At lunchtime on Tuesday 7th May any Somerset supporter heading into the CACG would have reasonably wondered why their side, having made such a stellar start to the 2019 Royal London One-Day Cup campaign were now facing elimination.
Failure to make the top three in the nine-team group, which would be the outcome of defeat to Surret that day, would represent in a serious under-performance for Tom Abell’s side. Even victory would consign Somerset to the toughest possible knockout schedule in the form of trips to Worcestershire and northern group table-toppers Nottinghamshire in the space of three days.
By the early evening of Friday 10th those same Somerset fans were anticipating a trip to Trent Bridge with some anticipation. Confidence, that most fragile of sporting attributes had replaced doubt in the minds of players and supporters alike. Suddenly the defeats to Gloucestershire, Middlesex and Hampshire, bad defeats all, were distant memories.
Even more exciting was the manner of the two defeats. Surrey, having set a target that was respectable if not daunting of 290 were seen off by five wickets with four overs to spare. The runs chase was controlled and confident. Undaunted by the loss of the “twins” Azhar and Trego for 41. James Hildreth (93 off 85 balls) who was back to his best, Tom Banton – a controlled 53 off 61 balls, and George Bartlett who impresses more and more with every appearance (57*) were the cornerstones of the chase. Tom Abell and Lewis Gregory provided able support.
It was one of those chases which, while never entirely enjoyable (no Somerset run chase has ever been in my 56 years!) was with hindsight comfortable.
The win at New Road three days later was comfortable from first to last. Tom Banton reprised his performance in the opening group game with a wonderful hundred. 112 out of 203-3 (in the 35th over) when he departed, was some achievement. To do so on a slow, low Worcester pitch hinted at a maturing and rapidly developing talent. The middle-order provided the last 15 overs the innings needed. A total of 337-8 looked beyond the home sides capabilities.
And so it proved. Worcester were rushed out for 190 but not, as you would expect in Worcester in May by Somerset’s much vaunted seam attack, but by the leg-spin of Mr Azhar Ali. He bemused the home batsmen to the tune of 7-1-34-5, there was no way back from that.
Somerset are semi-finalists. Remarkable.