Nowhere near as bad as we all feared

6th April 2020

Somerset v Kent, County Championship, Taunton, Day 2

Somerset 171 All Out, 48 overs, Kent 84-2

“Let’s not over-react” that was the reassuring headline after a pretty difficult opening day for Somerset at Taunton. The scoreboard indicated a strong position for Kent, trailing by 87 with 8 second innings wickets in hand in what looked like being a low scoring game. The feeling that Somerset’s proven resilience in Divison One compared with Kent, just promoted from the lower tier might yet prove decisive. It did.

But, on the evening of Saturday 6th of April that looked like a very rose-tinted perspective. Here is what I said at the time.

Jason Kerr, in his press conference at the close of play, reflected the mood of the Somerset support and it seems the dressing room after a very poor first day at Taunton. What is clear I that Somerset can ill afford another day like today in this game if they are to have any chance of emerging with anything from their opening Championship fixture. And perhaps more worryingly can afford no more days like today if they are to sustain a credible title challenge.

Somerset’s innings was, after a serene start, a case of the frenetic rather than the measured. The consensus on social media was that this was a poor effort by Somerset’s batsman best summed up by Andy Cleeve @CleaveO who asked: “where’s the application?” 

While it was understandable that Somerset were keen to make up for lost time by batting “at tempo” in their first innings the senior players should have realised that a more cautious approach was required, at least initially. 

The Kent bowling attack, comprising a 42-year-old medium pacer, a 35-year-old who hardly bowled a ball last season and two re-treads hoping to find success at new counties, was one which, if kept in the field, would inevitably have given up easy scoring opportunities. Even on a wicket that offered early-season encouragement.

Instead, the bowlers were presented with wicket-taking opportunities on a too regular basis by batsman looking to score more quickly than the conditions permitted. 

After a couple of umpires’ inspections and an early lunch we eventually got underway at 1.10pm. The start made by Tres and Azhar was promising. After 10 runs off the first over the pair had reached 30 when inexplicably Marcus played across the line and was bowled off-stump, Azhar followed for 24 off 39 balls to leave Somerset 49-2 but James Hildreth looked in control early on.

Kent’s fielding was not of the highest standard and when Tom Abell was dropped behind for 1 it seemed that Somerset’s fortunes might be about to turn. It was not to be. Hildreth fell for 27, a very soft dismissal and Eddie Byrom went in an equally soft manner for 6, slashing at a ball he should have left well alone to be caught in the gully.

The fact that Hildreth’s 27 was off 34 balls and Byrom’s 6 off 6 demonstrated that the Somerset batsmen appeared to believe they needed to play in one-day mode to make up for lost time.

The skipper, who was determined to take advantage of his early reprieve, found a willing ally in Steven Davies and together the pair added, with little alarm exactly 50. But the 5-over spell either side of tea ensured Somerset were going to fall well short of a par score.

Davies fell an over short of the interval. In the three overs after the break Bartlett, Gregory and Abell were all dismissed. 

130-4 had become 145-8 before Craig Overton and Josh Davey added 20 for the 9th wicket. But that was simply delaying the inevitable of a hugely disappointing 171 all out in 48 overs.

The scale of Somerset’s demise was emphasised by the fact that Mitch Claydon a journeyman seam bowler who only managed one red ball game last season and Matthew Milnes, a bowler who couldn’t get anywhere near the Notts first team took 5-46 and 3-40.

Needing to make early inroads Somerset’s ambitions were thwarted when James Hildreth dropped Kent opener Sean Dickson at first slip off Lewis Gregory. The bowlers were, like their batting counterparts, commendably eager to make an impression, none more so than debutant Jack Brooks. Disappointingly the good intentions brought scant reward until late in the day when Craig Overton removed Zak Crawley and Josh Davey night-watchman Harry Podmore.

Perhaps the brightest part of the day from a Somerset point of view was Jack Brooks’ appearance on commentary. Since arriving at Taunton Brooks has felt like one of us. There is no doubt he is one of the best of the modern breed of sports stars who are very astute at using social media to their advantage. But this should not detract from the fact that Brooks is a great addition to the squad and the wider club. Brooks’ experience and savvy will be crucial to Somerset tomorrow. Every side in division one will have poor days. The key to those that challenge for the title and those that are struggling at the wrong end of the table is how they respond. While it is disappointing to start the season with such a poor day all Somerset fans should draw comfort from the knowledge that one bad day does not make this a bad side. Let’s get behind the boys tomorrow, let them know that they are our boys 

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