Two Horse Race

10th July 2019

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Notts, Taunton, Day One – Somerset 326 All Out (Davies 74, Bess 51, Wood 4-85) and 122 (Ali 65, Ashwin 5-59, Patterson-White 5-73 beat Notts 241 (Libby 77, Nash 50 ret hurt, Bess 5-59) & 122 All Out (J Overton 4-24, Leach 4-42) by 132 runs 

The summers of my childhood and youth were spent with my Dad at the County Ground, the autumns and winters at Taunton racecourse. Not the whole time you understand but a sizeable majority of it, or at least that’s how it seems from the distance of 45 years or so.

Dad loved his horse racing as much as he loved his cricket. He actually had a pretty encyclopaedic knowledge of national hunt racing which never ceased to amaze me. But one of his most endearing features was his favourite phrases which he used watching his two favourite sports.

When Somerset were batting in a one-day game he used to look at his scorecard (on which he assiduously recorded the score at the end of each over) and regularly opine, “we need one really good over here”. There were many more not least of which was him turning to me half way down the back straight and telling me, that this was a “two horse race”. Naively – you’re allowed that when you are 10 and 11 – I never asked him at the time which two horses, so I’ll never know if he was right or wrong, but more often than not the race would most emphatically come down the final straight contested by just two horses!

The county championship title race seems, as it heads down the back straight, to be a two-horse race. (And there are no prizes for naming the two horses here!)

Somerset maintained their 15-point lead atop Division One of the County Championship after completing the double over bottom of the table Nottinghamshire at Taunton today. With second placed Essex beating third placed Yorkshire earlier in the day there is now a 40-point gap between second and third with five gamers remaining. 

Gratifyingly victory, just into the additional 8 overs claimed by Tom Abell at 6pm, Jamie Overton wrapped up a fine victory for the leaders bowling Jake Ball to complete a searingly fast second spell which wrapped up the Notts innings. Overton, who had earlier beaten Tom Moores for pace to claim his first wicket just after tea is now finding the rhythm and consistency we all know he is capable of. 

Moreover, to produce such an electric spell on a wicket that had for the last 4 sessions been the preserve of the spinners, demonstrates that Somerset possess a threat no other county can match. I for one am looking forward to seeing Jamie bowling at the weekend at Headingley although I suspect Garry Balance among others isn’t!

Overton had a big part to play earlier in the day with the bat. After a very comfortable first hour when Tom Abell and Azhar Ali took their overnight partnership to 55 the skipper was unluckily dismissed to a fluke of a catch by Ben Slater.

That precipitated a collapse from 56-1 to 115-8. While the lead by then had almost reached 200 Somerset would have hoped and anticipated more at the start of the day. Enter Jamie who in 11 overs helped Azhar Ali add 51 priceless runs. By the time he departed the lead was 251 and Nottinghamshire resolve was broken beyond repair. 

Azhar Ali though was superb. He must have relished the battle with Ashwin and the opportunity to demonstrate his ability on a wicket offering one of India’s finest turn and bounce. His innings lasted 196 mins and he faced 184 balls hitting only 4 fours. It was worth of 150+ on many other surfaces.

Somerset. Like Notts at the start of the day opened the bowling with a seam / spin combination. For Ashwin and Wood read Leach and Gregory but unlike the third innings Somerset made inroads early and regularly. The outcome was never in doubt but to wrap things up so efficiently further demonstrates the quality of this Somerset attack.

Oh, and if anyone mentions to you in the next few days that “Ciderabad” is back can I suggest a rejoinder along the lines of, “well if it is I hate to think how frighteningly quick Jamie Overton will be on a quicker wicket”.

#DareToDream #DoItForTres

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