A Remarkable Finish

Whoever said Somerset’s season was petering out tamely clearly hadn’t understood the mentality of this wonderful collection of individuals. The last game of the season was notable for its uncanny parallels with the reverse fixture in June and a couple of quite unique feats.

I wrote on The Incider back at the start of the month that Somerset needed a monumental effort post the tie with Lancashire that effectively ended our title challenge for 2018 that it would take something remarkable for the team to recover.

The 2-day defeat by a Kyle Abbott inspired Hampshire in the Championship and the T20 semi-final performance against Sussex all within 10-days of the denouement against Lancashire indicated that Somerset had set themselves a task that even they could not achieve.

The performance in the first two days against Surrey, apart from a brief first hour of day 2, added weight to this point of view. But the second innings, cruelly cut short by the impact of the storm that blew through Taunton after the close of play on day 3, gave tangible evidence that the core resilience we had seen all season was re-emerging.

I wondered if I was being stupidly optimistic in my disappointment that we lost the chance on that final day to secure a morale-boosting draw. But the performance over the 2 days and 1 session against Nottinghamshire indicates to me that my disappointment may not have been misplaced.

The performance at Trent Bridge is difficult to gauge in the context of the Notts performance. Was this a team fighting to secure its first division status or a team who were safe and, to use the football parlance, “already on the beach”? I’m inclined to think a mixture. Certainly on Tuesday afternoon, when it looked like Lancashire were about to secure a third batting point which put Nottinghamshire in real danger of relegation, Somerset were in the process of dismantling the Notts batting for a first time, irresistible overwhelming their opponents middle order.

Notts showed some fight with an eighth wicket partnership of 48 which partly repaired the wreckage of 85-7 but then the Tom Abell took the first of Somerset’s hat-tricks to end the Notts first innings and allow the visitors to enforce the follow on with a lead of 330.

The third day started with Notts, now safe following Lancashire’s failure, by 27 runs, to gain the additional one bonus point they needed at Southampton, on 117-3 still 213 adrift but, apart from the loss of two very late wickets on Tuesday evening, having made a much better start than first time round. The script for the day seemed to suggest a long day for Somerset on a still good batting pitch with Jack Leach wheeling away at one end for long spells while the seamers rotated at the other.

But Craig Overton hadn’t read that particular storyline. Notes had only added 6 runs to their overnight total when Craig repeated his skipper’s feat of the previous afternoon. With all due respect to Tom this was a hat-trick of greater proportions removing nos 2, 6 & 7 in the form of Slater, Patel and Wessels. Even more remarkable all three victims were caught by Marcus Trescothick at second slip.

That in itself is something that has only been achieved twice in first class cricket and only once, in 1914, in the country championship. The double hat-trick by the same team in the same game is a slightly more ”regular” occurrence having happened twice in the recent past in the championship (in 1994 & 1996) and three times in all.

It goes without saying that this was the first time both feats have been achieved in the same game.

If that wasn’t remarkable enough the parallels between the two contests between these sides in the championship this year at the end of the respective second days are surreal:

Somerset v Notts, Taunton, June 2018
Somerset 392
Notts 134 all out (Craig Overton 4-53) and

Notts v Somerset, Nottingham, September 2018
Somerset 463
Notts 133 all out (Craig Overton 4-44) and