Somerset race for the line

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Hampshire 30th June, 1st, 2nd and 3rd July. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 408. Hampshire 329 for 8. Hampshire trail by 79 runs with two first innings wickets standing.

Third day. 2nd July – Somerset race for the line

When I worked in London I used to walk along the Embankment in the evening to unwind. In the summer it was a restful experience watching the Thames flow by and the party boats slide up and down as if they were floating on air rather than water. It was less restful in the winter and early spring. In those dark evenings I would be constantly overtaken by an endless succession of runners toning themselves up for the London marathon. It mattered not how narrow the pavement nor how many obstacles had been planted there in the form of ‘street furniture’, the endless stream of runners just kept on coming past. It must have been a bit like that for Hampshire on the first and third days of this match as an endless succession of Somerset batsmen relentlessly passed by as they stacked up runs at the rate of four and a half an over. Read More »

Overton excels

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Hampshire 30th June, 1st, 2nd and 3rd July. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 408. Hampshire 15 for 1. Hampshire trail by 393 runs with nine first innings wickets standing.

Second day. 1st July – Overton excels

Somerset’s Championship prospects may have been encapsulated in this single match. In three of the last four seasons the team that has won the Championship has won ten or, in the case of Yorkshire in 2015 when 16 matches were played, 11 matches and not lost more than one. With Essex now playing in overdrive, driven by winning all four of their matches at Chelmsford, three inside three days, and challenging for Somerset’s top spot, there is no reason to think this season will be any different. The team that wins the Championship will probably win ten matches or very close. Essex, who have yet to win away from home, appear to be overwhelming favourites to win their current match against bottom placed Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge. Having won their last two matches they are building real momentum as the business end of the season approaches. With their next two matches being at Chelmsford there is every prospect that their momentum will continue. To win the Championship Somerset will have to match it.Read More »

Tremendous cricket

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Hampshire 30th June, 1st, 2nd and 3rd July. Taunton.

Before beginning the report on the first day’s play I would like to record that a minute’s silence was held before the start of play in memory of Charles Clark, Somerset CCCs late Chairman, who died recently.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day. 30th June – Tremendous cricket

That was a day of what Championship cricket should be all about if it is to bring the crowds in and keep them there. And it was certainly played in front of a bumper Championship crowd. Well upwards of 2000, possibly nearer 3000, by my estimate if the numbers in the Somerset Stand and the Temporary Stand where the old scoreboard used to be were any indication. And quite a few younger people than the norm for the Championship. I even had to field a ball when I went out to look at the pitch at lunchtime. It was the sort of first day in the days of three-day cricket which you would go home waxing lyrical about, especially if it were a Saturday after a working week.

There were liberal measures of cut and thrust, ebb and flow, batting to scintillate, bowling to exhilarate; not to mention 423 runs and 11 wickets. If your team is trying to win the Championship you might prefer all those terms to apply only to your own side. On the first day of this match they were shared although Somerset deserved the major portion. Perhaps. It will take at least another day of cricket to be sure, for by tea Somerset were in a position to bat Hampshire out of this match; by the close Hampshire had bowled themselves into a position from where they could at least see a route towards parity. Who knows where this match will be by the close of the second day.Read More »

Routed

County Championship Division 1. Essex v Somerset. 23rd, 24th and 25th June. Chelmsford.

Overnight. Essex 216 and 164 for 6. Somerset 131. Essex lead by 249 runs with four second innings wickets standing.

Final day. 25th June – Routed

Perhaps Guildford 2018 should have sprung into my mind as Somerset were being routed on the third day at Chelmsford in 2019. But it didn’t. It has appeared there now but only because I have been searching for a benchmark against which to measure my feelings during the inexorable descent to a 151-run defeat to Essex in a low scoring match. There is a distinct difference between the two defeats. Guildford was a seismic destruction of Somerset’s 2018 Championship hopes. The destruction of those hopes was plain to see for many of us present long before the match was over. Neither the Somerset batsmen nor the bowlers remotely competed with their Surrey counterparts and many of us left Guildford in no doubt that Surrey would be champions.Read More »

Somerset fall behind

County Championship Division 1. Essex v Somerset. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th June. Chelmsford.

Overnight. Essex 216. Somerset 32 for 1. Somerset trail by 184 with nine first innings wickets standing.

Second day. 24th June – Somerset fall behind

The morning of the second day was very like the afternoon of the first, at least as far as the behaviour of the ball, pitch, overhead and atmospheric conditions were concerned. The dominance of bowlers over batsmen was equally pronounced on both occasions. On the first afternoon and evening Essex lost their last nine wickets in the space of 90 runs. Now, on the second morning and early afternoon Somerset lost their last nine wickets in the space of 77 runs. Food there to feed the debate about whether an individual’s prospects are most shaped by their endeavours or by their circumstances. Here the circumstances, or conditions, in which each side bowled and batted were the same and, unless 13 runs is cause for dispute, so were the outcomes. The difference between the sides on first innings was the 110 runs scored for the loss of one wicket in the much more batsman friendly conditions of the first morning.Read More »

A test of a match

County Championship Division 1. Essex v Somerset. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th June. Chelmsford.

Toss. Essex. Elected to bat.

First day. 23rd June – A test of a match

Somerset travelled to Chelmsford for the greatest test of their Championship ambitions to date. This is Somerset’s seventh match in the competition, they have won five of the previous six, but it is their first against a county in the top half of the table. It is also against Essex, perhaps Somerset’s strongest challengers, on the ground where Essex have won every Championship match this season. Key to Essex’s success has been Stephen Harmer’s off spin and the 31 wickets he has taken on a pitch which has a reputation for increasing turn as a match progresses. When Essex won the toss and elected to bat they handed themselves the prospect of building a score which Harmer could exploit.Read More »

“Incredible. Just incredible.”

County Championship Division 1. Kent v Somerset. 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th June. Canterbury.

Overnight. Kent 139 and 24 for 2. Somerset 169. Kent trail by six runs with eight second innings wickets standing.

Fourth day. 13th June – “Incredible. Just incredible.”

“Incredible. Just incredible.” said the text. And incredible it was. Eight Kent wickets in less than an hour and the sight of Somerset’s Overton brothers gathering slip catches at second and third slip as if they were catching tennis balls thrown to them on a beach. That is the overriding picture that sticks in the mind after a final afternoon sitting in the top of the Frank Woolley Stand at the Pavilion End of the St. Lawrence Ground. Sitting among the images of those Overton catches is one of Davies flying effortlessly down the leg side at full stretch to snare a ball which had found the inside edge of the bat. Seen from behind on a small ground the view of slip and wicketkeeping catches is to my mind one of the great sights of cricket. The action is close, nothing impedes the view and you can watch the arc of the ball all the way to the hands of the fielder unless it flies straight to him. Whereas the ball which flew of the edge of Dickson’s bat and straight into the hands of Hildreth at the far end disappeared into a flurry of distant movement from bat, batsman, bowler and keeper. Only the instantaneous celebration of the cordon and Overton running to the far end, arm held aloft, set the heart racing yet again.Read More »

Astonishing things on an astonishing day

County Championship Division 1. Kent v Somerset. 10th, 11th, 12th and 13th June. Canterbury.

Toss. Uncontested. Kent required to bat.

Overnight. No play. Rain.

Second day. 12th June – Astonishing things on an astonishing day

Riding the top deck of the bus from Whitstable to Canterbury and back was rather like watching a team bat on the first day of play in this match. Never restful and full of unpredictable and frequent jolts to the system. Indeed, it soon became apparent that the only thing that was predictable was the unpredictability. There seemed to be more potholes on that road than craters on the face of the moon as every piece of repair work seemed to have settled into the soft subsoil. No-one was likely to fall asleep on that bus. Or at the cricket. 22 wickets fell in the day and the day ended with the match in the balance although with Somerset holding the faintest of edges. Only the faintest of edges because partnerships of any size were at a premium. As someone said to me, “Somerset are ahead by two decent partnerships to one.” And a 2-1 lead is always fragile especially when unpredictability is the order of the day.Read More »

Somerset’s tectonic shift

County Championship Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June. Guildford.

Final day. 6th June – Somerset’s tectonic shift

Overnight. Somerset 344 and 153. Surrey 231 and 99 for 2. Surrey need a further 156 runs to win with eight wickets standing.

What a difference a year makes! In one sense the fourth morning of this match was very similar to the third morning at Guildford in 2018. A bowling performance of such intensity that the batting just melted away before it. Except in 2019 it was Somerset who were doing the bowling and Surrey the melting away. After the 2018 match several travelling Somerset supporters found ourselves in a group behind the Pavilion and concluded we had seen the 2018 County Champions and they were not Somerset. Another group, some from last year and some others found ourselves together after this match on the Woodbridge Road boundary. None dared predict anything but all agreed something very special had happened during the morning and that this Somerset team has something very special. Read More »

Morkel and Dunn grab the momentum

County Championship Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June. Guildford.

Third day. 5th June – Morkel and Dunn grab the momentum

Overnight. Somerset 344. Surrey 188 for 5. Surrey trail by 156 with five second innings wickets standing.

I wondered if the most important thing I saw all day was an aeroplane. I was meandering around the ground during the tea interval and heard the sound of jet engines rather as you do over the Oval. I had heard the occasional sound of jet engines low over the ground throughout this match but it was the first time I had seen the aircraft. What struck me was how just how high the cloud had risen above it, and how low the cloud must have been, a few hot sunny intervals on the first day apart, during this match thus far when the engines roared but the aircraft which they powered were beyond sight.

It is surprising how often ‘poor’ batting is accompanied by low cloud and good pace bowling. There may, or may not, be a causal connection. That is something that scientists and cricketers may differ on but there is certainly a connection of some sort in my experience. Whether because of the laws of physics or the psychological response of players to varying overhead conditions or something else is beyond my knowing but it is there. It has certainly been the case in this match and more times than enough in my cricket-watching career. As the spectator I spoke to during the last session said to me as Burns and Borthwick were bringing Surrey up on Somerset’s heels, “The cloud has gone up.” And by the end of the day a watery sun was brightening the ground even further.Read More »

Overton returns

County Championship Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June. Guildford.

Second day. 4th June – Overton returns

Overnight. Somerset 344. Surrey 0-0. Surrey trail by 344 runs with ten first innings wickets standing.

There are homecomings and there are homecomings. This was one to be treasured in the video archives of the memory bank. A fast bowler running in from the Pavilion End at Guildford under skies that would have done service to the opening scenes of a biblical epic. He looked for all the world a fast bowler. The long, easy, flowing run to the wicket. The flash of the arm as it came over the head. The torso twisting to the horizontal as it imparted energy to the ball. The ball spearing in towards the batsman’s pads. The flash of the bat as it tried to intercept the missile. The thud of ball on pads. The swivel of the body, arms aloft in expectation rather than hope. The roar and certainty of the appeal. The inevitability of the raising of the finger. The bowler running off from his follow-through pursued by a gaggle of fielders in celebration. The return of Jamie Overton.Read More »

Bartlett’s day

County Championship Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June. Guildford.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day. 3rd June – Bartlett’s day

In 2018 Somerset came to Guildford on top of the Championship. In three traumatic days they were unceremoniously despatched by an innings. Abell had won the toss and, inexplicably to most Somerset supporters, asked Surrey to bat. Surrey had made 459 and bowled Somerset out for 180 and 210. Surrey moved to the top of the table, never looked back and Somerset never looked like catching them. In 2019 Abell won the toss again and this time opted to bat in circumstances for batting that were less propitious than they had been in 2018.Read More »

“Never in doubt …”

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Warwickshire. 20th, 21st and 22nd May 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 209 and 164. Warwickshire 135 and 103 for 6. Warwickshire need a further 136 runs to win with four second innings wickets standing.

Third day. 22nd May – “Never in doubt …”

“You can’t afford to be late today,” was the comment as I left the house. “Somerset only need four wickets.” True, but for this supporter, who has been worrying about Somerset on the field of play since the launch of the first sputnik in 1957 the Warwickshire threat to the 135 runs which Somerset still had left to defend, however distant, nettled away at the back of the mind. Yesterday’s hedge-clipping was no more, so my bus delivered me to the ground with time to spare. As 11 o’clock approached there were about 400 people in the ground, perhaps 500 with those behind glass. They were spread around the stands and there was even a good smattering in the Somerset Stand. It was enough. The atmosphere in the ground as the morning developed suggested there were several times that number, for this was a Somerset crowd in a season in which winning the County Championship is more than a fanciful dream. Winning this match really mattered.Read More »

Somerset retain the advantage

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Warwickshire. 20th, 21st and 22nd May 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 209. Warwickshire 110 for 7. Warwickshire trail by 99 runs with three first innings wickets standing.

Second day. 21st May – Somerset retain the advantage

Tom Abell must loom large in the minds of opposition batsmen when they are at the crease. Fielding at cover he forms what must at times seem to be an impenetrable wall as he dives full length to strangle ‘certain’ fours in their infancy. For the second ball of the second day of this match it was not a dive but a jump which apparently took the eye. Jeetan Patel, one of the more dangerous among lower order batsmen, drove Leach hard and high over cover. Four! Except that Abell catapulted himself upwards, reached even higher and snared the ball. Patel’s threat was ended before it had begun. It was an astonishing catch as it was described to me, for I had missed it. It must have been quite something because it was often the first thing on people’s lips for the rest of the day whenever I stopped to chat to someone new.Read More »

Somerset edge the day

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Warwickshire. 20th, 21st , 22nd and 23rd May 2019. Taunton.

Toss. Uncontested. Somerset required to bat

First day. 20th May -Somerset edge the day

As I walked through the Brian Rose gates I saw two sets of stumps pitched more or less in the middle of the playing area. From ground level at that distance they served as well as markers to indicate the location of the pitch as equipment necessary for a game to take place. There was no other way of locating the pitch for it looked as green as the rest of the square. From my seat, next to the sightscreen in the lower level of the Somerset Pavilion, the pitch could be discerned by its colour but it still looked very green. The news that Warwickshire had opted not to toss and had inserted Somerset came as no surprise.Read More »

The weather rules the day

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th May 2019. Taunton. 

Final day. 18th May – The weather rules the day

Overnight. Surrey 380 and 152 for 5. Somerset 398. Surrey lead by 134 runs with five second innings wickets standing.

A final day which had much in prospect, not least that all four possible results were still very much in play, subsided into one of those frustrating weather-interrupted days where the cricket becomes meaningless in the context of the match and where the weather and conditions, as seen from beyond the boundary at least, seem marginal enough for virtually every decision of the umpires to be the subject of dispute and exasperation among spectators. Even the intervention of Somerset’s brand-new floodlights could not save the day, brightly though they shone. It was too one of those days in which the weather does not help the mood. Mizzle and drizzle rather than straightforward honest rain for the most part and at times Dickensian light to dampen the spirit.Read More »

Gregory shapes the day

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th May 2019. Taunton. 

Third day. 16th April – Gregory shapes the day

Overnight. Surrey 380. Somerset 243 for 5. Surrey lead by 137 runs with five second innings wickets standing.

After two days spent fighting to stay in this match Somerset made this their day and are now, at worst, at parity. On the last day much will depend, as it did on the third day, on the first session. Surrey’s have five wickets remaining, four if Elgar, absent through illness on the third day, cannot bat. If they can stretch their innings much beyond lunch Somerset may be faced with a difficult equation and will need to get through Morkel’s new ball spell, and Morkel has a record for Surrey of performing at the crunch, whatever the equation. It would be a good time for Trescothick to find some form after his four successive low scores in this season’s Championship.

At the heart of Somerset’s performance was an outstanding century from Gregory, his second in first-class cricket following his 137 at Lord’s in 2017. He came to the wicket on the second evening with Somerset five wickets down and still 169 runs adrift. He was still undefeated on 129 mid way through the third afternoon when Somerset ended their innings 18 runs ahead. It was a tremendous performance which had the crowd cheering and, as he ran through for the single to bring up his hundred, on their feet applauding.Read More »

The artists keep Somerset in the game – just

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th May 2019. Taunton. 

Second day. 15th April – The artists keep Somerset in the game – just

Overnight. Surrey 330 for 6.

Somerset ended the second day more or less where they ended the first. Just behind Surrey. Anxiety still remains for Somerset supporters for Surrey have their runs on the board. However, Somerset are still in the game. Buy the end of the second day in last year’s two Championship encounters with Surrey, by the end of the second day, they were well and truly out of it.

Unable to be at the start I followed the first half an hour or so from home by when Surrey had taken their overnight score forward by ten runs without losing any more wickets. I spent a rather anxious journey to the ground wondering just how high Clarke and the Surrey lower order might take the Surrey total. Anxiety used to be ended, or increased, when the old scoreboard hove into view as you approached the Brian Rose Gates. The new scoreboard by the Colin Atkinson Pavilion is hidden from view by the Somerset Stand as you approach the gates and the anxiety is prolonged until you get into the ground. Today the kindly steward who scanned my membership card compensated for the loss of the view by saying, “Not too bad. Nine down.”Read More »

White clothing and red ball

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 14th, 15th, 16th and 17th May 2019. Taunton. 

Toss. Surrey. Elected to bat.

First day. 14th April – White clothing and red ball

It was a curious sight that greeted me as I stood chatting on Legends Square. 13 men in white and two in white coats. Rather like a hospital ward walking onto the field. At least that was the thought that jumped into my head after a whirlwind three weeks criss-crossing the southern half of the country and the Midlands as I tried to keep up with Somerset’s 50 over campaign. I had become inured to technicolour cricket. Coloured clothing and a white ball. Now we had white clothing and a coloured ball. As if that was not enough my brain had struggled to keep up with the high-speed, almost daily, cricket watching, ping-pong travel, overnight stays and late-night writing of match reports. I can, without a hint of exaggeration, say that at one match I had to ask someone which day of the week it was. And now my brain was struggling to accommodate cricket being played in whites. Oh, what a mad cricketing world we live in. At least for those of us who remember when Championship matches started every Wednesday and Saturday and one-day matches were played every Sunday and, for cup matches, on a Wednesday in place of the Championship. There could be as long as 28 days between a quarter-final and a semi-final. This year there were not many more than 28 hours. All the old reference points have gone and the sudden reappearance of two of the few that are left, white clothing and a red ball, suddenly jarred on the mind.Read More »

Having a whale of a time

Royal London One-Day Cup. Nottinghamshire v Somerset. Semi-final. 12th May 2019. Trent Bridge.

Toss. Nottinghamshire. Elected to field.

Having a whale of a time

Alex Hales played the first three balls of Roleof van der Merwe’s over quietly back down the pitch. It felt like he had signalled the end for Nottinghamshire. It marked a sea-change in his approach. Until then his batting had been belligerent and had threatened to become devastating. It had reminded me of something someone said on the Somerset supporters’ coach on the way up: “We don’t want to see 30 overs of Alex Hales batting.” Azhar Ali seemed to sense the change as he shouted encouragement to van der Merwe. The change in Hales’ approach was startling. Until then he had tried to dominate the Somerset bowling at every opportunity. He had demonstrated the capacity to take control of the match. The fear of the Somerset supporter was that, unchecked he would do precisely that. Now he was feeling his way, perhaps giving himself time to re-assess the situation after Ben Duckett had announced himself by mishitting van der Merwe to Craig Overton who took a finely judged catch right on the rope. Nottinghamshire found themselves 125 for 3 in the 20th over still needing another 213 with the required run rate rising past seven and a half. Read More »