Jamie, Steve, Josh propel Somerset Close in Birmingham

Only the weather stands between Somerset and a third Bob Willis Trophy win on the bounce after another dominant day in Birmingham

Bob Willis Trophy Central Group, Warwickshire v Somerset, Birmingham, August 15 – 18 2020, Day 3, Somerset 413-9 Dec (Davies 123*, J Overton 120, Abell 41) lead Warwickshire 121 All Out (C Overton 3-17, T Abell 3-4) & 104-6 (Davey 3-19) by 188 runs

If I were Steve Davies I’d be getting a little peeved by now. In the opening game of the season his 81* was “eclipsed” by Jack Brooks 72 at number 11. And now his sublime 123* which began when Somerset were still 20 in arrears on first innings on Sunday afternoon was overshadowed by a brutal, career best 120 from Jamie Overton. 

Davies who resumed on 56 having batted superbly in tough conditions on the second day, lost his overnight partner Lewis Gregory without addition and Roelof van der Merwe for 4, found a more than willing partner in Jamie Overton. The pair who came together on 226-8 began circumspectly but once the initial reconnaissance had been completed, they formed an alliance of elegance and brutality.

Davies reached his hundred off 150 balls when the total was 313, Jamie followed to his 50 almost immediately afterwards off 50 balls and the 100 partnership arrived off 19 overs. By this time the overnight hopes of a couple of extra batting point had been satisfied with three already in the bag and by lunch, with Jamie accelerating on to 80 they had bagged a fourth at 353-8.

Sensibly, given the rate of scoring and the potential benefit of every available bonus point Tom Abell sent the ninth wicket pair back out after lunch to continue the onslaught. And they did. By the time Jamie was dismissed maximum bonus points had been accumulated, the only surprise being that Somerset elected to continue their first innings after his dismissal. Josh Davey promptly on-drove his first ball from Tim Bresnan. The closure came shortly thereafter on 413, a lead of 292.

Tom Abell -Slightly puzzled by delayed declaration

Davies finished undefeated on 123. While he had continued to bat produce beautiful scoring shots, particularly through the covers he appeared to lose his timing a touch finding the fielders more often the not. That was not surprising given the onslaught he was witnessing from 22 yards. But to his credit he did not allow his frustrations to contribute to his dismissal and was happy to cede the dominant role to the younger twin.

Jamie’s onslaught was calculated, clinical and intimidating. The Warwickshire bowling did not know where to bowl as his innings stats of 15 fours and 9 sixes off just 92 balls testify. His last 70 runs took 42 balls and included 6 boundaries and four maximums. The only “tactic” Warwickshire seemed able to come up with was to slow the over rate to glacial proportions, 27 overs in a shade over two hours in the morning was simply not acceptable, even allowing for the COVID regulations. 

Overton’s 120 was the highest first-class score by a Somerset number 10 and, unsurprisingly, this was also the record ninth wicket partnership against Warwickshire. The only disappointment for Somerset supporters on the Club’s 145th birthday full of presents was that Davies and Overton fell 3 runs short of the all-time record for the penultimate wicket.

So far this season Somerset’s highest partnership has been the ninth or tenth wicket on three occasions. Of the other two one was the seventh (in the second innings at Northampton) with the only “batsmen’s partnership” to be the most productive being the Abell / Green alliance in the second innings against Glamorgan. 

Warwickshire faced the daunting task of trying to survive the best part of five sessions. A prospect that they hoped would be assisted by the weather and a surface (apparently the same as the one used for the Northants game) becoming easier to bat on. 

Unfortunately for the home batsmen the Overton twins, Josh Davey and Lewis Gregory are several classes above their Warwickshire counterparts. All four produced swing and seam movement at will with a generous helping of aggression from the twins thrown in. Josh Davey struck first removing Rob Yates playing no stroke to a ball that arrowed in on his off stump from around the wicket. At the other end Craig was a constant threat. Both the opening pair were the model of frugality and when they were replaced by Jamie and Lewis Gregory both picked up quick wickets. Overton got Hain caught high at first slip by James Hildreth and Gregory induced Bell to edge a beauty to (appropriately) Davies. At that point Warwickshire were 39-3 in the sixteenth over, still 253 adrift.

josh Davey and Lewis Gregory have picked up five wickets so far

Jamie was bowling with a beautiful rhythm moving the ball both ways at will at high pace. Lewis looked like someone who has not played any red-ball cricket for a considerable time, mixing his usual glorious bat-beating deliveries with a higher-than-normal number of short, wide deliveries.

The last 45 minutes up to tea were accompanied by the growls of distant but approaching thunder but remarkably nothing inclement arrived at Edgbaston, indeed the sun continued to shine brightly, as it always does on the righteous.

The old professional batsman’s saying goes “add two wickets to the score” a byword for cautious batting. It strikes me that when you are facing this current Somerset side you would do well to add four wickets such is the rapidity at which they strike. Within four runs of the tea interval Josh Davey struck twice in two balls with catches by Abell and Hildreth and was within a whisker of his hat-trick when Tom Banton was unable to grab a sharp half-chance at short leg.

But in the hour and a half after tea Somerset were frustrated by the sixth wicket partnership of the captain and the young off-spinner Alex Thomson. They added 56, almost doubling the score and looked like they had drawn the sting of the four somerset pace men when Gregory induced Rhodes to offer a return catch. His splendid resistance had occupied 117 balls for his 41 but with his departure the last hopes of Warwickshire batting out the game disappeared. There sole remaining chance of salvation is now the weather.

Sure enough, having miraculously avoided any interruptions all day bad light and drizzle curtailed the day’s play shortly before six.

Somerset have a whole day to take the four remaining wickets, although they may only need three with Michael Lamb having cracked a toe in the first innings. An evening and morning of scouring weather forecasts awaits.

It would be a huge injustice if Somerset were not to record their third victory here. They have outperformed their opponents comprehensively in all departments by a wide margin. If victory can be secured it would put them in control of not just their group but the qualification picture. It is going to take something quite spectacular to produce a result between two of the other 100% teams at Headingley and Essex trail Sussex by 111 runs at Hove with the home side having eight second innings wickets intact. 

Even, if the worst came to the worst and the game at Edgbaston is drawn Somerset will have gained bonus points on Essex and Derbyshire. The joker in the pack remains Worcestershire who look like setting Northants in the region of 225-250 to win in two-and-a-bit sessions. That would seem a tall order for the side Somerset beat within two days last week.  

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