ESPN’s Paul Edwards is one of the finest cricket writers. He is probably one of the finest craftsmen of the English language, writing reports that set your heart soaring with their beauty. If Constable was a cricket writer ……
Edwards is a Lancastrian, living in Southport travelling the country over the summer months to report on first-class cricket but I have a sneaking suspicion that he is a little less than impartial when it comes to this season’s Somerset County Cricket Club.
Listening to Edwards in the lunch interval on the second day of Somerset’s last game against Nottinghamshire and reading his match reports has got me thinking. Edwards sensed something all Somerset supporters are aware of but haven’t verbalised. It is only early July. There are five more games remaining stretched out over the next two and half months. But there is a tension around Somerset supporters that hasn’t been there for as long as I can remember.
As Edwards headlined earlier in the week, Somerset are “The Hunted not the Hunter” this season. Last season and in the other four seasons where they have finished runners-up in the Championship they have been chasing a leader, often close enough to be in with a real shout but ultimately the team ahead of them did not falter so despite a run of excellent results, the title eluded them.
And that is what is different this season. Whisper it but as I write this, ahead of this weekend’s trip to Leeds, it is in Somerset’s hands.
But the current feeling in Taunton is not just situational, it is cultural. Somerset is a county like no other, a county where cricket is the main sport. Where a large proportion of the population either support or actively follow the fortunes of the county side.
I have been a Somerset supporter for 50 years. My Dad was a Somerset supporter for over 70 year, my grandmother (a mean left arm bowler who inflicted many bruises in back garden games of cricket) followed the team’s fortunes avidly.
And in all those collective years, we have never won the County Championship.
This current Somerset team has something else, over and above its on field prowess which endears them to us. They are, on the whole, a bunch of local lads, all brought up through our own academy, led by a Tauntonian who is the pride of our town, our county. We can identify with the as they understand what it means to us. Never, in all my years has there been such a strong bond between players and supporters. We want them to win it all, they want to win it for us as much as themselves.
And then there is Tres. Marcus Trescothick has been playing for Somerset for over half the time I have watched the county. His contribution to Somerset cricket is enormous, we will probably never see his like again in county cricket. A man with the courage to face and dominate the best international bowling attacks but also to be so open with his mental issuers and as a result change the world for many many people.
It is sad that Marcus has not been able to keep his placed at the top of the order for Somerset this season. Not just for sentimental reasons but to give him the opportunity of a farewell tour and for opposing fans to have the opportunity to see him bat one last time.
I was one of the lucky ones who saw his hundred at Old Trafford last May, an innings truncated by a broken metatarsal which resulted in a lay off until late July. Truth be told he has not been the same batsman since then although he came close in the Championship game at Taunton against Essex last August.
There is a part of all Somerset fans which still believes that there will be one further twist in the Trescothick tale. But then perhaps we are all being a little to romantic there.
Speaking from personal experience I feel a weight of the generations who have gone before me in this title pursuit. My Dad passed away four years ago and one of his greatest regrets was never to see his beloved Somerset win the County Championship.
So to summarise what it means to all of us Somerset folk let me recount one of the final conversations we had as his health failed him was that he hoped with all his heart I would see Somerset win it all before my time came.
That would be nice.