“Yorkshire are already one down”

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Yorkshire. 10th, 11th and 12th September 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 199 and 269 for 5. Yorkshire 103. Somerset lead by 365 runs with five first innings wickets standing.

Final day – “Yorkshire are already one down”

“Yorkshire are already one down. 8 for 1,” said the urgent voice from over my shoulder. The comment came from someone who I overtook as I scurried along St James Street, perennially late for the cricket. It’s the hat. Whenever there is a crucial score to be reported or sought the maroon wyvern on the front of my white broad-rimmed sunhat attracts Somerset supporters the country over. The confirmation of that score came from a snatched glance over the perimeter wall as I approached the J.C. White gates. It takes about 30 seconds to get from there to the boundary but the need of the supporter to know the score on days such as this cannot wait 30 seconds. 30 seconds is an eternity. There is the quandary too. You don’t want to miss a wicket so when you look over the wall you hope for 8 for 1. Then you reprimand yourself and hope for 8 for 2 and 8 for 1 becomes a disappointment. What it is to be a Somerset supporter at times such as this.Read More »

When the head rules the cricket

County Championship Division 1. Warwickshire v Somerset. 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st August 2019. Edgbaston.

Overnight. Somerset 199. Yorkshire 70 for 3. Yorkshire trail Somerset by 129 runs with seven first innings wicket standing.

Second day – When the head rules the cricket

I once had the good fortune to sit next to an ex-Somerset cricketer at a Club dinner. I asked him, once a first-class batsman is in the middle, how much of what happens is down to technique and how much is down to what is going on in his head. “90 per cent in the head,” was his instant reply. Now, obviously it isn’t as simple as that. Without the requisite level of skill, the head would count for nothing. But first-class cricketers, batsmen and bowlers, particularly first division ones, must all have reached a certain skill level to be playing at all at that level and, the really top-flight ones apart, it is what happens in the head that makes much of the difference between their performances on a given day or in a given season. At least that is the theory.Read More »

Ebb and flow

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Yorkshire. 10th, 11th,12th and 13th September 2019. Taunton.

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

Yorkshire. A. Lyth. W.A.R. Fraine, G.S. Ballance, T. Kohler-Cadmore, S.A. Patterson, H.C. Brook, J.A. Tattersall (w), T.T. Bresnan, K.A. Maharaj, B.O. Coad, D. Oliver.

Toss. Uncontested. Somerset required to bat.

First day. 10th September – Ebb and flow

Feet up, head back, dozing in the breeze as tufty white clouds float across a warm azure sky. A warm sun, not too hot, plays on the back of the neck and cricketers play lazily on the green. The quintessential English vision of tranquillity. Nerves at rest. The watcher at one with the world. Heaven on earth or as near as it ever comes. The ageless, idyllic view of cricket. But not at Taunton. Not on this day. That age-old view of cricket is not what the County Championship is about, and the County Championship is all that this day was about. And in consequence the day was all about tension and relief, anxiety and elation, desperation and hope, highs and lows, clenching of teeth and clapping of hands, missed heartbeats and racing hearts. Of cut and thrust, of ebb and flow; and any concoction of emotion which can be conjured from that list of ingredients of a day watching Somerset play cricket when the County Championship might be on the line. And no doubt Yorkshire hearts suffer too, and swell, when a Championship beckons as, if Somerset and Essex falter badly enough, it might again this year.Read More »

Of Finch and spin

T20. Surrey v Somerset. 27th August 2019. The Oval.

Surrey. A.J. Finch, M.D. Stoneman, S.M. Curran, O.J. Pope, W.G. Jacks, J. Clark, B.T. Foakes (w), R.S. Patel, J.W. Dernbach, G.J. Batty, Imran Tahir. 

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), J.C. Hildreth, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), T.A. Lammonby, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, T. Groenewald, J.E. Taylor, M.T.C. Waller. 

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

Of Finch and spin

I always approach the Oval with foreboding for a T20 match although not for the Championship or 50 over cricket. In fact, after Taunton, the Peter May Stand is, alongside the Hollies Stand at Edgbaston, one of my two favourite places to watch Championship cricket. It’s just T20 at the Oval. For Somerset always seem to lose there. I am sure Somerset must have won a T20 match at the Oval but I don’t recall it happening when I have been there. Aaron Finch was playing in this match too and he has T20 ‘form’ against Somerset. That I have seen. Two years ago at the Oval, Somerset lost by four runs. Finch made 61. Somerset sank to 106 for 8 chasing 181 with five and a half overs to go. Then Corey Anderson launched one of the most astonishing T20 batting assaults I have ever seen. Anderson, batting at seven because he had been off the field with an injury, reached 80 from 44 balls to leave Somerset needing eight to win from four. The left-handed Anderson drove to long on in front of the OCS Stand and raced back towards the Pavilion End aiming for a second run in an attempt to keep the strike. Finch fielded and in a brilliant combination of a cool head and an outstanding piece of cricket threw unerringly to the keeper. Anderson was run out and Surrey won by four runs. More of Finch later. Read More »

A Phoenix rises

County Championship Division 1. Warwickshire v Somerset. 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st August 2019. Edgbaston.

Overnight. Warwickshire 419 and 146. Somerset 308 and 8 for 0. Somerset need another 250 runs to win with ten second innings wickets standing.

Final day – A Phoenix rises.

At the close of the second day of this match with Somerset 167 for 5, still 252 runs behind Warwickshire’s first innings 419 it was difficult to see how Somerset could save the game let alone win it. When, early on the third morning, van der Merwe launched an expansive drive at a ball from Rhodes and edged to Ambrose Somerset were 202 for 7, still 217 behind, the follow-on beckoned. From there the Somerset Phoenix, in the form of Bess and the Overton brothers, roused itself, and began the long rise which ended in Somerset closing the gap to Essex at the top of the table to two points with three matches still to play.Read More »

Somerset fight back

County Championship Division 1. Warwickshire v Somerset. 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st August 2019. Edgbaston.

Overnight. Warwickshire 419. Somerset 167 for 5. Somerset trail by 252 runs with five second wickets standing.

Third day – Somerset fight back

There are days when a team stands up to be counted. This was one such for Somerset. And for Essex. Warwickshire, and Kent, had a harder time of it. Whether Somerset did enough, and it is difficult to think they could have done more, will only be known when the fourth day has become part of the history of this year’s Championship. The question that rattled around in my perpetually worrying Somerset mind as I left the ground was: what does Warwickshire 146 all out on the third day of this match mean for Somerset chasing 258 to win on the fourth. I fervently hope that question plagues me for at least two and a half sessions on the final day for anything less than that will mean defeat for Somerset. With only three rounds of matches in the Championship a defeat for Somerset will mean an 18-point lead in the Championship for Essex. Victory will cut that to two. The final day here is that important.Read More »

The Hollies Stand symposium

County Championship Division 1. Warwickshire v Somerset. 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st August 2019. Edgbaston.

Overnight. Warwickshire 303 for 4.

Second day – The Hollies Stand symposium

I am a fast learner. I found the samosas immediately today, and the way out of Grand Central. Straight onto a bus too and a 47 at that. I found myself sitting next to a Warwickshire supporter. Our combined ages totalled somewhere over 150 years. How many over is something known only to he and I. I can say he watched his first Warwickshire game before I was born and I first watched Somerset before Bill Alley scored over 3000 first-class runs in a season and for that matter before M.J.K. Smith did the same thing. In all those years we had never met. And yet before we were a minute into our bus ride we were talking cricket and football, apparently they play that in Birmingham, as if we had known each other down all those years. And if we ever bump into each other again no doubt we will carry on where we left off. County cricket supporters are like that. You can strike up a conversation with an opposition supporter just as easily as you can with one of your own side. And if you happen to sit next to an opposition supporter at a match the conversation can stretch interminably.Read More »

The view from the Hollies Stand

County Championship Division 1. Warwickshire v Somerset. 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st August 2019. Edgbaston.

Somerset. T.B. Abell (c), Babar Azam, J.C. Hildreth, T. Banton, G.A. Bartlett, S.M. Davies (w), D.M. Bess, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, J. Overton, J.A. Brooks. 

Warwickshire. W.H.M. Rhodes, D.P. Sibley, R.M. Yates, S.R. Hain, A.J. Hose, T.R. Ambrose (w), M.G.K. Burgess, H.J.H. Brookes, J.S. Patel (c), O.J. Hannon-Dalby, G.A. Garrett.

Jack Leach and Lewis Gregory were not available for selection for this match. Leach having been selected to play for England at Lord’s and Gregory being injured. 

First day – The view from the Hollies Stand 

Toss. Warwickshire. Elected to bat.

It is two years since I last stayed in Birmingham. For Somerset’s last Championship match here. The area around New Street Station was a building site then. It had been for two or three seasons. I knew how to find my way around that building site. How to get to and from the hotel. Where to find the bus stop to get to the cricket. Where to buy lunch to take with me. Simple. Now the building site has gone. Replaced by a swish new shopping and eating complex, Grand Central, integrated with the station. It really is very impressive. Impressive, but I couldn’t find a thing. When I finally found the shop I was looking for it had hidden the vegetable samosas I usually take to the cricket.Read More »

Turning the hop tide

T20. Somerset v Kent. 10th August 2019. Taunton.

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), J.C. Hildreth, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), T.A. Lammonby, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, T. Groenewald, J.E. Taylor, M.T.C. Waller. 

Kent. D.J. Bell-Drummond, Z. Crawley, H.G. Kuhn, S.W. Billings (c), Mohammad Nabi, A.J. Blake, O.G. Robinson (w), A.F. Milne, G.C. Viljoen, F.J. Klaassen, M.E. Claydon. 

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat. 

Turning the hop tide

The hop tide had swept Somerset aside for far too long for either comfort or logic. For 11 successive T20 games to be precise. The chances of a tossed coin landing on the same side 11 times in succession are 2047 to 1 against. It doesn’t work like that in terms of match outcomes of course but even so that number gives an indication of the relentlessness of the Kent tide which has overwhelmed Somerset in T20 in recent times. Somerset came into this match on the back of two impressive wins but the Kent ‘bogey’, powered by the return of Billings, still hung heavy in the air even if the evening itself was bright and breezy. The pitch on the other hand, as seen from the top of the Somerset Pavilion, looked a dark greasy green as if it were the arm of a sofa which had not been cleaned for years.Read More »

From van der Merwe to van Gogh

T20. Essex v Somerset. 7th August 2019. Chelmsford.

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), J.C. Hildreth, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell (c), T.A. Lammonby, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, T. Groenewald, J.E. Taylor, M.T.C. Waller. 

Essex. T. Westley, C.S. Delport, A.J.A. Wheater (w), D.W. Lawrence, R.N. ten Doeschate, R.S. Bopara, P.I. Walter, S.R. Harmer (c), A.P. Beard, A. Zampa, Mohammad Amir. 

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

From van der Merwe to van Gogh

The thing about staying in London to watch evening cricket is you can take in something else the next day before starting the long journey back to Somerset. This time it was the Van Gogh and Britain exhibition at Tate Britain. The tickets were cheaper than for most T20 matches but the event was just as crowded. It was rather like watching cricket at an outground. Through a forest of heads. The Starry Night probably attracted the largest crush. Almost impossible to get an unimpeded view. Until I happened on the idea of looking from almost side on. The view was completely unobstructed. And the light was different from that angle. The painting seemed a deeper, richer blue than from head on and the fast-moving, swirling, sweeping lines that make up van Gogh’s dazzling night sky almost overwhelmed the senses. A van Gogh masterpiece.Read More »

The A.B. de Villiers show

T20. Middlesex v Somerset. 4th August 2019. Richmond.

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), J.C. Hildreth, E.J. Byrom, T.B. Abell(c), T.A. Lammonby, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, J. Overton, J.E. Taylor, M.T.C. Waller. 

Middlesex. P.R. Stirling, D.W. Malan (c), A.B. de Villiers, E.J.G. Morgan, J.A. Simpson (w), S.S. Eskinazi, T.S. Roland-Jones, T.G. Helm, N.A. Sowter, S.T. Finn, Mujeeb Ur Rahman.  

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

The A.B. de Villiers show 

When you see a cricket ball repeatedly describing an arc across the sky with the precision a Galileo or a Newton would have employed you know you are in the presence of greatness. Of cricketing greatness at least. For when A.B. de Villiers hits a six there is no doubt about the destination of the ball, at least there wasn’t on this small ground. No split second of calculation to work out whether the ball will carry the rope or slow and begin the terminal drop into a boundary fielder’s hands. No need for anyone to say, “That’s gone!” The statement would be embarrassingly superfluous for it would be the ultimate example of stating the obvious.Read More »

The three ‘B’s and the men from Truro

T20. Somerset v Surrey. 2nd August 2019. Taunton.

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), E.J. Byrom, J.C. Hildreth, T.B. Abell (c), T.A. Lammonby, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, J. M.T.C. Waller, J.E. Taylor. 

Surrey. W.G. Jacks, A.J. Finch (c), S.M. Curran, O.J. Pope, T.K. Curran, J. Clark, B.T. Foakes (w), J.L. Smith, R. Clarke, G.J. Batty, Imran Tahir. 

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

Cricket on fire – The three ‘B’s and the men from Truro

As Eddie Byrom walked out to bat I was looking down at my scorecard to see from where, in the absence of Gregory, Somerset’s final explosive charge might come. I was looking in the wrong place. There is a feeling that Somerset have missed Corey Anderson’s soaring sixes this year. They may be missed no more. Byrom, on T20 debut, was a revelation of Damascene proportions. The barnacle-like opening batsman of 2018 had been transformed into an incandescent purveyor of batting pyrotechnics. In future when he comes to the wicket T20 bowlers might do well to heed the age-old warning: ‘light blue touch paper and retire’.Read More »

Batting with the brakes on

T20. Somerset v Sussex. 26th July 2019. Taunton.

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), P.D. Trego, L. Gregory (c), J.C. Hildreth, T.B. Abell, T.A. Lammonby, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, M.T.C. Waller, J.E. Taylor. 

Sussex. P.D. Salt, L.J. Wright (c), L.J. Evans, A.T. Carey (w), D. Wiese, D.M.W. Rawlins, Rashid Khan, O.E. Robinson, D.R. Briggs, R.J.W. Topley, T.S. Mills. 

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

Batting with the brakes on

Batting with the brakes on. That is how it looked in the Somerset innings. The brakes though, it seemed from almost directly over the umpire’s head at the top of the Somerset Pavilion, were being applied more by the Sussex bowlers than the Somerset batsmen. Try as they might, Babar apart for much of his innings, the batsmen could not break free. The Sussex batting, the powerplay apart, was more freewheeling, the Somerset bowlers’ unable to apply the brake to quite the same degree. 13 runs the eventual difference. Finals Day seemed an awfully long way off at the end of the day as I threaded my way out of the ground through the slow-moving drinkers who were being required to empty their ‘glasses’ before they left.Read More »

The chill of defeat

T20. Somerset v Hampshire. 26th July 2019. Taunton.

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), P.D. Trego, J.C. Hildreth, L. Gregory (c), T.B. Abell, T.A. Lammonby, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, M.T.C. Waller, J.E. Taylor. 

A.H.T. Donald, R.R.Rossouw, J.N. Vince, S.A. Northeast, L.A. Dawson, C.H. Morris, J.K. Fuller, L.D. McManus (w), C.P. Wood, K.J. Abbott, M.S. Crane. 

Toss. Hampshire. Elected to field.

The chill of defeat

A chill blew through the Cooper Associates County Ground at the end of this match. A chill in the air, at least on the north face, the elevated section, of the Somerset Pavilion. And a chill in the spirit after a defeat for Somerset that had looked for all the world a victory in the middle section of this match. A chill too because Jerome Taylor, Somerset’s overseas ‘death’ bowler, had looked bereft of ideas in an over of astonishing hitting from Hampshire’s James Fuller which turned the match.Read More »

A clash of centuries

T20. Kent v Somerset. 20th July 2019. Canterbury.

Kent. D.J. Bell-Drummond (c), Z. Crawley, O.G. Robinson (w), Mohhamad Nabi, A.J. Blake, S.R. Dickson, J.M. Cox, A.F. Milne, G.C. Viljoen, Imran Qayyum, F.J. Klaassen. 

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), P.D. Trego, J.C. Hildreth, T.B. Abell (c), T.A. Lammonby, R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, J. Overton, M.T.C. Waller, J.E. Taylor. 

Toss. Kent. Elected to bat.

A clash of centuries

The dog rose which so bedevilled my attempts to follow the Glamorgan match, I can report, refrained from re-joining the fray during the Kent match. Not that at the moment it is in a state to join any fray. That was as well for it meant I could watch the match on my laptop without fear of being irretrievably entangled if I let my concentration wander.

I was unable to travel to Canterbury so decided to watch the cricket on my laptop. Of course, watching cricket on a laptop wasn’t quite as simple as I had so innocently assumed it would be. Anyone remotely familiar with my reports will be well-versed in the disasters I occasionally suffer as a consequence of my inability to engage with the 21st century, not least with the incomprehensible labyrinthine complexities of its technology. Like trying to log in for pay-as-you-go access to cricket hidden behind a paywall. And it isn’t as if I haven’t bought access to a day’s cricket before. I have, but therein it seems lay the problem.Read More »

Quite an evening

T20. Glamorgan v Somerset. 18th July 2019. Sophia Gardens.

Glamorgan. J.L. Lawlor, D.L. Lloyd, C.A. Ingram (c). C.B. Cooke (w), W.T. Root, A.O. Morgan, A. G. Salter, D.A. Douthwaite, G.G. Wagg, M. de Lange, M.G. Hogan.

Somerset. Babar Azam, T. Banton (w), P.D. Trego, T.B. Abell, L. Gregory (c), R.E. van der Merwe, C. Overton, J. Overton, M.T.C. Waller, J.E. Taylor.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

Quite an evening

What on earth is a ‘cross origin’ policy? I have done an internet search but I made as much sense of the technical description which resulted as I did of simultaneous equations when I was at school. Which is none. Whatever a ‘cross origin’ policy is it claimed to be denying me access to the Glamorgan live stream for this match. Just as the railway timetable made it too risky for me to go to the match and be certain of getting home. So, the commentary it was. The commentary and an assault on an overgrown dog rose made my evening.Read More »

Descent into despond and the will to prevail

County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th July 2019. Headingley.

Overnight. Yorkshire 520. Somerset 196 and 159 for 4. Somerset trail by 165 runs with six second innings standing.

Final day. 16th July – Descent into despond and the will to prevail.

As I made to leave the ground a Yorkshire member asked me how I rated Somerset’s chances of winning the Championship. “We will need some consistency from our top order,” my reply. “This puts Yorkshire in with a chance,” he said although with half a wry smile. Yorkshire are 34 points behind Somerset and 38 points behind Essex with each having four matches to play. “You will need some help from Essex and Somerset,” I suggested. And added, “I think it unlikely both will slip up to the extent you need.” He was rooting for Somerset, he said, if Yorkshire couldn’t do it. That has been an almost universal comment, with their own county inserted, from opposition supporters around the country over the last two years and in the great majority of cases it seems a genuine sentiment. Somerset’s eternal pursuit of the Championship has assumed almost mythical status among knowledgeable lifelong County Championship watchers.Read More »

Of friends and Somerset reviving

County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th July 2019. Headingley.

Overnight. Yorkshire 520. Somerset 76 for 4. Somerset trail Yorkshire by 444 runs with six first innings wickets standing.

Third day. 15th July – Of friends and signs of Somerset reviving

My friend from the days of May and Trueman, Alley and Wight came to the cricket again. No problems with his bus this time. Apparently, it was as reliable as a Bill Alley over and he arrived for the start as perfectly as a Bill Alley delivery would have arrived on a length. My bus was a different matter. My habitual, report delayed departure, was further delayed as my bus waited obstinately at the stop for three minutes for the timetable to catch up with it. Three minutes is an age as interminable as thirty minutes in the dentist’s chair when Somerset are trying to save a game with the Championship potentially on the line. And the journey can take as long as having the nerve removed from your root canal if the bus decides to make acquaintance with every red traffic light in Leeds as well as pick up every member of the population it can find.Read More »

A numbing experience

County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th July 2019. Headingley.

Overnight. Yorkshire 282 for 3.

Second day. 14th July – A numbing esperience

The disappointment was there to see in the face of every Somerset supporter I saw as I left the ground. It was more than the looks you see after the normal sort of ‘bad day at the office’ cricket. There was a deeper look, one almost of shock. No-one said a word, other than by the look they gave. And every last one gave the same look. For this day had the feeling not just of a heavy defeat pending but of the Championship on the turn. Not only had Somerset fallen far behind Yorkshire but Essex had forged well ahead of a Warwickshire side with batting weakened by England Lions calls and which will have to face the spin of Harmer in the fourth innings. If Somerset lose, which is where the neutral money will be, and Essex win, which they have in every other match this season at Chelmsford Somerset will fall into second place in the table for the first time since the first match of the season. Essex have had the wind in their sails since they beat Somerset at Chelmsford and Somerset have steered themselves into the choppiest of waters in this match since they set the wrong course when they did not contest the toss.Read More »

A day of ennui and oak trees

County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th July 2019. Headingley.

Somerset. T.B. Abell (c), Azhar Ali, J.C. Hildreth, T. Banton, G.A. Bartlett, S.M. Davies (w), D.M. Bess, C. Overton, J. Overton, T.D. Groenewald, J.A. Brooks.

Yorkshire. A. Lyth. W.A.R. Fraine, G.S. Balance, T. Kohler-Cadmore,, J. Shaw, H.C. Brook, J.A. Tattersal (w), M.D. Fisher, K.A. Maharaj, S.A. Patterson (c), D. Olivier. 

Jack Leach and Lewis Gregory were not available for selection for this match having been selected to play for the England Lions at Canterbury.

Toss. Uncontested. Yorkshire required to bat.

First day. 13th July – A day of ennui and oak trees

At the Oval, if you sit in the Peter May Stand, the aircraft slide in over your left shoulder and cross the pitch in a line from long on to backward point as they find their way to Heathrow. At Headingley, if you sit in the Fred Trueman Enclosure, they come towards you over second slip and long-on, as they descend towards Leeds-Bradford Airport. I imagine they would have kept to the same course had Trueman bowled to May here more than 60 years ago now although the airport would have been known as Yeadon in those days. Had they played on the pitch used for this match I imagine May would have blessed the day and Trueman would have had words of another variety. From my seat in the Trueman enclosure, beyond a straight long-on, and directly under the approaching aircraft the ball seemed to be going through on a line as straight as the flightpath which the aircraft followed and with bounce as even as their smooth computer-directed descent.Read More »