Rallying Cry

You look into the captain's eyes makes you appreciate how much he wants this

Specsavers County Championship Division One, Headingley, Leeds, Day 2 – Somerset 76-4 trail Yorkshire 520 All Out (Balance 111, Kohler-Cadmore 102, Brook 101, Bess 4-130)

This has been as hard two days for Somerset’s players and supporters as we’ve had for a long time. Somerset, who in the recent past have had an excellent record in Yorkshire are facing the very real prospect of their second defeat of the season.

But, while Yorkshire have been excellent in this game so far, Somerset in truth haven’t been that far behind. Throughout the 5 sessions of the hosts first innings the bowlers kept running in, the fielders chased after and threw themselves at everything to save a run here, a couple there. 

The one area where I am sure Somerset’s players will be disappointed is their catching. More chances were put down in this innings than I can remember for a long time. While those chances did not in isolation affect the total Yorkshire reached it was hard on the bowlers who had to strive tirelessly to get anything out of an unresponsive surface.

By the time Harry Brook was superbly caught right on the line at long off by Azhar Ali Somerset had bowled 160 over and 1 ball and in all that time no wides and only one no-ball accrued. 

Somerset’s first target was to bat 31 overs to the close. Conditions were glorious overhead, the sort of weather you wish for when batting at Headingley and the pitch was placid. The demise to 49-4 is therefore as hard to explain as it was to watch.

Yorkshire’s bowlers were fresh, Somerset’s batsmen significantly less so, both mentally and physically and there was lift and bounce with the new ball. Tom Abell got a beauty from Matthew Fisher, Azhar looked fragile taking 29 balls over his 4, Tom Banton was caught behind neither forward or back to the left-armer and George Bartlett played a shot he will not remember fondly.

James Hildreth batted with few alarms and looked as calm and classy as only James Hildreth can, and Steven Davies gutsed it out through to the close. It wasn’t pretty on Davies part, but he takes great credit for the work he put in after such a long stint with the gloves.

James Hildreth, crucial role ahead on day 3

This has, so far been a season for the ages. One trophy in the cabinet already and well in contention in the Championship. Despite winning 7 of our first 9 games we haven’t been able to shake Essex off and may after this round find ourselves in second place if Essex complete the victory at Chelmsford which looks highly likely. But let’s be honest no Somerset supporter thought this thing that we are trying to achieve would be easy, that’s not the Somerset way.

I was thinking yesterday afternoon what I would be saying to my Dad if he was still around to have our usual post-play chat. Always one to have his cup half empty he would no doubt be seeing the worst and would need reminding that in all his years of supporting Somerset we’ve never made it easy for ourselves. Think of all the near misses in the 70s, the September weekend in 78, the two losing C&G cup finals at the start of this century and the numerous runners-up finished in the last 10 year.

Norse mythology was based around their concept of the Norns, female beings who rule the destiny of men. The Vikings believed that the Norns watched the efforts of men and took pleasure in weaving the twists and turns of fate and the watching the effect it had on mere mortals. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that Somerset cricket’s fate is being twisted and turned in front of our eyes at this stage of the season.

I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes with Tom Abell at the end of yesterday’s play. You only have to spend a couple of minutes in the company of this most impressive young man to see how much this all means to him and his team. A few minutes where you appreciate how hard they are trying to bring it all home and how much they appreciate our support.

I told Tom, and I am happy to repeat it how proud I am of this team, probably more proud than I have been of any Somerset team in my lifetime, and how much so many of us are investing emotionally to support the team. 

It was clear from my chat with Tom that they know things haven’t gone their way so far at Headingley but that is not for want of trying. Sport is like that. But that’s where we the supporters come in. So this is a plea from my heart to all Somerset supporters, the plea I would be making to my Dad if we were having that conversation. 

Now is the time to redouble our support for Tom and the team, to let them know we are all behind them. I know we can’t bat, bowl or field for them but we can provide a platform of support for them to go out and do so on our behalf. If things don’t work out on a particular day or in a particular game that’s something we have to accept and all pick ourselves up for the next day.

And that commitment from every Somerset supporter begins right now as Somerset batt on day 3 in a bid to get something out of this most unpromising of positions.