County Championship Division One, Taunton, May 11th to 14th 2018. Somerset 506 (Hildreth 184, Bess, 92, C Overton 80) drew with Hampshire, 231 all out & 432-4 (Vince 201*, Amla 107)
The storyline of the last two days of this match was not the draw which frustrated Somerset’s assault on the top of the County Championship before the RLODC starts. It was not even the match-saving double-hundred James Vince amassed on the last day and a half in seeking to retain his England place.
It was the swing in fortune for Somerset’s two spinners.
Dominic Bess strolled to the wicket in his usual bucolic way early on the third morning following the dismissal of Jack Leach. Bess would have been excused for musing on whether Somerset had ever fielded a better batsman at No10 in the order. If he had, and he wanted to prove a point 92 runs off 118 balls in a shade over two hours could hardly have been bettered.
The best way to describe Bess’ innings is that it eclipsed James Hildreth for large parts of their alliance of 145. A frolic amassed in 30 overs which left Hampshire shell-shocked. You could even argue that Bess’ innings effected a similar bemusement on his partner. Something had to explain the ugly heave he departed to immediately before lunch. The double-century Hildreth’s labours deserved was not to be but he had, with the assistance of numbers 8, 9 and 10 added 338 runs. From a position of some peril to one of rare prosperity.
Bess resumed after lunch eyeing three figures and found able support from Tim Groenewald. The last wicket pair took the total on to 506, a further 34 runs, before Bess was beaten by a beauty from Gareth Berg. He had got closer to his landmark than Hildreth but fell eight runs short.
Somerset’s early inroads flattered only to deceive. 39-2 became 178-2 thanks to James Vince and Hashim Amla.
Somerset had a full day to take the 8 wickets they needed. They could not count on the Taunton surface to provide too much assistance – this was Simon Lee’s homage to the tracks that Jimmy Cook used to love. But they had two dynamic, skilful spinners.
Or they did until an hour before the start of play.
Jack Leach, batting (?) in the nets suffered a fractured thumb thanks to one of Jason Kerr’s throw-downs. Instead of tormenting the Hampshire batting order he spent the day in Musgrove and on the players’ balcony.
While Bess tried his heart out, bowling a total of 34 overs and conceding a mere 60 runs but he went wicketless.
Without the support of his left-arm spinning colleague and with players of the class of Amla and Vince it was a tough ask. Amla departed for 107 but Vince went on and on. His longest ever innings, 437 balls, 514 minutes.