Sweat and Toil

Roleof van der Merwe led the way with ball rather than bat for Somerset as they battled to work their way through the "fragile" Notts batting line up

Somerset v Notts, County Championship Division One, Taunton June 9 – 12 2018 Somerset 392 (Renshaw 106, Davies 92*, Abell 57), trail Notts 134 and 468-8 by 210 runs

Who was it who said Notts batting line-up is frail? Who was it who had no doubt that enforcing the follow-on was the right thing to do on Sunday afternoon? The joy of being a cricket writer, a Somerset cricket writer!

That though, in essence, is why those of us who are deeply in love with this game are so besotted. It constantly astonishes and confounds.

While Somerset hadn’t made any second innings inroads in the last 30 overs of day 2, there was every reason to believe that the third day would see a change in fortunes.

The surface had signs of helping the spinners on day 1 – Matt Carter’s lanky off-spin had taken five wickets in the home side’s first innings. And where Notts had Carter Somerset could respond with Roleof and raise the stakes with Dom Bess.

Somerset’s latest international returned from a successful two-test series against Pakistan with his reputation significantly enhanced. But the prodigal son found a rude awakening back on native soil. It took him until his fifth spell to pick up his first wicket of the game. Mind you he then picked up two crucial scalps including centurion and son-of-the-coach Tom Moores, to make what may prove to be the vital incision.

The contrast between Notts 37 over first innings capitulation and their second innings prosperity could not have been more marked.

Whereas there were five ducks in the top six in the first innings, this time around the same half-dozen amassed four 50s and a century. Cricket eh!?

Where Jack Leach was still unavailable through injury (optimistically he could return against Surrey next week) and Dom Bess unproductive for the bulk of the day, Roleof van der Merwe stepped up admirably. 

In a long, combative (as ever) stint of his particular style of “fast-slow left arm” he picked up four of the wickets to fall. No Notts batsman ever looked comfortable against him.

Somerset will want to chase less than 250 on the final day. That leaves them with a cushion of 40 runs to play with on the last morning. The surface continues to help the spinners but not worryingly so and while Notts have Carter and Samit Patel to ply that trade the task should not be beyond the home side.

This is just the sort of test a side with Championship aspirations should relish. Top of the table beckons.