Bob Willis Trophy Central Group, Northamptonshire v Somerset, Northampton, August 8 – 11 2020, Day 2 Somerset 166 (Brooks 36, Hildreth 32, Sanderson 5-28) and 222 (J Overton 67, C Overton 53, van der Merwe 30) lead Northants 67 (C Overton 4-12, Davey 3-23) and 154 (J Overton 4-24, Brooks 4-40) by 167 runs
Sometime around half an hour after lunch on the second day at Northampton something resembling a normal game of four-day cricket broke out. The change came at the time Northamptonshire set off in pursuit of an improbable 322 to win this Bob Willis Trophy Central Group game.
After a frenetic first day which saw 21 wickets fall and Somerset end the day 99 runs ahead with 9 second innings wickets standing the morning session, in scarcely believable fashion eclipsed all that had gone before.
The session ended with Somerset on 175-8 having scored 160 runs in the session. But even that doesn’t tell the full story as the visitors had at one point been 53-6. Somerset had clearly decided overnight that they were going to adopt a more positive approach but at 11.45 it seemed that they were going to die by the sword. But at that point Craig Overton and Roelof van der Merwe came together and proceeded to add 67 in a shade under eight overs. When Roelof departed Craig was joined by Jamie and together they added a further 31 before Craig was dismissed for 53. His half century had occupied just 30 balls and contained six 4s and three 6s.
Jamie, no doubt fuelled by the intense sibling rivalry that, for now, exists within the Somerset dressing room, took over where his brother left off either side of lunch Jamie blasted a superb 68 off just 43 balls and he accrued two boundaries more than his brother and one more maximum.
Credit should be given to both Josh Davey and Jack Brooks, especially the latter for the sensible way they supported their more aggressive partner. You would expect no less from Josh but it showed the professionalism and game-smarts of Jack to curb his usual attacking instincts.
Having been spoiled (again) by Somerset’s bowling performance in the second half of Saturday, the Northants’ batsmen showed a great deal more resolve this time around. Rather than see this as a poor performance by the bowlers this time the afternoon session served only to emphasise how exceptional Craig, Jamie, Josh and Jack had bowled in the first innings.
The perspective of the second morning I hope will have made many Somerset supporters how lucky we are to have the bowling riches we have. I know Jamie is soon to depart (don’t worry that is going to be covered very soon here) but we have Lewis Gregory not playing here. I’ve been watching Somerset Cricket since 1970 and I don’t think it is any overstatement to say that the two Overtons, Gregory and Davey are comfortably in the top ten of Somerset bowlers I’ve seen in that time.
If you think about that statement for a moment, in the context of Garner, Botham and Caddick, that is pretty high praise. When you then consider that we have all four in the squad at the same time that is pretty unbelievable.
Yesterday’s performance on a surface described by the BBC’s Anthony Gibson as “lively and unpredictable but no minefield” has to rate as one of the most devastating performances by a Somerset attack. The only two instances in my memory that come close were Botham and Garner’s demolition of Kent for 60 in a Gillette Cup quarter final at Taunton in 1978 and last year’s two-day win at Canterbury. This was, make no mistake utterly superb seam bowling.
By tea on the second day Northamptonshire had reached 104-3. Surely a repeat of their fourth innings heroics at Edgbaston last week was not going to recur. Josh Davey got Vasconcelos immediately after tea but Charlie Thurston and Luke Proctor added 44 despite playing and missing with monotonous regularity.
Craig Overton bowled absolutely superbly without any luck. If there was a record of plays and misses per over Craig would surely have a career best from this spell. His figures do him absolutely no justice. But if one Overton can’t get you the other must. In tandem with Jack Brooks 148-4 became 154 all out. Jamie finishing with 4-26 and Jack Brooks 4-40. Yet again the Somerset bowlers needed only the merest opportunity and they finished the job.
That collapse 6-6 following, 5-2 in the first emphasised the difference between the two sides. Northamptonshire’s last five wickets managed 11 runs across the two innings, Somerset tallied 262. And there was the game.
Somerset win by 165 runs, picking up 19 points and while they will head to Edgbaston next week in high spirits, they will desperately be looking for some upper-order solidity this is a team on a roll. As described by the BBC Northamptonshire commentator this was a “thorough shellacking”. Enough said.
Without wishing to be accused of sour-grapes it needs to be said that while Somerset carry a twelve-point penalty into next season four-day county cricket needs far better surfaces than this to do it justice.
Still we are top of the group and with Glamorgan showing some resistance at 178-2 at Worcester you have to hope we will stay there on Tuesday evening. We can do no more than that at this stage.