Champion Start?

Lewis Gregory spearheaded Somerset’s demolition of Kent on the final day

Somerset 171 and 243 beat Kent 209 and 131 by 74 runs.

Champions win games like this, behind for most of the game, losing more sessions than they win but convincingly winning the crucial session. Somerset in beating many people’s favourites to go down will not draw huge comfort from their performance over the 3 days but they will from the sheer guts, spirit and will to win they showed to on this final day. 

Somerset led by 138 overnight making the sage deliberations of all of us to as to how many runs were required on the fourth morning meaningless in numerical terms. But the psychological impact of Somerset’s batting in the first hour, particularly the tenth wicket stand probably had an impact on Kent’s second batting performance. 

If Somerset didn’t achieve the perfection I said they needed in my piece ahead of the final day’s play of this opening County Championship Division 1 game they were pretty close. What this result will have done is to send the message, if it needed to be sent, to the rest of the first division that this is a Somerset bowling attack that will trouble far better batting line-ups than this Kent one.

The course of the game was changed in a 90-minute spell leading up to lunch on the fourth morning. Somerset, thanks to a last-wicket stand of 62, set Kent a challenging but not impossible 206. By lunch the visitor’s hopes were in shreds at 43-5. Lewis Gregory took a wicket with the first ball of the innings followed shortly after by Matt Renshaw also for a duck with the score on 1-2. Would it be stretching it to ask if Renshaw’s heart still resides at the County Ground?

A mini-revival in the shape of a 35 runs third wicket partnership between Crawley and Bell-Drummond which occupied half an hour and 10 overs but in the space of 9 balls Somerset removed both and captain Heido Kuhn.

The period after lunch saw some normality resume after Gregory took his fourth wicket in his first over after the break at which point Kent were 45-6 and Lewis had 4-8. Darren Stevens, showing all his experience and considerable batting skill settled in to play the sort of innings Kent required their top order to deliver. Stevens was well supported by 20 from Alex Blake and a defiant 10 by Matthew Milnes but Somerset were not to be denied, completing victory when Josh Davey removed last man Mitch Claydon caught by James Hildreth shortly before 4pm. 

Lewis Gregory was quite simply unplayable demonstrating exemplary control and some clever variations after an initial spell of 4-8 he returned to take the ninth wicket and finish with 5-18. He was well supported by Craig Overton and Jack Brooks both bagging a brace.

Resuming on 171-7 and it was widely believed needing to add at least another 50 Somerset were quickly reduced to 181-9 when Mitch Claydon removed Craig Overton for the addition of only a single to his overnight total and Josh Davey for 2, a lead of 143. Both accounted for by balls that would have troubled more senior batsmen.

Enter Jack Brooks, bristling with intent and perhaps still smarting from his profligate debut bowling performance. Whatever his motivation Brooks helped George Bartlett add 62 in just under 10 overs and allowing George to become the first batsman in the match to pass 50. Brooks would have enjoyed his 6 during his unbeaten 35 and will no doubt be telling everyone in the dressing room that in his career for Somerset he has accumulated 40 without being dismissed compared with Tres and Hildreth’s combined 44-4! 

By the time Bartlett was dismissed lbw by Darren Stevens aiming something injudicious to Darren Stevens the pair had increased Somerset’s advantage to 205, a pretty remarkable recovery from the depths of 17-3, 32-4 and 111-7.  

Somerset take 19 points to go second in the table behind Hampshire who completed a maximum point victory over Essex earlier in the day.