Somerset v Essex Day 4, As It Happened #BLACKBIRD

Did any Somerset supporter wake up without that knot in their stomach, that realisation that this was going to be a pivotal day in the Championship and that our boys had left themselves a lot to do? I did. But over breakfast there was a growing hope/belief that this one still hadn’t gone that there was still a lot of cricket to be played and that surely we could only bowl better on the 4th day than we had on the 3rd evening. So I decided to do an as-it-happened blog post today, and boy was it worth it. 

There was still an enormous sense of frustration that Somerset had, progressively through Day 3 frittered away a significant advantage earned over the first two days of hard graft and teamwork. I was really down last evening, a feeling not helped by having to endure Don Topley, Neil Burns and a parade of Essex apologists on the radio on the way home as Essex built a substantial and potentially winning reply. Where is @antgib when you need him. But there was hope to cling to overnight.

That knot in the stomach got progressively tighter as we headed toward the start of play. My twitter timeline did nothing to ease those feelings, a heartwarming mixture of fellow supporters sending messages of support to the players and praising our, still, very own Jos Buttler’s efforts for England yesterday all added to the tension.

Comfort in the first half hour that the bowlers kept it incredibly tight but no wickets. Wondering whether our best hope to break this partnership is for Browne/Westley to lose concentration on reaching 100/50.

WICKET 11.55 Jack Leach get’s Browne for 86 Essex 171-2 need 165. Pulse rate quickens. Now can we get another one or two quickly? A quick look at the other scores – Yorkshire are toast by an innings and 186 at Scarborough Worcestershire temporarily move up to 6th. Hampshire have got the crucial wicket of Steven Mullaney 176-5.

Back to Taunton Wesley gone for 56 on the stroke of noon 171-3. Jamie Overton traps him LBW. In the first hour it is 24-2 off 15.3 overs. You can’t ask for anything more from Somerset so far. GAME ON.

12.30 197-3 139 needed. Really need to break this partnership before lunchtime. And it comes in the last over before lunch Lawrence bowled Leach for 21 to leave Essex 225-4, 78-3 in the session off 32.4 overs. not sure if you can say we are back in the game but that wicket certainly changes the momentum going into the break. Essex need 111 to win and it is not unreasonable to say that one end is open. Loads of pressure back on Ryan ten Doeschate now, he needs to bat through to the end for his side to win.

Surrey v Lancs back underway at 1.30. So here we are hoping that Lancs get 94 runs with 5 wickets left while Essex don’t get 111 runs with 6 wickets left!!

1.54pm Somerset take the new ball. I was so absorbed in the score it had escaped my notice that we are through 80 overs. Come on Josh, Lewis and Jamie. You always worry the new ball will travel more easily but on the flip side another new batsman at the crease while the ball is still new and we know what can happen.

Huge wicket, Jack Leach bowls the skipper for 50, 256-5 80 to win. Wheater, who hasn’t exactly pulled up any trees with the bat joins Bopara. And before I finished typing that Jack gets his fifth, Wheater goes for 1 258-6, 78 to win. Oh what we’d give for Bopara’s wicket now.

Deep breath though, 2 wickets fall in quick succession at The Oval. Lancs lose both Croft and Bohannon for 43 and 32 respectively and are now 204-7 still needing 67.

As I’ve said here many times before I try to flip the position and assess how I’d be feeling if we were 258-6 chasing 336. I’ve got to say I’d rather be the bowling side at the moment. 

Meanwhile, Hampshire have won (by 270 runs)  so they leap up to 4th a point ahead of Essex (for now!). Poor old Worcestershire are back in the relegation places despite their dominant win and Lancashire, who appear to be slipping inexorably to defeat, are 10 points adrift at the bottom.

2.54pm remember that 2.54pm and Jack gets #6 and it’s the absolutely crucial wicket of Ravi Bopara, Essex 281-7 still need 55. Was just getting worried again as Jack has bowled so much and seems, from my distant viewpoint to be getting little support from the other end. Dom Bess is clearly not himself, I wonder if now might be the time to give Azhar a couple of overs?

What do I know? 2.59pm Dom gets Harmer caught at short leg by that young stripling ….. Marcus Trescothick 281-8.

Want to update what is happening at The Oval but am not going to jinx it.

3.15pm could that be it? Siddle gone for 6 caught Overton off Leach who now has figures of 45.4-15-83-7. You honestly can’t ask for any more from England’s best spinner.

3.27pm #BLACKBIRD! Jamie Porter LBW Jack Leach (career best) 48-16-85-8 win by 45 runs. Astonishing. Astounding. Wonderful. I’ll try to write something with a bit more sense and balance later but for now I’m just going to bask in the glory of being a Somerset supporter who bleeds maroon and black.

4.27pm Surrey beat Lancashire by 6 runs. Initially it’s hard to take as a Lancashire win would have seen the gap down to 16 points (it is now 32). A great effort from Lancs who will be gutted to lose like this but from a Somerset point of view, it is encouraging to see a degree of fallibility in this Surrey side, especially at The Oval.

So after all that Division One is definitely the two horse race I thought it would be. Somerset are 28 points clear of 3rd place Notts with a game in hand. 18 points cover Essex in 4th to bottom place Lancashire but the Red Rose have played a game more than the others.

The next round of games, that start a week today are: Yorkshire v Somerset; Surrey v Notts; Essex v Hampshire and Lancashire v Worcerstershire. 

For completeness only – in division 2 Northants failed to chase 315 against Middlesex and Derbyshire didn’t even get half-way in their run chase at Hove. It looks like a three horse race for the two promotion places between Warwickshire, Sussex and our dear friends form Kent!