From a Distance

11th September 2019

County Championship Division 1, Taunton, September 10thto 13thDay 2 Somerset 199 All Out (Abell 66, Jamie Overton 40*, Maharaj 5-54) and 269-5 (Abell 62, Hildreth 58, Banton 43, Bartlett 39*, Gregory 38*) lead Yorkshire 103 all out (Ballance 35, van der Merwe 3-14, Davey 3-30, Gregory 2-36)  by 365 runs.

We all these sorts of days in our life don’t we? Days when we can’t do what we want to do, when, more specifically, everyday work and life gets in the way of watching Somerset cricket. 

Today was one of those days for me. Work required me to be in and out of a whole series of meetings throughout the day. To try to write a report on the day’s play would require me watching back the stream of the whole day. So what follows is some thoughts on where Somerset find themselves after the second day’s play. 

I openly admit that, in true Professor Steve Peters style, I “had my chimp out” last evening. I feared the worst, a product I believe of the position Somerset find themselves in at the sharp end of the season. In my defence we have been here before, twice in the last three years, and that makes it even harder.

I’m not claiming I am special or set apart from fellow Somerset fans, but I openly admit to feeling “so close but yet so far”. After yesterday’s play I was fearful that Somerset were in danger of trailing on first innings and subsiding in the second. I was grateful for the world of social media reassuring me last evening. I went to bed feeling less pessimistic, slept well and woke refreshed.

At the end of a remarkable day 2 Somerset lead Yorkshire by 365 runs with 5 second innings wickets intact. With two days to go Somerset are in a very strong position which should prove match winning. 

This position has been achieved by a genuine team effort. In the morning the bowling of Lewis, Josh Davey and Roleof van der Merwe reduced Yorkshire from 86-3 to 103-9 (and with Ben Coad’s indisposition) all out in 43 balls. Within an hour of the start Somerset were batting again with a lead of 96.

I was able to grab a break just after 1pm, so it took a few minutes to comprehend what has happened at Taunton. 49-2, wow. A lead of 145!! 4-2 seriously? A quick check to see Warwickshire were 360-6 and then back into meetings with my head still spinning. 

The story of the afternoon which greeted me at the end of my day’s work was beyond my widest expectations. By the time I got in my car play had been abandoned for the day. I had missed on of Somerset’s best batting performances of the season. In batting order Tom Abell, James Hildreth, Tom Banton, George Bartlett and Lewis Gregory had all registered scores of 38 or more. Collectively they had put together partnerships of 117, 70 and an unbroken 78.

Somerset’s excellent day on the field was abetted by the news from Edgbaston and The Oval. Essex find themselves 31-1 (Sir Cook out) responding to 517. On a pitch that apparently has shown no help for the bowlers the chances of a result seem slim although Warwickshire’s captain Jeetan Patel may find increasing assistance as the game progresses.

From south London England announced that Craig Overton won’t be needed this week by England. While sad for Craig who did nothing wrong last week in Manchester it is great news to have him back for Somerset’s last two games. And I suspect we will see a hugely motivated Craig with bat and ball.

As I write this I cannot wait to be at the County Ground tomorrow morning. The aim has to be to bat on and put as many overs into the legs of the Yorkshire bowlers and fielders as possible. With Ben Coad unable to bowl Yorkshire’s bowlers have had to take on extra individual workloads already and relied more than ever on Maharaj who by the close had bowled 28 of the 68 overs of the second innings.

With the prospect of increasingly good weather if Somerset can extend their first innings beyond lunch and even have a bit of fun in the half hour after the break they should have extended their lead beyond 500 and left Yorkshire having to bat over 130 overs to survive. Such a target would allow Tom Abell to keep his attacking fields throughout. 

Whether we see a rearguard like Hampshire’s James Vince inspired last day in May 2018 or a capitulation by a side utterly demoralised remains to be seen. What is sure is that Somerset have, yet again this season produced a day which completely transforms the shape of the game and might potentially have transformed the shape of this year’s championship as well.  

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