could have been little doubt in the umpire’s mind and, from the nature of his appeal, there was none in Siddle’s. By tea, the match was over, Somerset having staved off an innings defeat by just one run. It had been a devastating day for Somerset supporters. Disbelief, the look ingrained in every face. “Embarrassing,” the only comment I heard in my part of the River Stand, for most had been rendered speechless. The afternoon had, for Somerset, been a headlong descent into oblivion and the end came as the clock registered four minutes past four.

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A Day to Gladden the Somerset Heart – Somerset v Warwickshire – County Championship 2022 – 28th, 29th and 30th April – Taunton- First Day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Warwickshire. 28th, 29th and 30th April 2022. Taunton.

Sonny Baker and Peter Siddle were unavailable for selection by Somerset due to being injured.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, J.C. Hildreth, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, J.H. Davey, J. Leach, J.A. Brooks.

Warwickshire. R.M. Yates, D.M. Sibley, W.M.H. Rhodes (c), A.L. Davies, S.R. Hain, M.J. Lamb, M.G.K. Burgess (w), N.J. McAndrew. C.N. Miles, D.R. Briggs, O.J. Hannon-Dalby,

Toss. Warwickshire. Elected to field.

First day 28th April – A day to gladden the Somerset heart

This was a day to gladden the Somerset heart. After those seven successive defeats the Somerset batting raced ahead of Warwickshire and barely missed a step as they went. Only James Hildreth did not deliver full measure from his innings, and his contribution was not inconsequential. Matt Renshaw brought back memories of his astonishing first sojourn with Somerset four years before with a century of measured class, his fourth in six home matches for the County. Tom Lammonby, who has been battling to establish himself as an opener, posted his first fifty of the season and crucially, with Renshaw, saw Somerset through to lunch without the loss of a wicket. There was a typically robust half century from Tom Abell, and by the end of the day Somerset had registered four batting points, kept six wickets in hand for the morrow and left the Warwickshire attack, Oliver Hannon-Dalby apart, flailing in their wake.

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Pure Theatre – Somerset v Warwickshire – County Championship 2022 – 28th, 29th and 30th April – Taunton – Final Day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Warwickshire. 28th, 29th and 30th April. Taunton.

Sonny Baker and Peter Siddle were unavailable for selection by Somerset due to being injured.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, J.C. Hildreth, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, J.H. Davey, J. Leach, J.A. Brooks.

Warwickshire. R.M. Yates, D.M. Sibley, W.M.H. Rhodes (c), A.L. Davies, S.R. Hain, M.J. Lamb, M.G.K. Burgess (w), N.J. McAndrew. C.N. Miles, D.R. Briggs, O.J. Hannon-Dalby,

Overnight. Somerset 458. Warwickshire 197 for 9. Warwickshire trail by 261 runs with one second innings wicket standing.

Final day 29th April – Pure theatre

There are moments in a cricket match which stick in the memory for years afterwards. Craig Kieswetter, on returning from his ultimately career-ending eye injury, depositing the first bouncer he received into the flats at Taunton. Ian Botham, with the scores level, blocking out the final over of the 1983 Nat West Cup semi-final at Lord’s to ensure Somerset won the match having lost eight wickets to Middlesex’s nine. Pure theatre. There was one such moment on the third day of this match. With a potential washout forecast for the scheduled final day, Warwickshire were approaching tea, still 134 runs behind Somerset’s first innings total, with their second innings sixth-wicket pair beginning to look a little too comfortable for comfort, at least from a worrisome Somerset supporter’s perspective.

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Tom Abell – Somerset’s Eddystone Rock – Surrey v Somerset – County Championship 2022 – 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th April – The Oval – First Day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 21st, 22nd, 23rd and 24th April 2022. The Oval.

Lewis Gregory and Sonny Baker were unavailable for selection by Somerset through injury.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, T.B. Abell (c), T. Banton, J.C. Hildreth, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, J.H. Davey, J. Leach, P.M. Siddle, J.A. Brooks.

Surrey. R.J. Burns (c), R.S. Patel, H.M. Amla, O.J.D. Pope, B.T. Foakes (w), S.M. Curran, W.G. Jacks, J. Overton, J. Clark, J.P.A. Taylor, R.J.W. Topley.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day 21st April – Tom Abell – Somerset’s Eddystone rock

There are better places to stay in London than Greenwich, or at least more convenient ones, if the purpose of your visit is to watch Somerset at The Oval. They are both in South London, but South London is a big place and there is quite a lot of it between the two. There is some consolation I suppose if the road that runs alongside your hotel is called Waller Way. I wonder what he did to impress himself upon the citizens on the meridian. Part of the expanse of South London that lies between Greenwich and The Oval, if you are dependent on public transport, is London Bridge station. Ten minutes by train from Greenwich and 15 minutes by bus from The Oval so it has its uses.

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Eyeball-to-eyeball cricket – Somerset v Essex – County Championship 2022 – 14th, 15th and 16th April – Taunton – First Day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 14th, 15th and 16thApril 2022. Taunton.

The following were unavailable for selection by Somerset through injury. Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Josh Davey and Sonny Baker, the last of whom will be unavailable for the immediate future. Matthew Renshaw has joined the squad, Craig Overton and Jack Leach have been approved to play by the ECB and Lewis Gregory and Jack Brooks have recovered from illness.

Somerset. B.G.F. Green, T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, J.C. Hildreth, T.B. Abell (c), L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, P.M. Siddle, J. Leach.

Essex. N.L.J. Browne, Sir A.N. Cook, T. Westley, D.W. Lawrence, A.M. Rossington, M.J.J.Critchley, A.J.A. Wheater, S.R. Harmer, S. Snater, M.T. Steketee, S.J. Cook.

Toss. Essex. Elected to field.

First day 14th April – Eyeball-to-eyeball cricket

“This is worse than last week,” said the person who had been at Southampton with me. Somerset’s fifth wicket had just fallen with the score on 49 and lunch was still some way off. At Southampton, Somerset’s fifth first innings wicket had fallen at 61 on the stroke of lunch. The comment was both descriptive and prescient. At Southampton, Somerset reached 180 and the end of the innings signalled the tea interval. Here they were out for 109 and the tea interval was still 18 overs away. Looking around, the ground seemed as unprepared for the start of the season as the Somerset top order, although the Quantocks, resplendent in their April oilseed yellow, were reassuringly in attendance for the start of play. The River Stand was in the process of having new seating put in, but one section of it still consisted of bare concrete. Gimblett’s Hill is in the process of being reconfigured to make it accessible. The images of the new design have clean lines, and look impressive, but for the start of the season it consists of a remodelled base and neatly stacked piles of bricks. The scoreboard at the end of the Hill remained steadfastly blank throughout the match, perhaps awaiting the reconfigured Hill before it springs to life.

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Overton – a force of nature – Somerset v Essex – County Championship 2022 – 14th, 15th and 16th April – Taunton – Final Day

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 14th, 15th and 16th April 2022. Taunton.

The following were unavailable for selection by Somerset through injury. Tom Banton, George Bartlett, Josh Davey and Sonny Baker, the last of whom will be unavailable for the immediate future. Matthew Renshaw has joined the squad, Craig Overton and Jack Leach have been approved to play by the ECB and Lewis Gregory and Jack Brooks have recovered from illness.

Somerset. B.G.F. Green, T.A. Lammonby, M.T. Renshaw, J.C. Hildreth, T.B. Abell (c), L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, P.M. Siddle, J. Leach.

Essex. N.L.J. Browne, Sir A.N. Cook, T. Westley, D.W. Lawrence, A.M. Rossington, M.J.J. Critchley, A.J.A. Wheater, S.R. Harmer, S. Snater, M.T. Steketee, S.J. Cook.

Overnight. Somerset 109 and 154.  Essex 180 and 3 for 1. Essex need 81 more runs to win with nine second innings wickets standing.

Final day 16th April – Overton – a force of nature

The crowd was larger than might be expected for a final day with a foregone conclusion, namely a Somerset defeat, and little more than an hour’s play in prospect on a warm and sunny Bank Holiday Saturday. A rough count suggested in the region of 500 well spread around the ground, perhaps a few more. “You never know,” someone said as I climbed the stairs to the top of the Trescothick Pavilion. “You don’t,” I replied, “especially with Somerset!” After all, Somerset cricket is so much easier to understand if you expect the unexpected. Not that Craig Overton uprooting Sam Cook’s off stump with the second ball of the morning was entirely unexpected. Overton is a force of nature with the ball, and his first ball had flown off the edge of Alistair Cook’s bat like the proverbial bat out of hell, fallen short of slip and run down to third man in front of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion for a single.  

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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.

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And the heads stayed up – Hampshire v Somerset – County Championship 2022 – 7th – 9th April – AGEAS Bowl. Second day.

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Hampshire v Somerset. 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th 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. Hampshire 109 for 0. Hampshire trail by 71 runs with ten first innings wickets standing.

Second day 8th April – And the heads stayed up

For all the travails of this match, and Somerset have really been under the cosh, I did not see a single head go down on the second day, young or old, and Somerset were never silent in the field. They have been outfought by a stronger team, but they stood toe-to-toe with Hampshire all day and got some reward for it in the end. It was bitterly cold sitting in the stands for seven hours, but I would not have missed a ball of it.

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A chill start – Hampshire v Somerset – County Championship 2022 – 7th – 9th April. AGEAS Bowl. First day.

County Championship 2022. Division 1. Hampshire v Somerset. 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th 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.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day 7th April – A chill start

Whoever designed the transport system did not envisage Somerset supporters travelling from Somerset to the AGEAS bowl. When I came here for the experimental round of pink ball Championship matches in 2017, I came by car. The journey was 100 miles. It took five hours. The A303, alternately dual carriageway and single carriageway, was trying to do the job of a motorway in West Country summer traffic. This year, for the first Championship match of the season, my railway journey seemed to have been designed around randomly laid stretches of track which, by chance, happened to meet each other here and there. I can report that Romsey and Eastleigh are not stations where you would want to spend an extended layover, although Westbury has friendly staff, a small buffet and toilets that are open. Fortunately, the trains ran rather better than the plan to which the track had been laid. Sixteen, 16 and eight minutes were the extent of my connection times, and all four trains ran perfectly to time.

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