Living in Fear of The Pitch Inspectors

Lancashire 99 all out (Leach 5-28) &  7-2 Somerset 192 (Gregory 64*) lead by 86 runs. I thought I’d start today’s diary entry by stating the score as even as I’m writing this a couple of hours after the day’s play has concluded I can’t believe it. As if we Somerset supporters don’t have enough to worry about the prospect of a points deduction being applied by the pitch inspectors looms large.

A game that started fairly normally with Lancashire winning the toss and electing to bat reaching 47-1 after a little more than an hour before losing 4 more wickets before lunch and 5 for 20 in the hour after lunch. While the pitch was offering turn from the outset for Jack Leach a large number of the Lancashire batsmen were culpable for the loss of their wickets.

Somerset’s reply got off to a poor start with Trescothick, debutant Ben Green and Azhar Ali all were all bowled before the total reached 20. James Hildreth and Tom Abell added 41 and seemed to be returning to normality before another clatter of wickets saw Somerset reach Tea on 82-6.

Poor Dom Bess who looked all at sea followed straight after the for a 14 ball duck to leave Somerset 97-7. Make that 104-8 when Craig Overton was adjudged LBW to Matthew Parkinson. But then, remarkably Lewis Gregory, who simply can do no wrong at present, ably supported by Jamie Overton (24) and Jack Leach (17) added 88 for the last 2 wickets. Almost matching Lancashire’s first innings on their own.

There was enough time for Lancashire to have to survive 6 overs in fading light but Leach dismissed Alex Davies and nightwatchman Matthew Parkinson to leave them 7-2 at the close.

So the question is not if the pitch inspectors will be summoned but whether they will conclude that this pitch is substandard and penalise Somerset accordingly. My gut feeling tells me this is highly likely, especially as there have been rumblings on the county circuit for the last two years about certain surfaces. 

Anthony Gibson tweeted at close of play that in his view the position was the result of 30% poor pitch, 20% good bowling and 50% bad batting. Whether that is the view of the umpires and the inspectors remains to be seen.

There is a remarkable parallel with a game at Taunton almost exactly 2 years ago. At the end of Day one the scores were Somerset 95 and 41-2, Warwickshire 123 (Bess 6-28 on debut). Somerset went on to win by 31 runs early on the third day.

If the pitch inspectors are summoned to Taunton they may also be. Asked to visit Worcester 14 wickets for 259 and Canterbury 18 wickets for 208. Meanwhile the leaders reached 256-4 at Chelmsford suggesting it is another one of their sluggish pitches which has little in it for the batsmen and bowlers. Should Somerset escape a points deduction and, be able to complete a victory tomorrow or Thursday, there is a real possibility that they may close the gap slightly on Surrey if the pitch doesn’t change in nature and Essex’s recent form continues.