Delightful Davies

Somerset made significant progress despite the weather in Birmingham on a day when Steven Davies was at his elegant best at Edgbaston for the second year running

Bob Willis Trophy Central Group, Warwickshire v Somerset, Birmingham, August 15 – 18 2020, Day 2, Somerset 214-6 (Davies 56*, Abell 41) lead  Warwickshire 121 All Out (C Overton 3-17, T Abell 3-4) lead by 83 runs

On a day of gloom, rain and interruptions Steven Davies’ batting shone like a beacon as Somerset moved into a position of some dominance. Davies who arrived at Taunton with a very high reputation has I think been undervalued since arriving at Taunton. He has kept beautifully throughout his time with us and has made crucial runs on many many occasions.

It was at Edgbaston last season that his first innings century propelled Somerset into a position from where the bowlers were able to set up the final day win and, on the evidence of his batting today a repeat is well within his reach.

Somerset have undoubtedly had the worse of the conditions so far in this game, bowling when the weather was most favourable to the batsmen and both last evening and today having to try to score substantial first innings runs when the conditions favoured the bowlers.

Given this climatic imbalance Somerset’s performance is all the more impressive. While all the Somerset batsmen who were dismissed on this second day will have felt they should have contributed more they should remind themselves that the conditions made their task much harder.

The play so far has also shown the gulf in class between the two sides bowling attacks. I suspect Warwickshire would have struggled to post three figures in they had batted second in this game. As it was apart from Oliver Hannon-Dalby and a persevering Tim Bresnan the home attack was like pop guns against the heavy artillery Tom Abell has at his disposal.

Almost immediately after the delayed resumption James Hildreth, who had not looked himself on the first evening, departed caught at mid-wicket for 1. Tom Abell was joined by Tom Banton and while the former looked to be as well set as anyone could be the latter could muster only 13 off 27 balls before he was pinned lbw.

You have to feel for Banton. He is clearly working hard to become as prolific in red ball cricket as he already is on white ball but batting at 5 he always seems not to know if he should stick or twist. I suspect Jason Kerr will consider my suggestion ridiculous but I’d be inclined to try Banton at the top of the order for the remaining two BWT games and give him licence to play with more freedom.

He showed in the RLODC last year that he can open in the longer-format white ball stuff and we all know he prefers to open. If it comes off Somerset’s opponents could find themselves  in all kinds of trouble and batting at the other end would become much easier. And if it didn’t we’d hardly be in a worse position than we have on the majority of occasions for the last couple of seasons. Given that what really matters is winning the championship next season why not try it now?

When Banton departed Somerset were still 20 runs in arrears and when Abell followed, strangled down the leg side again, the lead was only 9. But Davies and Overton pushed the advantage to 70 in the space of just 15 overs in a partnership which flourished as a result of sensible running allied to both taking ruthless advantage of anything wayward.

The 2020 version of Craig Overton isn’t just about his bowling. He is batting with increasing confidence and maturity fully justifying his place at 7 in the order. You wonder whether he has been told that more consistent runs wouldn’t do his England chances any harm. But whatever the reason he helped his ‘keeper to add 61 at better than four an over at a crucial part of the day.

When Lewis replaced Craig he too looked to be in immediate good touch. He opened his account with two neat boundaries in his first three balls and had eased to 14 off 14 balls when play was abandoned for the day. Davies remained undefeated on 56 and it is Davies who will provide the abiding memories of the second day’s play with his effortless cover drives and flawless timing. The former “Pear” will be keen to inflict further misery on the Bears tomorrow, weather permitting. 

While bonus points are important a balance needs to be struck over the next two days.  Given the forecast weather around the country a win in this round would be priceless. If Somerset can add another 86 on the third day and give themselves a decent number of overs to bowl again before the close there is every prospect that they can beat the weather and force the win. We may, if the weather makes early inroads into the day’s allocation of overs, be treated to the sight of Davies in the company of Gregory and the lower order playing in more aggressive mode which might be no bad thing. 

The wonderful thing though is that you’d back this bowling attack, in the circumstances we are likely to see over the next two days, to bowl the opposition out.

Elsewhere in the group Glamorgan limped to 80 – 5 off 48 overs against Gloucestershire. A positive result for either side looks highly unlikely in Cardiff. In Northampton the best that can be said is that the home side have avoided the follow on! But trailing by 129 with six first innings wickets remaining Worcestershire are clearly ahead in the game. The may live to regret the loss of 5-7 in the morning when they looked like posting a more substantial first innings.

Elsewhere in the country very few games have advanced beyond the first innings so even if there were two perfect days ahead it is hard to see how any positive results can be achieved. Yorkshire and Derbyshire managed only a single over all day while Essex still need four Sussex wickets before they can bat.

A line of rain stretching from Leeds down the M1 to Northampton and on via the M23 to Hove, but keeping well to the east of Birmingham, wouldn’t go amiss.