Just what the Doctor Ordered

28th July 2020

Somerset v Gloucestershire, 2020 Pre-Season Friendly, Taunton – July 26th & 27th, Bristol July 28th & 29th – Days 3 Gloucestershire 273 All Out, Roderick 106, N Gilchrist 4-32, C Overton 3-34 ) and 38-4 trail Somerset 427-9, Bartlett 80, Byrom 70, Abell 65, Davies 50*, Hildreth 48) by 116 runs

Somerset made the short trip up the M5 for the final two days of this four-day game to a ground I got to know well during my student days in Bristol. I haven’t been there for a good few years now, but nothing they have done there appears to me to have improved the venue as a place to watch cricket. Whereas Taunton has evolved gracefully into a modern cricket ground, Bristol is not a venue to enjoy. They have tried mind, you with some novel ideas like murals but to me, they just seem well tacky. Sorry.

One of the new murals at The Nevil Ground, unsurprisingly, features WG Grace in a characteristic pose. If the great man was watching he would have grudgingly approved of the professional way Somerset went about their business today, both in terms of the match context and at the micro-level this game.

Mind you as a man of Gloucestershire he can’t be too pleased with what he saw from his successors. It is a little unfair to say that Cardiff MCCU gave Somerset a better contest in last year’s final pre-season game. But not much. 

It bodes well for this truncated season that Somerset have utterly outclassed their fellow group members in the Bob Willis Trophy. Somerset have been superior in every department a difference that was emphasised by a superb bowling display in the final session.  

Somerset’s pace attack was relentless. The opening pair of Craig Overton and Josh Davey bowled with control, varying their length and line and regularly beating the bat and reduced Gloucestershire to 18-3. After 18 overs the bowling analyses read C Overton 6-2-7-1, Davey 6-2-6-2  J Overton 3-2-3-0 and  Brooks 3-1-3-0. The latter two if anything increased the intensity and hostility as Hankins and Taylor were rendered virtually shotless. With the Tom Abell inspired fielding strangling any opportunity for quick runs Somerset were relentless, and it was terrific.

Compare the bowling with the Gloucestershire batsmen’s scoring rates; Dent 3 off 27 balls, Hammond (“speedy”) 4 off 10, Scott 1 off 18, Taylor 14* off 77, Hankins 5 off 50 and Cockbain 8 off 23. The latter the only one to register a boundary in 34 overs of which 16 were maidens.   

Josh Davey got the first breakthrough with the total on just 4. Hammond’s dismissal caught superbly by Hildreth high at first slip off Davey brought an interesting “discussion” between umpire Lloyds and, principally the two Overtons. What it was about we can only speculate, but it is fair to say that there was much pointing as both sides got their points across. Much like when he used to open the batting for Somerset, Lloyds didn’t take a backward step to the onslaught from the big pacemen!

Roelof van der Merwe’s brace of catches, one-off each of the openers reduced the hosts to 12-3 in the 12thover. Tom Abell then superbly ran out the hapless Hankins with a direct hit – 27 -4. Abell also bowled a five over spell before the close that conceded only one run. His economy rate of 0.2 runs per over made the 0.5 of Jack Brooks or the 1.00 of Josh Davey profligate such was the stranglehold Somerset imposed.

But such dominance seemed a long way off at the start of the day with Tom Abell being dismissed in the first over of the day having only added a single to his overnight score. But George Bartlett, who has matured into a very fine player week by week since his introduction into the side, and Steven Davies batted with supreme control for the rest of the first session.

By lunch Somerset had advanced by 93 runs for the loss of that sole wicket and had built the foundation we had all hoped for. Both Bartlett and Davies looked in fine form, Davies especially fluent despite the Gloucestershire bowlers performing far better than they had the previous evening.

After lunch Ben Green replaced the “retired out” Davies. You had to feel a little sorry for Green who appeared not to know whether to stick or twist – with 34 overs of the mandatory 120 left he seemed to be feeling a need to push on that wasn’t there and perished as a result. Green was dismissed for just two off 16 balls, replaced by Craig Overton who never has any doubts about his game plan. 

George Bartlett was continuing his serene progress at the other end, his trademark laconic drives and clips in front of and behind square on the legside were all working very well. The older Overton was caught at point for 14, van der Mere who was his usual busy self at the crease 16 off 41 and Jamie Overton iced the cake with 31 off just 25 balls. Josh Davey’s dismissal brought the closure a shade before tea with a lead of 154. Somerset’s work in the first two sessions yielded 210 runs with little real alarm.

With less than a week until the start of the season, one team appears to have arrived at this point desperate to play cricket, yearning to make up for lost time and put the memories of yet another Championship second place. The other appears to be mentally still in lockdown. When you add to that mental edge, the clear difference in class between the two sides this is men against boys. 

Gratifyingly for Somerset supporters Tom Abell, Jason Kerr and Andy Hurry are the ones holding all the aces.

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