Jacks Ace Notts

Two out of for Somerset in the County Championship on this day in 2019

Specsavers County Championship Division One, Trent Bridge, Nottingham Day 3 – Notts 263 all out (Gregory 6-68) and 126 all out (Leach 6-36, Brooks 4-22) Somerset 403 all out (Bartlett 133, Abell 101) Somerset win by an innings and 14 runs

A year ago today, a Saturday, was a bitterly cold day across the country. But for Somerset supporters it was a day to warm the hearts. And for those of us dotted around this historic old ground this was a performance of serious title contenders. 

It was, as Wisden records, Somerset’s 7th consecutive win over Nottinghamshire, a record that was stretch to 8 at Taunton later in the summer, a run that will remain for the foreseeable future due to Notts relegation. With hindsight the way the hosts capitulated was a portent of their maladies as much as it was evidence of Somerset’s strength. 

Somerset will end the opening phase of the Championship with a perfect two from two record and a probable lead of 20 points at the top of the division. While it is very early days the rest of the division will be sitting up and taking notice. There is a long way to go and there will be many tough overs, hours, sessions to be dealt with but you can do no more than win two out of two at this stage.

Apart from the middle of the last session on day one Somerset dominated this game from the start to finish in a complete all-round display. Nottinghamshire were, to use a football analogy, left chasing shadows by a side which on this form will be serious title contenders.

If last week’s win at Kent had been about a sheer will to win despite not performing anywhere near their best, this was a virtually perfect performance. Maximum points from a win achieved by an innings inside eight sessions does not flatter this Somerset performance. This was a game where the home side appeared to be going through the motions and one demonstrating technical excellence and desire. 

Two Jack Brooks wickets at the end of day 2 had given Somerset a virtually unassailable position in this game overnight but when play resumed on Saturday morning, on a wicket that had become palpably easier to bat on through day two, Somerset could have reasonably expected a day of hard work was ahead of them.

The first hour played out in bitterly cold conditions that made the Somerset fielders reaching in their pockets for their hand warmers after every ball resemble some in a checkout queue desperately fumbling for their change, saw Notts overnight pair bat with few alarms against the Somerset seamers.

Ben Slater looks a disciplined and well-ordered batsman while night watchman Luke Fletcher played to his limitations with sense as they added 41 in 18 overs in just over an hour. The four Somerset seamers had slowed the scoring rate almost to a trickle, the 50 partnership took 21 overs despite the fast outfield and very short boundary on the Fox Road side of the ground. 

The arrival of Tres’ fielding pads and the helmets just after noon signalled the imminent introduction of Jack Leach. A change which brought an immediate reward with the last ball of his first over. Slater after two and a quarter hours and 90 balls of resolute resistance inexplicably skipped down the wicket attempting something uncharacteristically belligerent down the ground. Leach saw what was happening held the ball back a touch and sent it slightly wider and Steven Davies calmly effected the stumping.

At four overs intervals Leach struck again, first removing Joe Clarke for 2 and then Luke Fletcher in contrasting dismissals. Clarke was deceived for pace by a ball which knocked out his off stumps and Fletcher, like his overnight partner, had a rush of blood and was very well caught by Craig Overton running round to deep extra cover. 66-2 had become 81-5 in the space of 8 overs.

Skipper Steven Mullaney and Samit Patel survived until lunch in not entirely convincing fashion adding only 7 runs in 7 overs with their side still 52 runs short of requiring Somerset to bat again. The 7 overs immediately after lunch were a little more profitable for the Notts pair, adding 9 runs before the Leach/Davies combination struck again this time a lightning fast piece of work by the keeper down the leg side accounting for Mullaney who, lingering at the crease far too long after being given out, before reluctantly dragging himself toward the pavilion. Mullaney’s 16 had taken 51 balls.

Tom Moores joined Patel and they took the score to “Nelson” before Patel was the victim of a stunning catch at short leg by Trescothick diving forward full length to take the catch just off the ground. 

From 111-7 there was no way back for the home side but the swiftness of the application of the coup-de-grace was impressively clinical. First Luke Wood was trapped neither forward or back lbw by Jack Brooks without scoring, in the following over Patel was adjudged lbw to Leach and next ball Broad was superbly held by Azhar running and then diving in at long leg to give Brooks his fourth wicket. 

The Notts batsman had no answer to Leach who looked every inch the Test bowler he now is. Jack for his part seemed brimming with confidence perhaps now believing he is the master of such situations not the shy apprentice from Taunton Deane.

The over-riding impression of this third day performance was that Somerset are a tightly knit and well organised team. Every wicket was celebrated with joy, not in a way that was intended to embarrass or humiliate the opposition rather an expression of the collective will being fulfilled and an appreciation of the individual technical excellence that had achieved that particular breakthrough.I am going to conclude this piece by sharing my feelings from today watching Tom Abell and his side. The passion and determination displayed today made me feel proud beyond description. Each wicket made me want to be there in the huddle laughing and hugging and bursting with euphoria. Every dismissal seemed like a step along a route that has been meticulously planned to reach the Promised Land. #WeAreSomerset #DaretoDream