Still Fighting

Somerset will have to bat for a whole day with just 6 wickets in hand to maintain their Championship lead

Specsavers County Championship Division One, Headingley, Leeds – Somerset 196 (J Overton 52* K Maharaj 7-52) and 159-4 (Banton 58*, Abell 53) trail Yorkshire 520 All Out (Balance 111, Kohler-Cadmore 102, Brook 101, Bess 4-130) by 165 runs with 6 wickets remaining.

After a chastening first two days which saw Somerset staring at the unpleasant prospect of an innings defeat there was some real fight on day 3 from firstly the lower order in the first innings and then from the captain, Azhar Ali and Tom Banton in the second.

Many lesser teams would have capitulated from the position Somerset began the day in so while the odds remain very much in favour of Yorkshire wrapping up a win tomorrow the chances of them being made to bat again have significantly increased.

And it could have been so much better. 

Jamie Overton and Tim Groenewald showed either side of lunch in a stand that was worth 44 what could be done with real application and a little luck. Their alliance created the possibility, which seemed remote when James Hildreth and Dom Bess went cheaply in the first session, of picking up a batting bonus point. But it was not to be as Jack Brooks was unable to hang around long enough to get the additional 4 runs needed. 

Jamie Overton had come in at the fall of his brothers wicket when Somerset were 103-7 and his contribution of watchfulness and controlled aggression saw him pass 50 off 69 balls which included 3 sixes and 5 fours. 

Following on the openers took Somerset to tea at 79-0, Abell looking particularly fluent. But just as we were all hoping the bar could bat out the day to give Somerset real hope of pulling off an unlikely draw Matthew Fisher got Azhar lbw to one that was perhaps going over. James Hildreth followed virtually straight away the result of an rush of blood against the South African spinner which he will not be pleased with. 89-0 had become 94-2.

Abell was beginning to really look set passing his 50 off 100 balls with 11 fours when Fisher, bowling a beautiful line and length and moving the ball both ways induced a nick to wicketkeeper Tattersall. Tom was crestfallen and dragged himself away from the centre. The captain had played superbly in the most difficult situation and deserved a big hundred for his efforts but it was not to be. He can however console himself that he is looking back to his very best. I confidently expect that someone is going to be on the receiving end of a “big one” from the skipper before the season is out. 

George Bartlett is having a torrid time at the moment and while form is temporary and we all know his class is permanent it is hard to watch. 43 balls for 5 runs accrued for Somerset’s number 5 his difficulties accentuated by Banton who was beginning to flow at the other end.

It was no surprise when George became Maharaj’s second victim, 148-4. But Timmy G joined Tom Banton and they saw Somerset through to the close. Groenewald doing exactly what he couldn’t as night watchman last Monday occupying the crease for 20 minutes, facing 20 balls and ending 0*.

At the other end Banton after a slightly edgy start, justifiable in the circumstances, was beginning to purr. 58 off 75 balls in 96 minutes with 9 fours demonstrates how well he played.

It is going to really hard tomorrow, and even the most wildly optimistic Somerset fan would hesitate to before even thinking of that possibility but as Jamie Overton reminded us in his post day’s comments Steve Davies, Dom Bess, Craig Overton and Jack Brooks all have first class hundreds!

But Somerset are still alive in this game, still fighting and know that if they can string a couple of partnerships together in the first half of the day the psychological balance will begin to shift away from Yorkshire. For creating that possibility Somerset’s players deserve a great deal of praise. Irrespective of the outcome tomorrow they have shown that they are worthy of staying right in this title race until the end.