County Championship Division 1, Edgbaston, August 18th-21stSomerset 308 All Out (Davies 109, Bess 52*) and 258-5 (Banton 66, Bartlett 54*, Bess 40*, Babar 40) beat Warwickshire 419 all out (Yates 140, Burgess 52, C Overton 3-96, J Brooks 3-104) & 146 All Out (Yates 53, Abell 4-39, J Overton 3-26) by 5 wickets
A victory best summed up by Anthony Gibson’s words as Somerset closed on victory, “A victory I wouldn’t have thought possible at lunchtime yesterday”.
This was a fine victory, the quality of which should not be lost in the context of it still not being enough to retake top spot from Essex. This was a victory that will give the batting unit huge confidence, chasing 258 on the final day against the wiles of Jeetan Patel was no small task. It was, in the end, achieved comfortably but it never felt like it throughout a day of incredible tension.
One of my coping strategies in situations such as this is to try to imagine the positions were reversed and see how I feel. It didn’t work today. Nor did the thought of how Essex fans would have hated Somerset’s progress from after lunch. In truth this means so much that there wasn’t any way of easing the nerves.
Having subsided to 49-3 within the first hour still needing 209 to win there seemed every possibility that the mountain to climb to win the championship would be even steeper. But from that point some superb batting from (in batting order) the Somerset middle order of Babar Azam, Tom Banton, George Bartlett and Dom Bess over the next four hours and 57 overs Somerset batted themselves initially back into a winning position and then sealed the deal.
Stands of 90, 31 and an unbroken 88 evidence the quality and calmness of these four. That three are in the early stages of their careers and all are products of the academy should give us all huge pride.
Having batted very circumspectly to lunch Babar and Banton accelerated after lunch adding 52 in 11 overs before debutant Garrett got Babar lbw for 40. George Bartlett joined Tom Banton who was by now beginning to flow and the pair seemed to be taking Somerset close when Banton was caught by wicketkeeper Ambrose off Patel for 66. Banton class was evident in this performance, surely that first championship century is not far away.
With 30 minutes to go to tea Dom Bess joined George Bartlett and immediately began to play with freedom. By tea they had added 45 in 10 overs and reduced the requirement to 43. Bartlett was happy to cruise along in support of Bess who at tea had 29 off 35 balls but after tea George pressed the accelerator in Jeetan Patel’s first over after tea with a glorious straight six which brought up the 50 partnership.
Just over half an hour after tea Dom Bess clipped Brookes for two to reach the target, he finished 40 not out and Bartlett ended on 54. I could not be more pleased for Dom Bess who contributed 92 across the two innings without being dismissed. He will now feel very much part of this title chase and, with Jack Leach likely to be required by England for the rest of the summer will know he has a big part to play in the rest of the championship season.
The gap at the top has closed to two points. So small as to be negligible at this stage of the season. With three games to go Somerset have every chance to take it down to the final game at Taunton. They will face stiff opposition from Yorkshire at Taunton in the second week of September and Hampshire at Southampton the following week but with confidence high and the welcome distraction of a T20 quarter-final place to achieve we should all be feeling good about this title chase.
Essex, who are probably still pinching themselves at that Kent second innings performance will wonder what they have to do to shake Somerset off, travel to Edgbaston next and then host Surrey at Chelmsford.
There is also the small matter of Somerset bringing in a replacement for Azhar Ali. I just hope his surname begins with a B!!