Bob Willis Trophy Central Group, Northamptonshire v Somerset, Northampton, August 8 – 11 2020, Day 1 Somerset 166 (Brooks 36, Hildreth 32, Sanderson 5-28) and 15-1 lead Northants 67 (C Overton 4-12, Davey 3-23) by 114 runs
What was the final word of my preview piece yesterday? “Enjoy” Well from the very first couple of overs enjoyable was not a word that would have come readily to mind as Somerset’s batting collapsed to 7-3, 77-6 and 114-9 before Jack Brooks and Roelof van der Merwe, with an almost-record-breaking last-wicket stand of 52 (four short of the all-time record for the county against Northants), Brooks top-scoring in the innings, took Somerset to a total that, as the common parlance says “gave them something to bowl at”.
Josh Davey and Craig Overton certainly did that.
There is no way I am going to document the travails of the Somerset first innings. We’ve been there before and we’ll not doubt go there again – probably this season. But at some point Somerset need to resolve the persistent batting problems. While it is entirely understandable that the Bob Willis Trophy is an opportunity to give some young batsmen an opportunity to gain some experience at some point we need to have some solidity in the batting.
At present there is too much reliance on the captain and James Hildreth of the specialist batsmen. Eddie Byrom is getting to the point where he has had enough chances and needs to start contributing weight of runs. Tom Lammonby looks to have what it takes and needs time, George Bartlett and Tom Banton are both prodigious talents who will over the years make lots of runs, hopefully for Somerset. But Steven Davies is being asked to rebuild the innings at 6 far too often at the moment.
It might be a bit early to think about next week let alone next season but if Bartlett and Gregory are fit I’d like to see both come back into the side allowing Davies to bat at 7. There is still enough bowling and it would provide the additional depth to the batting line up that is needed. Next season? Somerset need to look for an experienced opener. No debate.
It could be argued that Abell’s decision to bat first was unwise given the vulnerability of the top order. The counterargument is that it was a vote of confidence for the batsmen on what looked to be a good batting pitch and in ideal conditions. As it turned out this surface was hardly a batsman’s paradise and certainly one that allowed the Northants bowlers to pose a threat which none of us expected.
But remarkably by sometime around 5.30pm Somerset were ahead in the game when Craig Overton got Northants skipper Adam Rossington for 9 to reduce the home side to 67-7. An hour before Somerset supporters were contemplating a significant first innings deficit as only Craig Overton had bowled at anywhere near the excepted level.
Ben Curran, the lesser-known brother of the Surrey Currans had shaped well and was looking like making a match-defining contribution of 35 when he was involved in a mix up with Ricardo Vasconcelos. In the blink of an eye Curran, Keogh and Thurston had also gone 46-1 had become 53-5.
Jack Brooks had started the turnaround with a splendid pick up and throw to effect the run out. Josh Davey, who switched ends took the other three wickets in a phenomenal spell of metronomic accuracy and threat.
My love for Tom Abell is well known and here he was absolutely superb. He kept things up beat when the Northants second innings pair were threatening, made shrewd decisions with his bowling changes and, most significantly moved Craig Overton into third slip for Davey where he pouched a smart catch the very next ball.
From 67-7 there was no way back for the home side and remarkably Somerset were batting again by then past six with a lead of 99 as the last three wickets fell without an addition to the total. The last five wickets contributed just two runs, the last 9 wickets 23!
Craig 4-12, Josh 3-23 if there is a better opening pair in first-class cricket this season I’ve not seen it. The older Overton now has 11-69 in the Bob Willis Trophy.
There was enough time left for Somerset to lose Tom Lammonby departing for a second-ball duck but Eddie Byrom and the skipper saw things thorough to the close.
Who knows what will happen on Day two.