All Bob Willis Trophy matches are being played behind closed doors due to the coronavirus restrictions in place. This report was therefore written following a day watching the ECB’s enhanced 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.
Bob Willis Trophy Final. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th, 26th and 27th September 2020. Lord’s.
Somerset. B.F.G. Green, T.A. Lammonby, T.B. Abell (c), E.J. Byrom, G.A. Bartlett, S.M. Davies (w), L. Gregory, C. Overton, J.H. Davey, M.J. Leach, J.A. Brooks.
Essex. N.L.J. Browne, Sir Alistair Cook, T. Westley (c), D.W. Lawrence, P.I. Walter, R.N. ten Doeschate, A.J.A. Wheater, S.R. Harmer, A.P. Beard, S.J. Cook, J.A. Porter.
Overnight. Somerset 301.
Third day – Alistair Cook – a class above
I once saw Robert Stephens, subsequently a theatrical knight, play King Lear at Stratford, co-incidentally in the same year that Marcus Trescothick first played for Somerset. I have, over a lifetime, seen most of Shakespeare’s plays. Most of the individual performances, enjoyed in the moment, have since merged into a lifetime of theatrical experience. Some still stand out, but Robert Stephens’ performance stands out above all. It was the most complete and compelling individual theatrical performance I have ever seen. So compelling, the entire cast joined in the applause, a rare occurrence in the theatre.
It is the same with individual performances against Somerset. As the years go by, most merge into a lifetime of cricket-watching experience. A few still stand out, although none to the extent of that Robert Stephens performance. One such, as it happens, came from a great Essex player. In 1985, the year after Alistair Cook was born, another cricketer to be knighted, Ian Botham, in a rain-affected three-day match at Taunton, set Essex a somewhat generous 296 to win in about 85 overs. Graham Gooch made a nonsense of the target by scoring 173 of those 296 runs. I can still recall watching from the old River Stand as he crashed the ball around the County Ground. To add a bit of Somerset colour to the story, Botham had made 152 from 121 balls in Somerset’s only innings, crashing, as was his wont, the ball over the rope on four occasions.
No-one can accuse Alistair Cook of crashing a cricket ball anywhere. He bats with a velvet glove, although the effect on the ball is just as devastating as any struck by Gooch, Botham or Trescothick. The future is a difficult place to predict, but Cook’s innings of 172 in this match, scored out of 266 runs made whilst he was at the wicket, painful though it was for a Somerset supporter to watch, and of necessity watched through the screen of a laptop rather than in the flesh, seems destined to hold a place in the permanent section of the memory bank alongside the memories of Gooch’s innings and Stephens’ Lear.Read More »