Somerset v Notts, County Championship Division One, Taunton June 9 – 12 2018 Somerset 392 (Renshaw 106, Davies 92*, Abell 57) and 250-4 (Renshaw 61, Abell 46* Davies 44*) beat Notts 134 and 505 by 6 wickets
Four-day cricket is, obviously a long process. There are times during games of such length that both teams will be in the ascendant times when the pendulum swings back to even before heading off in one way or another. Such games are mentally tough for players and supporters alike.
But this four-day classic added another dimension to the mental anguish. After an even first day, Somerset took complete command on day two dismissing their opponents in 37 overs and enforcing the follow on.
From the tea interval on Sunday it was a matter of when and not if.
But my comments about the fragility of the Notts batting were left sounding very wide of the mark as they batted to the close on the second day without the loss of any second innings wickets. The third day saw the doubts among Somerset supporters grow as the visitors built a lead of 210 runs with three wickets still intact.
With the leadership of Division One at stake, Somerset needed a strong performance with bat and ball on the last day with little margin for error.
What they produced was a highly disciplined, professional, accomplished performance. Words I know which are often used but rarely as deserved as here.
The day didn’t start well with the 9th wicket pair of Fletcher and Carter adding 34 to take the Notts total over 500 but two quick wickets for josh Davey set the hosts a target of 247 in two and a half sessions.
Eddie Byrom made 22 of the first 29 of the chase and George Bartlett and Matt Renshaw looked comfortable and in control either side of lunch. Bartlett impresses more with each innings, both he and Renshaw seemed to be eyeing substantial contributions to the victory chase. The Australian, making his last appearance at Somerset of this contract, clearly wanted to sign off with his second hundred of the game but it was not to be.
They took Somerset over half-way before a spell of 3-34 in the afternoon saw the doubts begin to creep back in. 163-4, 84 needed.
But, thankfully, the skipper and the ‘keeper showed no nerves, they breezed along either side of tea at a run-a-ball rate to see Somerset to the summit of Division One by six wickets.
The dreaded demons of the fourth-day pitch did not materialise, vindication for the captain of his decision to enforce the follow on. Ultimately the two hours either side of lunch on the second day were the decisive phase of the game. But oh boy did we have to wait.
Tough tests at Guildford and Chelmsford await but for now, rejoice, rejoice, Somerset are top of the tree and playing like champions.