Hildreth Shapes the Day – Surrey v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – The Oval – 11th, 12th, 13th, and 14th July – First Day

This match was played with socially-distanced allocated seating due to the coronavirus regulations.

County Championship Group 2. Surrey v Somerset. 11th, 12th, 13th and 14th July 2021. The Oval.

Surrey. R.J. Burns (c), M.D. Stoneman, H.M. Amla, J.L. Smith (w), R.S. Patel, J. Clark, J. Overton, R. Clarke, R. Ashwin, D.T. Moriarty, G.S. Virdi.

Somerset. D.P. Conway, S.M. Davies (w), T.A. Lammonby, J.C. Hildreth (c), L.P. Goldsworthy, G.A. Bartlett, R.E. van der Merwe, B.G.F. Green, M. de Lange, J.A. Brooks. M.J. Leach.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day 11th July – Hildreth shapes the day

Sitting high in the Peter May Stand square of the wicket was a joy to gladden the heart even with the wicket pitched nearly a hundred yards away with a grey if unthreatening overcast sky and a crowd spread far and wide by social distancing. The great gasometer, empty and unused these days, stood as a silent monument to generations of cricketers past. It had already stood in its present form for 34 years when in 1926 Somerset’s Jack White, coming on to bowl the eighth over of the Surrey first innings, took 7 for 42 in three balls over 36 overs with his orthodox slow left arm bowling. Only Jack Hobbs, with 70 out of a Surrey total of 136, stood out against him.

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Safety First – Somerset v Hampshire – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 4

This match was played with restricted crowd numbers due to the coronavirus regulations in force. Somerset members were allocated tickets by ballot. The author was successful in the ballot for all four days of the match.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Hampshire. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. E.J. Byrom, S.M. Davies (w), T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, T. Banton, L. Gregory, R.E. van der Merwe, J.H. Davey, M.de Lange.

Craig Overton and Jack Leach were with the England squad for the two-Test match series against New Zealand and so not available for selection for this match

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

Overnight. Somerset 360 and 323 for 6. Hampshire 311. Somerset lead by 372 runs with four second innings wickets standing.

Final day. 6th June – Safety first

The match was, to all intents and purposes, over as a contest before a heavy downpour effectively ended play for the day, the captains agreeing to conclude proceedings when a restart was scheduled for after five o’clock. The resulting draw left Somerset ten points clear at the top of their group table with two rounds of matches still to be played. That Somerset intended to make the match safe before making any attempt to win was evident from the outset. Bartlett and Banton, new to the crease after Davey’s dismissal to the last ball of the previous evening, batted with no sign of aggressive intent. They added just 19 runs in the first ten overs.

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Somerset Rampant – Somerset v Hampshire – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 3

This match was played with restricted crowd numbers due to the coronavirus regulations in force. Somerset members were allocated tickets by ballot. The author was successful for all four days in the ballot.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Hampshire. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. E.J. Byrom, S.M. Davies (w), T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, T. Banton, L. Gregory, R.E. van der Merwe, J.H. Davey, M.de Lange.

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

Overnight. Somerset 360. Hampshire 285 for 7. Hampshire trail by 75 runs with three first innings wickets standing.

Third day. 5th June – Somerset rampant

This has been a match worthy of the County Championship at its best. Good, hard cricket. Sometimes flamboyant, sometimes dour, but always incessant in the pressure each team has applied to the other. First Hampshire knocked Somerset back on their heels by reducing them to 113 for 7 before a coruscating counterattack from Gregory and van der Merwe left Hampshire facing a mountain 360 runs tall at the end of the first day. Then Hampshire spent a long, hot second day clawing their way back into contention as they ground out 285 runs for the loss of seven wickets against some persistently accurate bowling from the Somerset pace attack. Only van der Merwe’s slow left arm provided any respite from the constant pressure.

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Hard Grind – Somerset v Hampshire – County Championship – Taunton – Day 2

This match was played with restricted crowd numbers due to the coronavirus regulations in force. Somerset members were allocated tickets by ballot. The author was successful in the ballot for all four days of the match.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Hampshire. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. E.J. Byrom, S.M. Davies (w), T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, T. Banton, L. Gregory, R.E. van der Merwe, J.H. Davey, M.de Lange.

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

Overnight. Somerset 360.

Second day. 4th June – Hard grind

This was a day of cricket of a different stamp to the first. A day for roundheads rather than cavaliers. The sun shone all day, the Somerset pace bowlers stuck hard to their task and the Hampshire batsmen to theirs. In one respect the day was a mirror image of the first. The bowlers worked up an advantage before the batsmen turned them back. The cricket though was of a very different brand. Whereas the later Somerset batsmen had conducted a headlong charge, the Hampshire ones, for over after over, stood their ground. 360 runs for ten wickets in 84.2 overs on the first day. 285 runs for seven wickets in 96 overs on the second. The heights of the first day were not reached on the second, but the cricket enthralled nonetheless as the two sides pressed for supremacy in a match which might have a significant impact on whether either or both proceeds to the top tier in the second phase of this year’s County Championship.

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Fortune and Ferocity – Somerset v Hampshire – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 1

This match was played with restricted crowd numbers due to the coronavirus regulations in force. Somerset members were allocated tickets by ballot. The author was successful in the ballot for all four days.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Hampshire. 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th June 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. E.J. Byrom, S.M. Davies (w), T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, T. Banton, L. Gregory, R.E. van der Merwe, J.H. Davey, M.de Lange.

Craig Overton and Jack Leach were with the England squad for the two-Test match series against New Zealand and so not available for selection for this match

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

Toss. Hampshire. Elected to field

First day. 3rd June – Fortune and ferocity

“You couldn’t make it up,” said the man next to me of Somerset’s near-miraculous recovery as Marchant de Lange’s first six, off Kyle Abbott, disappeared over long off and into the churchyard. “More! More!” demanded someone from the Somerset Stand as if they were calling for an encore at a folk concert. And an encore there was. Two balls later Abbott bounced de Lange. De Lange hooked and an enormous six cleared the long square boundary, cleared the wide area of outfield beyond it and hit the upper reaches of the Caddick Pavilion on the full. Applause and cheers seemed to fill the sky and there was not an unsmiling face in the house. The crowds were back at Taunton, and they had been right royally rewarded with a day of cricket straight from the land of fantasy which might have filled many of their heads during the long coronavirus interregnum. This was Somerset through and through, for the close of play score of 360 all out had been built from the crumbling foundations of 43 for 5 and 113 for 7. The rains of May had stayed away too, although June was not yet as glorious as it likes to claim.

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Rain-blown and Wonderful Cricket – Gloucestershire v Somerset – Nevil Road, Bristol – County Championship 2021 – Day 4

This match was played with restricted crowd numbers due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. Tickets were initially offered in a ballot but were ultimately generally available. 

County Championship Group 2. Gloucestershire v Somerset. 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd May 2021. Bristol.

Gloucestershire. K.C. Brathwaite, C.D.J. Dent (c), J.R. Bracey (w), T.C. Lace, I.A. Cockbain, R.F. Higgins, M.A.H. Higgins, T.M.J. Smith, M.D. Taylor, D.A. Payne, D.J. Worrall. 

Somerset. E.J. Byrom, T.A. Lammonby, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, L. Gregory, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

Overnight. Somerset 300 for 8 dec. Gloucestershire 16 for 2.

Final day. 23rd May – Rain-blown and wonderful cricket

Hardened cricket followers know a terminal weather forecast when they see one, especially when it has remained unchanged for three days and is linked to a smooth grey sky that stretches from horizon to horizon. Billowing grey clouds bring hope of better weather to come, or at least of gaps in the rain. Smooth grey cloud from which rain falls steadily offers no hope once it has set in. The final day of this match began with just such a forecast and just such a sky. Pessimists would have expected little or no play, optimists that the match might last until lunchtime. On this day, the pessimists had their way.

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Abell Leads the Way – Gloucestershire v Somerset – County Championship 2021- Nevil Road, Bristol – Day 3

This match was played with restricted crowd numbers due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. Tickets were initially offered in a ballot but were ultimately generally available.

County Championship Group 2. Gloucestershire v Somerset. 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd May 2021. Bristol.

Gloucestershire. K.C. Brathwaite, C.D.J. Dent (c), J.R. Bracey (w), T.C. Lace, I.A. Cockbain, R.F. Higgins, M.A.H. Higgins, T.M.J. Smith, M.D. Taylor, D.A. Payne, D.J. Worrall. 

Somerset. E.J. Byrom, T.A. Lammonby, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, L. Gregory, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

Overnight. Somerset 45 for 1.

Third day. 22nd May – Abell leads the way

“Shot!” The crowd had truly come alive. It is a shout which has been synonymous with watching County Championship cricket since at least 1958 when I attended my first match. It punctuates the buzz, chatter and applause that ripple around a ground as a match unfolds. It was not in evidence at all in 2020. It was not much, if at all, in evidence on the first day of this match when the cricket had to battle with a gale, poor light, flying mizzle and enveloping rain. On the first day, after a season and a half of being on the outside of the closed doors, just being at the match was enough. On this, the second day of play, although the third scheduled day, the sun shone. Not all the time, but for much of it. Enough for the skin on my face to tighten through the evening as I drew together my thoughts and notes for this report.

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It’s Good To Be Back – Gloucestershire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – Nevil Road, Bristol – Day 1

This match was played with restricted crowd numbers due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. Tickets were initially offered in a ballot but were ultimately generally available and still for sale online on the morning of the match.

County Championship Group 2. Gloucestershire v Somerset. 20th, 21st, 22nd and 23rd May 2021. Bristol.

Gloucestershire. K.C. Brathwaite, C.D.J. Dent (c), J.R. Bracey (w), T.C. Lace, I.A. Cockbain, R.F. Higgins, M.A.H. Higgins, T.M.J. Smith, M.D. Taylor, D.A. Payne, D.J. Worrall.  

Somerset. E.J. Byrom, T.A. Lammonby, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, L. Gregory, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

Toss. Gloucestershire. Elected to field.

First day 20th May – It’s good to be back

In some ways nothing had changed. In others everything had. I arrived at the ground, as was always my wont, in a tight race with the umpires, players, clouds and rain for the eleven o’clock start. Nothing new there. I was not the only one. I arrived outside Nevil Road’s Ashley Down Road entrance with a last-minute surge of similarly anorak-attired, backpack-carrying men, most of them just beyond a certain age. Nothing new there either. What was totally new was the small element of variety that had been introduced. It consisted of an array of different colours and designs of face masks and coverings with which the faces were adorned. The new world meeting the returning old. A quick scan of my ticket and an exchanged smile with the steward who scanned it and I was in. The old world again.

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“For the rain it raineth every day” – Somerset v Surrey – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 3

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Somerset CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Surrey. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th May 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, T. Banton (w), L. Gregory, R.E. van der Merwe, J.H. Davey, M. de Lange.

Surrey. R.J. Burns, M.D. Stoneman, H.M. Amla, O.J.D. Pope, B.T. Foakes, J.L. Smith, W.G. Jacks, J. Clark, J. Overton, R. Clarke, K.A.J. Roach.

Overnight. Surrey 191 for 4.

Third day 15th May – “For the rain it raineth every day”

“For the rain it raineth every day,” or so Feste’s song ends Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night. Those words may well serve as an epitaph for this match barring some miraculous change in the forecast for the final day. Even if the heavens were to relent it would take a miracle of outlandish proportions, which even Shakespeare might have blanched at employing as a plot device, for Surrey to win this match, and even in the realms of fantasy Somerset’s horizons are now limited to bonus points and a draw.

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Advantage Surrey – Somerset v Surrey – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 2

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Somerset CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Surrey. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th May 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, T. Banton (w), L. Gregory, R.E. van der Merwe, J.H. Davey, M. de Lange.

Surrey. R.J. Burns, M.D. Stoneman, H.M. Amla, O.J.D. Pope, B.T. Foakes, J.L. Smith, W.G. Jacks, J. Clark, J. Overton, R. Clarke, K.A.J. Roach.

Overnight. No play. Rain.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

Second day 14th May – Advantage Surrey

Eighty-six millimetres of rain fell at Dunkeswell in the Blackdowns during the evening before this match was due to start and through the night and most of the first day. When play was abandoned just after lunch on the first day, pools, including large ones in front of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion, deep enough to provide clear reflections, had formed. Despite a huge amount of work from the ground staff, visible on the Somerset CCC live stream during the morning, play could not begin until two o’clock on the second day. As the match started, another 40 mm or so of rain was forecast to fall over its remainder. It was not a surprise therefore that when Somerset won the toss they elected to field.

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An Exceptional Performance – Hampshire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – AGEAS Bowl – Day 4

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Hampshire CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Hampshire v Somerset. 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th May 2021. AGEAS Bowl.

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

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, L. Gregory, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

Overnight. Hampshire 79 and 110 for 4. Somerset 336. Hampshire trail by 147 runs with six second innings wickets standing.

Final day 9th May – An exceptional performance

When Josh Davey trapped Mohammed Abbas leg before wicket late on the final afternoon, Hampshire’s long rearguard action which stretched across 131 overs was finally at an end. It left Somerset needing two runs to win. But that final Hampshire wicket was almost followed by a sting in the tail for Somerset. As the players went off for the change of innings a huge dark cloud hung over the Atrium of Hampshire’s Pavilion. The sword of Damoclese itself could not have hung more threateningly.

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Waiting to see the light – Hampshire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – AGEAS Bowl – Day 3

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Hampshire CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Hampshire v Somerset. 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th May 2021. AGEAS Bowl.

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

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, L. Gregory, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

Hampshire.

Overnight. Hampshire 79 and 92 for 3. Somerset 336. Hampshire trail by 165 runs with seven second innings wickets standing.

Third day 8th May – Waiting to see the light

The scene at the end of the third day here was reminiscent of that at the end of the fourth day at Edgbaston in the Bob Willis Trophy in 2020. Umpires on the outfield, players in the Pavilion, except for Tom Abell who was in conversation with the umpires. Bad light the reason for the absence of players, Somerset’s dominant position in the match the reason for Abell’s presence no doubt. It ended a frustrating day for Somerset in which only 9.3 overs were bowled. Continuous heavy overnight rain and its effect on the outfield the reasons for the umpires concluding play could not begin until half past five. That changed the dynamic of the game, for it gave Hampshire a chance, if a slim one, of saving a game that had seemed beyond their compass at the end of the previous day.

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Overton Leads the Way – Hampshire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – AGEAS Bowl – Day 2

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Hampshire CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Hampshire v Somerset. 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th May 2021. AGEAS Bowl.

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

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, L. Gregory, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

Overnight. Hampshire 79. Somerset 142 for 5. Somerset lead by 63 runs with five first innings wickets standing.

Second day 7th May – Overton leads the way

Craig Overton has produced some wonderful performances for Somerset. Too many to pick one out from the rest. But, if there were picking to be done, this day would stand proud among the front line of candidates. With bat and ball Overton first drove Somerset forward, then held the line as Hampshire attempted to rally, and then broke through the Hampshire defences again just when a fighting Hampshire second innings was at its most determined. It was an exceptional performance. In the evening session, as Hampshire put up their sternest resistance of the match with the bat, Overton, ball in hand, seemed to grow larger in cricketing stature by the over. The harder Hampshire fought, the more determined he became and the more hostile and challenging his bowling became. It was a performance of which any Somerset heart could be proud. It was a performance which stood out more and more as the day progressed. But, above all, it stood out as an exemplar of the performance of the entire Somerset team.

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Somerset Battle Through – Hampshire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – AGEAS Bowl – Day 1

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Hampshire CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Hampshire v Somerset. 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th May 2021. AGEAS Bowl.

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

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, L.P. Goldsworthy, S.M. Davies (w), C. Overton, L. Gregory, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

First day 6th May – Somerset battle through

For the third time in their five matches to date in this competition Somerset won the toss and elected to field. Poor W.G. Grace must be wondering what the world of cricket has come to. Somerset also fielded first when Leicestershire won the toss and elected to bat. They have won all three of the matches in which they have fielded first thus far. The only match they have lost was the one in which the opposition won the toss and elected to field. The opposition on that occasion was Gloucestershire. Poor W.G. And perhaps by the end of the day even Grace was beginning to have doubts about his famous dictum. Or perhaps it is just that we live in a different cricketing world. For, by the end of a day on which they bowled Hampshire out for 79 and ground out a lead of 63 with still five wickets standing, Somerset had done more than enough to justify their decision.  

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Someone Always Stands Up – Somerset v Middlesex – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 4

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Somerset CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Middlesex. 29th and 30th April, and 1st and 2nd May 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, T. Banton, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, S.M. Davies (w), L.P Goldsworthy, C. Overton, L. Gregory/J.A.Brooks*, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

*J.A. Brooks was substituted for L. Gregory under the ECB COVID-19 Protocol from the third day.

Middlesex. M.D.E. Holden, S.D. Robson, N.R.T. Gubbins, P.S.P. Handscomb (c), R.G. White, J.A. Simpson (w), M.K. Andersson, L.B.K. Hollman, T.J. Murtagh. S.T. Finn, T.G. Helm.

Overnight. Middlesex 357 and 117. Somerset 268 and 104 for 4. Somerset need another 103 runs to win with six wickets standing.

Final day. 2nd May – Someone always stands up

Someone always stands up, or so they say about successful sports teams under pressure. In this match, for Somerset, virtually everyone stood up at different times, the more so the more critical to the outcome the situation became. Almost as many stood up for Middlesex across the match. The difference was that those standing up for Somerset did not wilt when the pressure on them was at it greatest. In an evenly balanced match, it is the team that best applies and absorbs pressure that wins. On a final morning of the most intense pressure and tension it was Somerset, in the form of the old master Steven Davies and the young debutant apprentice, Lewis Goldsworthy, who stood firm. Although it has to be said, the apprentice seemed to have as much to teach as to learn about dealing with pressure, and a head for it as old as any.

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Puck Changes the Mood – Somerset v Middlesex – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 3

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Somerset CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Middlesex. 29th and 30th April, and 1st and 2nd May 2021. Taunton.

Somerset. T.A. Lammonby, T. Banton, T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, G.A. Bartlett, S.M. Davies (w), L.P Goldsworthy, C. Overton, L. Gregory/J.A.Brooks*, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach.

*J.A. Brooks was substituted for L. Gregory under the ECB COVID-19 Protocol from the third day.

Middlesex. M.D.E. Holden, S.D. Robson, N.R.T. Gubbins, P.S.P. Handscomb (c), R.G. White, J.A. Simpson (w), M.K. Andersson, L.B.K. Hollman, T.J. Murtagh. S.T. Finn, T.G. Helm.

Overnight. Middlesex 357. Somerset 178 for 4. Somerset trail by 179 runs.

Third day 1st May – Puck changes the mood

This match is quite a tussle. Middlesex established a first innings lead of 89 having worked their way through Somerset’s last six wickets on the third morning for 90 runs. It might have been a decisive moment in the match had it not been for Somerset’s Overton and Davey who on the third afternoon led the way in reducing Middlesex’s second innings to 117 all out. It left Somerset with 207 to win, a greater task than it sounds on a pitch still offering pace and bounce and some movement. When Somerset fell to 17 for 2, with both openers gone, 207 seemed a universe away.

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A Mountain to Climb – Somerset v Middlesex – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 2

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Somerset CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Middlesex. 29th and 30th April, and 1st and 2nd May 2021. Taunton.

Middlesex. M.D.E. Holden, S.D. Robson, N.R.T. Gubbins, P.S.P. Handscomb (c), R.G. White, M.K. Andersson, J.A. Simpson (w), L.B.K. Hollman, T.G. Helm, E.R. Bamber, T.J. Murtagh.

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

Overnight. Middlesex 308 for 6.

Second day 30th April – A mountain to climb

Somerset began with Gregory from the River End and Overton from the Trescothick Pavilion End. For Middlesex Luke Hollman began by steering Overton past third slip and by cutting Gregory through backward point to the Somerset Stand, both for four. Another no ball from Gregory and a bouncer from Overton which cleared Davies’ upstretched arms added to the Middlesex score. Then, as the bowlers settled, they began to assert some control and seven overs passed for 11 runs.

Eventually Overton’s persistence found a way through. Hollman came forward in defence to a ball angled in from around the wicket. Delivered by Overton’s perfectly perpendicular arm the ball beat Hollman for pace. In what is perhaps the most spectacular sight in cricket the off stump cartwheeled, only coming to rest several yards beyond its mooring point. It was the sort of delivery and result which brings gasps of wonder and cheers of delight from supporters around a ground, and would have done so on this occasion from supporters in front of screens across Somerset and beyond. Feelings of relief too, for the Middlesex score, if slowly, was beginning to reach heights which would have given even the most worrisome Middlesex supporter cause for comfort.

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Oh, W.G. – Somerset v Middlesex – County Championship 2021 – Taunton – Day 1

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Somerset CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Somerset v Middlesex. 29th and 30th April, and 1st and 2nd May 2021. Taunton.

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

Middlesex. M.D.E. Holden, S.D. Robson, N.R.T. Gubbins, P.S.P. Handscomb (c), R.G. White, J.A. Simpson (w), M.K. Andersson, L.B.K. Hollman, T.J. Murtagh. S.T. Finn, T.G. Helm.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bowl.

First day 29th April – Oh, W.G.

Oh, W.G., does’t thee turn, head slowly shaking, in thy grave? It was a day when the sun shone bright, Somerset played two spinners and the wicket had a tinge of green as far as the eagle-eyed camera could discern. Before a ball was bowled my heart sank as the wonders of modern technology brought news from the ground that Somerset had won the toss and asked Middlesex to bat. Where the toss is concerned, I am a W.G. man, even when there is a tinge of green, and nothing happened on the first day to dissuade me of that view. More than six decades of watching Somerset play cricket has left me, based on my anecdotal memory it is true, convinced that the percentages weigh heavily in favour of batting on winning the toss, almost whatever the conditions. Forty minutes after lunch, Middlesex were 121 for 2, the ball was losing its early vim, Jack Leach had just replaced Tom Abell at the River End, Peter Handscomb had steered him neatly past James Hildreth at slip for four and another insertion anecdote was being lowered into the well of disappointed hopes.

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Back Within Range – Leicestershire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – Grace Road – Day 3

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Leicestershire CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Leicestershire v Somerset. 22nd, 23rd  and 24th April 2021. Grace Road.

Leicestershire. M.S. Harris, M.H. Azad, H.E. Dearden, C. Ackermann (c)/R.K. Patel*, L.J. Hill, H.J. Swindells (w), B.W.M. Mike, C.F. Parkinson, C.J.C. Wright, D. Klein, G.T. Griffiths.

*R.K. Patel replaced C. Ackermann under the ECB concussion regulations from the second day.

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

Overnight. Leicestershire 233 and 48 for 3. Somerset 318. Leicestershire trail by 37 runs with seven second innings wickets standing.

Final day 24th April – Back within range

In the end, Leicestershire, having just edged the first day, were beaten by a Somerset side which for over a decade had played its cricket in the first division of the pre-coronavirus County Championship. The first division was and will be again if it is revived after this season, a tough, unforgiving school. The core players of this Somerset team had their skills honed in that school. Players like Craig Overton, Tom Abell, Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach have known nothing else in four-day domestic cricket.

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The Balance Shifts Somerset’s Way – Leicestershire v Somerset – County Championship 2021 – Day 2

This match was played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching Leicestershire CCC’s live stream of the match, without which this report would not have been possible. The stream was watched with the commentary muted and with notes being taken to enable the author to replicate as far as possible his experience of watching matches live.

County Championship Group 2. Leicestershire v Somerset. 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 25th April 2021. Grace Road.

Leicestershire. M.S. Harris, M.H. Azad, H.E. Dearden, C. Ackermann (c)/R.K. Patel*, L.J. Hill, H.J. Swindells (w), B.W.M. Mike, C.F. Parkinson, C.J.C. Wright, D. Klein, G.T. Griffiths.

*R.K. Patel replaced C. Ackermann under the ECB concussion regulations from the second day.

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

Overnight. Leicestershire 233. Somerset 53 for 3. Somerset trail by 180 runs.

Second day 23rd April – The balance shifts Somerset’s way

This has been a good game of cricket played on a good cricket wicket. There is help in the pitch for the bowlers and the batsman who applies himself can find runs in it. At the end of the first day the game was in the balance, perhaps with Leicestershire slightly ahead. At the end of the second, Somerset have moved ahead thanks to a succession of individual innings, three key partnerships which between them added 245 of Somerset’s 38 runs, and an exceptional spell from Craig Overton at the beginning of Leicestershire’s second innings. For Leicestershire Callum Parkinson bowled well enough, and was unlucky with dropped catches, to suggest he could make life difficult for Somerset in their second innings if Leicestershire could just set a target with some challenge in it. There was some good fortune too, particularly for Tom Abell who was dropped once and survived the closest of run out decisions.

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