Season Review 2018 – Part 1

20th November 2018

Spoiler alert. This was, yet again a season that promised much and fell just short. Somerset, perennial bridesmaids finished second in the County Championship and made it to T20 finals day but went out in the semi-final. But the season will probably be defined by the penultimate home game against Lancashire which ended with defeat within two days and resulted in much scrutiny (again) by the pitch inspectors.

While Somerset escaped sanction and walked away with another =slap on thew wrists many felt that the ECB’s failure to inspect pitches with similar truncated finishes where seam bowling dominated is an inconsistency that remains to be explained.

With some foresight, 18 wickets having fallen to seamers on Day 1 of the Yorkshire game, the excellent George Dobell writing on Crickinfo said, “it will not have gone unnoticed from some Somerset supporters that, if the same number of wickets had fallen in a day to spin bowling, their pitches would have come under scrutiny once again.”  Dobell went on to add, “You wonder though whether the ECB might not be wise to encourage Somerset to maintain their policy of preparing spin-friendly surfaces with a view to the tours of Sri Lanka and the Caribbean that loom for England next winter.” 

Wow!

There are a few crumbs of comfort for the cricket fan during this most depressing time of the year. The imminent announcement of next season’s fixtures and the overseas cricket especially with Somerset having such a heavy representation in the various England squads. And of course there is the ongoing debate about the future structure of first class cricket. But at this time of the year I thought it would be good to re-live Somerset’s season just ended, month by month.

So each month on The Incider between now and the start of the season I’ll be looking back at the 2018 campaign thanks to my contemporaneous notes of the season. Hope it brings a bit of that glorious summer back into your lives and promotes some debate as well.

APRIL – the only showers were of wickets at Taunton

Because I don’t want this to be a conventional diary type piece let’s start at the beginning and look at the table at the end of the month:

Notts               P3 W2 45 Pts

Somerset         P2 W2 40 Pts

Hants               P3 W1 35 Pts

Essex               P3 W1 34 Pts

Yorks               P3 W1 29 Pts

Surrey             P2 W1 28 Pts

Lancs               P3 W0 18 Pts

Worcs              P3 W0 10 Pts

What is most striking to me looking back on it is that the bottom to after the first three rounds were the two that eventually got relegated. Lancashire could feel particularly hard done by in that they had by far the better of a rain shortened draw at Old Trafford against Surrey who were 6 down in their second innings still 5 behind Lancs first innings. 

Somerset had, most emphatically taken care of business. After a bye in Round 1 they kicked off their campaign at Taunton with an  83 run win over Worcestershire, a margin that belies the gulf between the sides and the comprehensive nature of Somerset’s victory which was achieved inside 3 days.

Matt Renshaw announced himself with a hard-fought century, encouraging in the way he applied himself to the alien conditions (for an Aussie).  James Hildreth showed signs of what was to come throughout the summer in all formats with 48 and 111 and the Somerset seamers did their bit with Lewis Gregory prominent taking 8 across the two innings as Worcestershire failed to pass 200 in two attempts.

20 points and all was happy at the CACG. Except that during the morning session of the third day Anthony Gibson, commentating on BBC Somerset and the Club’s live stream broke the news that Somerset and Lewis Gregory had not agreed a new contract and that the chances of Lewis leaving for a club in the south-east were looking strong.

It is funny how, as I look back on the season, I can recall exactly where I am listening to Somerset commentaries. On this occasion I was driving into central London on a gloriously sunny Sunday, looking forward to cheering my step-daughter around the London marathon course. All was right with the world as Somerset eased toward victory until this bombshell landed. It was a story that was going to run throughout the first half of the season and cast a pall over those months.

The following Friday Somerset were back in action at Taunton against Yorkshire. This for me was a pivotal early season game as I had Yorkshire in the mix with Somerset and Surrey for the title. In fact the Friday was rained off but that didn’t stop Somerset brushing Yorkshire aside with ease, this time by 118 runs.

Renshaw again starred with a sublime hundred which on its own was 16 more that the visitors managed in their first innings. In a game that moved at a very rapid pace Yorkshire ended day 3(2) on 49-1 needing a further 272 to win thanks to Tom Abell’s 82 in the second innings.

Still, the final day began with many of us wondering if Yorkshire were going to pull off an unlikely win. That concern virtually disappeared in the first hour, Pujara was dismissed by the first ball of the day and in the blink of an eye Yorkshire were 103-6. There was some stubborn resistance from the estimable Tim Bresnan, Jack Leaning and Somerset’s soon to be very on Jack Brooks who also took 8-101 in the game.

All the seamers chipped in, including an emerging all-rounder in the form of the skipper in another very encouraging performance. The chill air and bitter wind of that last Monday in April was warmed in many of our hearts with wistful dreams of a first title. There was indeed plenty of cautious optimism around the Somerset cricket fraternity. With a visit to ailing Lancashire to come next optimism that Somerset could add to their best ever start to a Championship season.

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