Edgbaston Autopsy

20th August 2020

48 hours on from the disappointment of the draw in Birmingham I feel it is time to (try to) take a slightly more dispassionate look back before we move on. The injustice of it all, and there is no doubt that it was injustice in a most unpleasantly generous helping, still hurts hugely. But, this is cricket in England and these things happen.

Let me say at this stage that I have no issue with the decision to bat on after lunch to reach the fifth batting bonus point. Those 47 runs occupied 37 mins from the resumption to Jamie’s dismissal and while this is a team game where there should be little room for personal sentiment over the team collective, imagine how much of a lift the whole squad, let alone the individual, got from reaching such a career landmark. There is also the not insignificant matter of the impact another forty minutes of leather chasing had on the Warwickshire fielders. Warwickshire were 58-5 in the 24th over when Bresnan went first ball.

Ahead of and in the early part of the game, the over-riding feeling among the faithful, was that Somerset needed to put a decent first innings total together and “pick up some batting bonus points”. Isn’t it a little disingenuous now to say we shouldn’t have batted on to get the fifth bonus point? We all know how things turned out but at no time on Monday or a good part of Tuesday was I concerned the weather would prevent us finishing the job and picking up maximum points.

Some will accuse me of being an apologist for Tom Abell – my admiration for the man is well known – and if they wish to so be it, but I’d hope regular readers will know that I try to write as I find. Captaincy as Mike Brearley once famously wrote, is an art and as an art it is difficult if not impossible to perfect. Abell was right to bat on to 400 but beyond? I was puzzled that we didn’t pull out when the ninth wicket fell, even though it only cost a couple more overs.

Somerset were left with four and a half sessions, roughly 135 overs so even allowing for a pessimistic weather forecast you’d have hoped for 60 overs of playing time. So far this season the bowlers had taken; 46.1 overs, 64.2 overs, 32 overs, 43 overs and 45.2 overs to bowl sides out so there was a fair margin for error.

On the last day of this round of games Edgbaston had the least overs played by some considerable distance. And I suspect another dozen deliveries was all that would have been required to finish the job. The weather and specifically the sheer volume of rain that fell over the last 24 hours of the game was simply too much for the playing surface to cope with.

When you end up missing out on a win by such a narrow margin there are, by the nature of the event, plenty of moments in the game you can look at and say, “if only”. What you need to do is take the outcome in the round, and to that end Somerset were on the threshold of winning by an innings and a hundred plus runs. That’s a good walloping in anyone’s books!

The fact that Somerset were unable to record the victory they richly deserved should also be seen in the context of how hard it is to win a four-day first class game of cricket. We have become used to Somerset chalking up victory after victory and that collective experience leads to a complacency perhaps? Nottinghamshire haven’t won a four-day game since mid 2018 and in 2019 the third placed teams in both divisions only won five all season. 

The pill is much harder to swallow when Essex contrived to sneak home late on the last day against Sussex in a game which they were not in control of until the last few overs. And then they only won by three wickets. We would have been three points clear of Essex at the top of the standings, seven clear of Worcestershire in our group and have similar breathing space over Derbyshire and Yorkshire in the north group.

Instead we find ourselves in a dog-fight to top the group and qualify for the final.

But, I back this Somerset side to beat anyone in red-ball cricket provided the weather allows sufficient playing time. Those lovely people from Bristol may well be wishing that Somerset had picked up the win on Tuesday ahead of this weekend. Instead, they face the best side in the competition motivated further by the sense of collective injustice.

And, a couple of weeks ahead lies a potential winner takes all game at New Road. Although a lot can change before then. We all knew, because WeAreSomerset that we wouldn’t make it easy for ourselves, we just didn’t suspect it would be the weather throwing the curveballs.“G-blank” you had better 

Do you agree, what would you have done differently? Your thoughts are welcome of the Forum.

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