County Championship Division 1, Edgbaston, August 18th-21stSomerset 167-5 (Davies 89*) trail Warwickshire 419 all out (Yates 140, Burgess 52, C Overton 3-96, J Brooks 3-104) by 252 runs
Make no bones about it, Somerset only have one objective tomorrow and that is to muster another 103 runs from their last 5 wickets to avoid their second consecutive follow on in the Championship. Any thoughts of winning this game disappeared when Oliver Hannon-Dalby removed James Hildreth and Babar Azam with consecutive balls for a combined 6 runs to reduce Somerset to 44-3.
The thoughts of batting positively for two-thirds of a second day interrupted by showers on several occasions to put Somerset’s championship challenge back on track evaporated in the 11thover of the innings so now we have to hope we can get out of this game with a draw and hope Essex are unable to move the game at Canterbury along in the last two days where only 11 wickets have fallen in the first two rain-interrupted.
To quite loyal Somerset supporter and friend of SomersetNorth Andy Cleave “Batting frailties are what is holding us back in our quest to win our first County Championship title”. Whereas in the first half of the season the bowling unit were able to get us out of the difficulties the batsmen had caused, since the visit to Chelmsford this hasn’t been the case.
The Somerset batting order was re-jigged again with the surprise move up the order of Steven Davies. And it was Davies who showed the skill and application to bat through to the close for an unbeaten 89 while five of his partners came and went for a combined 65. Therein lies the tale. While Tom Banton and George Bartlett helped Davies add 63 and 59 respectively neither was able to see out the day. Bartlett’s dismissal in the penultimate over of the day must have hit many Somerset supporters as it did me, like a crushing blow in the solar plexus.
Somerset had started the day well, picking up the last 6 Warwickshire wickets for just 116 in a fragmented first half of the day broken by two rain interruptions, the first after less than 20 mins play lost almost an hour and the second brought lunch 5 minutes early. The first mini session saw the day start in almost exactly identical fashion to the first day, Jack Brooks striking in his first over with a catch in the gully by RvdM 306-5
When play resumed Somerset pegged Warwickshire back with Ambrose and Brooks both departing before Warwickshire had added 40 in the day, the latter to another RvdM catch. When the Warwickshire captain Jetan Patel joined Michael Burgess with the score on 338-7 there seemed every possibility that Warwickshire would be dismissed before lunch. To the contrary the 6 and a half overs that were possible saw 46 added without further loss, principally due to a spell of 8 balls from Jamie Overton spread over two overs which went for 24 off the bat and 4 byes. Lunch was taken on 384-7.
Following lunch Craig Overton picked up the wicket of Burgess for 52 off 5 balls after the eighth wicket pair had added 56 in just 12 overs. In the next over Tom Abell lured the Warwickshire captain to play at one well away from his body to be well caught by James Hildreth at slip for 25 to take Warwickshire from 404-7 to 404-9.
The skipper struck again 6 overs later to remove Hannon-Dalby caught behind. Warwickshire 419 all out. The opening bowlers both finished with three wickets but great credit should go to Tom Abell and Roleof van der Merwe who were a combined 28-13-43-3.
After another brief delay for rain Steven Davies joined Tom Abell to open the innings. The pair added 29 before Abell was bowled by Harry Brookes. It became abundantly clear that Warwickshire’s bowlers were more disciplined than what we had seen for Somerset in the first four sessions. As a result they exerted much greater control. The wisdom of picking three attacking seam bowlers who I felt were unlucky on day 1 was, in my mind, called into question (with hindsight’s perfect vision). Warwickshire had an attack comprised of bowlers in the Groenewald / Davey mould who were content to bowl a less attacking length and more discipled lines and wait for the batsmen to make mistakes.
Abell perished in such a way, leaving a ball that clipped the top of off. Babar clipping a half-volley to midwicket. And in the evening session the bowlers continued to adhere to the same principles, bringing the reward of the key wickets of Banton and Bartlett, both of whom were on the way to restoring hope when they were dismissed.
Whether Somerset get out of this game with a draw and whether that keeps them in touch with Essex is still to be seen but some serious thought needs to be given to the batting order before Yorkshire arrive in Taunton. While we still wait to hear who will be replacing Azhar Ali for the last month of the season, and where he will bat, the existing line up needs to step up significantly. And quickly.
Andy Hurry was guarded about the batting order for the remainder of the season but he did concede that there was disappointment on the part of the batsmen who had got themselves in to capitalize. He was guarded about the batting line up for the rest of the season but did offer a glimmer of hope that Lewis Gregory might be ready to return in time for the Yorkshire game on the 10thSeptember.
The Championship challenge is not over. But boy it is getting harder by the day.