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 »

Leach unleashed

County Championship Division 1. Nottinghamshire v Somerset. 11th, 12th and13th April 2019. Trent Bridge.

Final day. 13th April – Leach unleashed

Overnight. Nottinghamshire 263 and 25 for 2. Somerset 403. Nottinghamshire trail by 115 runs with eight second innings wickets standing.

It was just after noon when I sent the text about the pitch based on the first hour of play. No wickets had fallen and the expectation of wickets felt on the evening before was no longer there. The only bowler who looked like he might take a wicket was Overton. The batsmen did not look in any real trouble although their scoring had been severely restrained by the accuracy and intensity of Somerset’s hard-running pace attack. My text suggested a long day in the field, the long Abell-Bartlett partnership still strong in the memory. It also suggested Broad might find something in the pitch with the unwritten thought that he might test Somerset if a target were too great. Such were the thoughts of an incessant Somerset worrier. The response to my text was instantaneous. “Leach”. Abell’s response was just as instantaneous. He put Leach on at the Pavilion End.Read More »

Abell and Bartlett turn the tide

County Championship Division 1. Nottinghamshire v Somerset. 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th April 2019. Trent Bridge.

Overnight. Nottinghamshire 263. Somerset 74 for 3. Somerset trail by 189 runs.

Second day. 12th April – Days don’t come much better than this

“Days don’t come much better than this,” said the text. And they don’t. Somerset entered the second day of this match barely clinging on to parity. They ended it in a position of dominance. The change was almost entirely due to the quiet determination, skill and patience of Somerset’s captain, the 25-year-old Tom Abell, and 21-year-old George Bartlett. They carried on with the bat where they had left off the previous evening; with quiet, controlled, purposeful accumulation.Read More »

Momentum to Nottinghamshire

County Championship Division 1. Nottinghamshire v Somerset. 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th April 2019. Trent Bridge.

First day. 11th April – Momentum to Nottinghamshire

“Notts are in the ascendancy,” was the comment made by a fellow Somerset supporter as I made to leave the ground. And that is how it felt. Not just from the score but from the manner of its making. Nottinghamshire had made their 268 all out at all but four an over. Somerset’s 74 for 3 in response had been made at well under three. The Nottinghamshire batsmen attacked the bowling throughout their innings irrespective of the fall of wickets. It was rather reminiscent of Somerset’s approach in the first innings against Kent. In this match Somerset made a much more circumspect start. Nottinghamshire’s third wicket fell at 51 in the 11th over. Somerset’s at 36 in the 15th. Momentum is said to be important in shaping cricket matches. At the end of the first day Nottinghamshire have it in this one.Read More »

Somerset and the will to win

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Kent. 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th April 2019. Taunton.

Final day. 8th April – The will to win

Overnight. Somerset 171 and 171 for 7. Kent 209. Somerset lead by 133 runs with three second innings wickets standing.

There are times when cricket can truly lift the spirits to the heights. If you were a Somerset supporter this was one of those times. Somerset had spent the latter part of the third day desperately trying to pull this match back from the brink of defeat. For that is what the nadir of 32 for 4 in their second innings, still six behind Kent, had represented. The faces of most in the crowd had spoken of resignation to defeat. Tinged perhaps with hope but hope limited to that which could only be provided by a miracle.

It is clear now, looking back, that the Somerset team had other thoughts. Thoughts of turning a lost cause into a winning one through their own efforts. There would be no reliance on miracles on that side of the boundary. The fightback had started at the fall of that fourth wicket. By the close of the third day Somerset had reached 171 for 7, 133 runs into the lead in bowler friendly conditions. Much would depend on what those last three wickets could add on the final morning.Read More »

A repair job for Somerset

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Kent. 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th April 2019. Taunton.

Third day. 7th April – Repair job

Overnight. Somerset 171. Kent 84 for 2. Kent trail by 87 runs with 8 first innings wickets standing.

It was a morning of sustained Somerset brilliance. The bowlers, particularly Gregory, Davey and Overton attacked, pressurised and harried the Kent batsmen. It is true the conditions favoured the them. The Quantocks had retreated behind the haze that had shrouded them on the second afternoon. On the third day the scene was even darker than on the second. Taunton’s newly installed lights were on before mid-day and they stayed on until mid-afternoon and, as the evening light faded, for the final over. How many extra hours of Championship cricket they will afford Somerset in a season would be worth monitoring. It may be enough one day to give Somerset the time they need to win a Championship, or to avoid relegation.

I arrived an hour before the start, the Sunday bus timetable and the gathering Taunton marathon seeing to that. It may have been darker than the previous morning but it was much warmer too. The wind had dropped. In two coats it was actually quite pleasant and two teams of cricketers playing football brought an air of familiarity which had been strangely absent from the scene on the previous morning.Read More »

Somerset rush their fences

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Kent. 5th, 6th, 7th and 8th April 2019. Taunton. 

First day. 5th April – No play. Rain. 

Second day. 6th April – ‘Rushing your fences’

There was a heavy mist on the Quantocks as if they had not quite kicked off their winter duvet in time for the start of the season. The point, which, viewed from the top of the Somerset Pavilion, sits neatly on the end of the Sir Ian Botham Stand, was virtually invisible as it slumbered in the mist. The ground was just as somnolent. The crowd rather lazily gathered itself together.Read More »