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 »

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 »

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 »

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 »

A Somerset performance to match the splendour of the Quantocks

Royal London One-Day Cup. Somerset v Surrey. 5th May 2019. Taunton.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

A Somerset performance to match the splendour of the Quantocks

And so it was all or nothing on this match. From a Somerset perspective it was an old-style knock-out match. Realistically, a win would mean a place in the play-offs, a defeat would mean elimination. That focuses the mind. No second chances. No next game in which to rectify matters. Just win or have a week watching others trying to reach the final. For Surrey there was nothing to play for but, as they say, pride. I have often wondered about that. How focused teams really are when there is nothing on the game for them. As far as I could see there was no lack of effort or focus from Surrey. They came at this game hard. Read More »

Somerset rampant

RLODC (50 overs) South Group. Somerset v Surrey. 18th May 2018. The Oval.

In 2018 Somerset made their best start to a County Championship season for a quarter of a century. This was the first match of the Royal London One-Day Cup campaign.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to field.

My coach from Somerset carefully times its journey to ensure I miss the first 15 minutes of any match starting at eleven o’ clock at The Oval. I arrived at the ground in a slightly disoriented state after changing tube trains at Kennington. I had hopped on the next clearly indicated ‘southbound’ train only for an equally clear announcement to inform me the train was going northbound to Ealing Broadway and the next stop was Elephant and Castle. As the overs slipped by I jumped off at ‘Elephant and Castle’ with the intention of running to the southbound platform only to discover I was already on it and at Oval station. The next announcement said a normal service was running on all lines.

I took off for the sanctuary of The Oval only to find the authorities there had pitched in with a bit more disorientation. No bag search. A white ball match without a bag search. What is the world coming to? I really began to wonder when I reached the top of the steps into the Peter May Stand. The scoreboard said 13 for 3.Read More »

Fighting hard

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 18th, 19th and 20th September 2018. Taunton. Final Day.

Somerset entered the third day of this match in a virtually hopeless situation. I was unable to attend until after Lunch but was able to follow most of the proceedings of the morning online. The question at the end of the second day had been whether Somerset would survive the third. Few I had spoken to expected the match to reach a fourth. Read More »

Somerset under the weather

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 18th, 19th and 20th September 2018. Taunton. Second Day.

I often fail to make the start of play if I have to complete one day’s post on the following morning. This was such a day. Surrey had threatened a gargantuan score at the end of the first day. Somerset pegged them back on the morning of the second. The question was how would Somerset bat against the Surrey attack that had swept all before it in 2018. Included in this report are some outline statistics about the strength of the Surrey attack.

Tom Banton made his First-Class debut in this match.

Read More »

Surrey on the road

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Surrey. 18th, 19th and 20th September 2018. Taunton. First Day.

Surrey came to Taunton as County Champions on the back of nine successive Championship victories. In the away match at Guildford in June they had beaten Somerset by an innings. With that win they had overtaken Somerset at the top of the table and had remained there ever since. Surrey were undeniably the Championship team of the season.

The assessment of the pitch for the Lancashire match as being ‘below average’ and its implications for future pitch preparation was a repeated point of discussion among supporters and that is reflected in this post.

Lewis Gregory, injured in the previous match, was not available for this match.

Toss. Surrey. Elected to bat.

As someone said to me as I left my seat after the first day of this match it was like being transported back ten years to the days of the Taunton ‘roads’.Read More »

A stellar match

T20 South Group. Somerset v Surrey. 10th August 2018. Taunton.

Surrey, the auld enemy and a match fit for such an occasion. Both teams still had a very real opportunity of qualifying for the Quarter Finals and played as if they intended to get there.

Somerset won the toss and elected to field.

After a few days break from match report writing, it as been a long haul since April, time to catch up – here is the Surrey T20 report, drafted the day after the match. Polished a bit this evening:

Apparently NASA’s Parker Solar Probe will travel at speeds of up to 430,000 mph. Jamie Overton doesn’t bowl quite that fast but in his first over on Friday he bowled fast enough to remove two Surrey batsmen.Read More »

Reality

County Championship Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 20th, 21st, and 22nd June 2018. Guildford. Final Day.

The overnight situation looked bleak for Somerset. They would have to bat the best part of five sessions to save the match. There was no prospect of them regaining the top spot in the Championship they had ceded to Surrey on the first day.

Overnight: Surrey 459. Somerset 180 and 18 for 0 (f/o). Somerset trail by 261 runs with 10second innings wickets standing. 

Another day of festival cricket and if it was the festival aspect you were going for it must have been a perfect day. Hot in the sun if that is what takes your fancy, a cool breeze in the shade if that is your preference and no prospect of rain. The day after the summer solstice so the sun was as high in the sky as it ever ventures in these parts. The clouds had spruced themselves up and were wearing their finest white. Widely spaced in formation and cotton wool in shape and form, they drifted gently by all day, providing a perfect canopy under which to play cricket.Read More »

Outclassed

County Championship Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 20th, 21st, and 22nd June 2018. Guildford. Second Day.

Somerset’s decision to forgo a toss and insert Surrey had foundered. Surrey’s harvest of four bonus points to Somerset’s one on the first day had taken them above Somerset and to the top of the Championship table. Somerset had come to the second day with much catching up to do if they were to have any prospect of reversing those positions.

In the morning Surrey had taken their overnight score to 459 and Pope had scored a century. My report focuses on what followed. The last two sessions threatened to define Somerset’s Championship season.

Overnight: Surrey 351 for 5.

Sometimes you remember every detail of a calamitous or momentous event that happens in front of your eyes. Sometimes all you remember is a blurred flash. I can remember every ball of Alfonso Thomas’ momentous four in four. I can remember too much detail of Somerset’s calamitous collapse at Horsham a few years ago. The Ryan Patel spell of six wickets for five runs here falls into the blurred flash variety.Read More »

Pitch and Toss

County Championship Division 1. Surrey v Somerset. 20th, 21st, and 22nd June 2018. Guildford. First Day.

Somerset started their two match eastern tour at Guildford against Surrey who were in second place, just behind Somerset, in the Championship table.

Toss. Uncontested. Surrey required to bat.

Staying in East London for a match at Guildford was never the most sensible thing to do. But deciding late to make the trip made it by some way the most economic. The commuting days of my exile came flooding back as I made to board a train into London. Me and, literally, a full platform of others, they off to work, me off to the cricket.Read More »