When The Unlikley Became The Improbable

The afternoon of Wednesday 5th September 2018 will be one that, when we all look back on this season will be the point the unlikely became the improbable. Surrey, having brushed aside an anaemic Essex side who showed little of the fight they displayed at Taunton two weeks ago, are now 43 points clear.

The maximum points Somerset realistically can gather from their three remaining games (given that totals of 350+ are pretty unlikely at this time of year) is 66. Which means Surrey have only to gather 20 points from their three remaining games. In other words a win and a draw will see them over the line.

That is of course without a points deduction.

Somerset face a tough assignment next against a suddenly resurgent Hampshire (or at least a resurgent Hampshire bowling attack) at the Aegas Bowl starting on Monday. Perhaps however the most difficult challenge for the team and management is off the field. We will preview that game in detail on Sunday.

For those of us who saw Jack Leach’s post match interview on Wednesday it was clear how much he and the team were hurting. It was painful to watch and no doubt incredibly hard for him to do but the very fact that Jack was able to front up gives me reason for real optimism.

To play any sport at the elite level you have to be mentally strong. Teams which have that quality, that inner belief can generally win games from a losing position and turn the negative of defeat into a positive. In the current moment the Somerset players have every reason to be down however, if they reflect on where they are in the context of the season as a whole, they will realise how good they are and know that the best is yet to come.

Andy Hurry impresses me. I was very disappointed when we lost him and very pleased to have him back. His calm, measured press conference on Wednesday evening gave me a great deal of confidence. Confidence that as a club we are in very good hands, confident that in Hurry and Jason Kerr we have the coaching and management team to get the season back on track in Southampton on Monday.

I’ve said it before and I will keep repeating it, this is as good a Somerset team as I have ever seen. In Tom Abell we have a captain who is maturing into one of the very best on the county circuit already. In Tom, Andy and Jason we can all happily place our trust and know that they will know what to do to get the team right for Monday.

Beyond the disappointment of the tie I felt especially sorry for Dom Bess. He has had a tough time of it since his wonderful England debut and needed something to go his way. I was just hoping and praying that he would see us home as much for the lift it would give him as anything else. Sadly it was not to be. Spare a thought for Ben Green. He must be wondering what the first team cricket is all about after his baptism of fire.

Somerset as a club have a lot of big characters, a lot of leaders and there will be plenty of senior players who will know what to do both from a team perspective and, where necessary, on a one on one basis. The role of the senior players who were not involved against Lancashire will be pivotal and in the likes of Peter Trego, RVdM, Mybs and Timmy G we have an abundance of such riches.

If there is a county that is better equipped to bounce back than Somerset I can’t think of it at the moment. And we the supporters have our part to play too.

This team has achieved a lot already and I am confident will go on to achieve much, much more. Even if the title is now beyond our grasp let’s all get behind the team to ensure that we finish as close to Surrey as possible, not just for this season but for next. Most of all, if Surrey are going to be crowned champions at Taunton wouldn’t it be great to see them do so in defeat, by virtue of the bonus points alone that they were able to pick up from that game.

There is also the small matter of T20 Finals Day next weekend. I wonder, I just wonder if the fates have it all set up for us to play Lancashire in the final, and for it to go to the last ball!

Yes, I know, we all want that championship more than anything. So much that it hurts. But I am very confident that this is the team, the leadership group and players to do it. If not this season then why not next?

But don’t give up hope. Just yet. 30 years ago this year, in a sport that holds the same place in American’s hearts as cricket does in ours there was a quite remarkable play in the World Series. In the 5th game of the best of seven series, the unfancied Los Angeles Dodgers injured Dodger hitter Kirk Gibson came on to pinch hit barely able to walk. He won the game and the series with a single swing of his bat and as he hobbled around the bases legendary Dodgers commentator Vin Scully exclaimed, “In the year of the improbable, the impossible has just happened.”

Stranger things have happened. And maybe those cricket gods have more fate to weave before the end of September.