“It’s A Big Relief”

Somerset didn't just beat their near neighbours they inflicted and utter humiliation on them made all the better by the worries that weather would frustrate them for the second week running

Bob Willis Trophy Central Group, Somerset v Gloucestershire, Taunton, August 22 – 25 2020, Day 4 Somerset 237 (Bartlett 100*, C Overton 32, Brooks 24) and 223-1 dec (Lammonby 101*, Abell 101*) beat Gloucestershire 76 (C Overton 4-25, J Davey 3-21) & 70 (C Overton 5-26, J Davey 4-25) by 314 runs

Not my words, those of Somerset skipper Tom Abell, but it summed up the feelings of every Somerset supporter. 

I was so frustrated on Monday evening that I couldn’t bring myself to write more than a “placeholder” post as I didn’t trust myself not to vent my frustration at Somerset’s ill fortune with the weather in a way that I’d regret. I had that horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that the weather Gods were going to repeat their cruelty in Birmingham of the previous week in Taunton.

The fact that there was any play on the third and fourth days reflects enormous credit on the often-unsung Taunton ground staff who clearly performed minor miracles to cope with the overnight deluges over the last two days. The reputation of Taunton’s cricket pitches has been tarnished, unfairly, in the last few years but this new regime will have earned huge plaudits from players and coaches for the part they played in this result. Hopefully the wider cricketing world will take note!

But even the Taunton ground staff needed some help from above and it arrived in the timing of the storm and the winds which propelled the worst of the weather to the east and the remaining Bob Willis Trophy games leaving the Cooper Associates County Ground time to recover. Miraculously we were underway after an early lunch and a 1pm inspection at 1.45. As if to emphasise the favour the cricketing gods were bestowing play resumed on the final day under bright sunshine.

Jack Brooks, who had an over to complete from Monday evening and Craig Overton (who else) wrapped things up within 15 minutes thanks to excellent catches by two of Somerset’s three centurions, namely George Bartlett and Tom Lammonby. 

And therein lies the huge gulf between these two sides. How do you explain to a cricket supporter who hasn’t followed this game and just reads the result, how comprehensive the win was? Hold on you’ll say, Somerset won by 314 runs. But that goes nowhere near enough explaining how comprehensive a win this was. So, let’s have some fun at our neighbours’ expense:

Somerset’s last wicket in the first innings added 61 runs, compare that to Gloucestershire’s first and second innings totals of 76 and 70.

In their second innings Somerset only lost one wicket compiling 50% more runs than Gloucestershire did in the whole game.

Gloucestershire’s two innings occupied a total of 73 overs and 5 balls.

Somerset had three centurions, all not out their opponents didn’t manage three figures collectively in either innings and had an individual top score of 21 in each innings;

Craig Overton and Josh Davey combined for 16 wickets at a cost of 97 runs, that’s a shade over 6 runs per wicket, David Payne, the best of the Gloucestershire bowlers by some distance was 5-75 in the game.

I think it’s fair to say we put our neighbours in their place. I’d love to hear their coach talk about taking positives out of the game, good luck with that Mr Dawson. And while Somerset’s seam attack yet again deserves huge praise the fact that we found some big runs from the top order adds hugely to the satisfaction in this result. 

Somerset now top the central group with 76 points, leapfrogging Worcestershire who were rained off at home, by 6 points. The emphasis on the New Road groundsman to produce a result wicket in two weeks’ time is a very significant change in emphasis which will surely play into Somerset’s hands and while a draw will be enough for Tom Abell’s side to top the group they will be focussed on picking up a fourth win not only to seal the group but also ensure qualification for the final.

With the only other winners in this round being Middlesex and Kent the other contenders at the start of this round lost ground. Essex who led the standings before this round on 61 points were only to accrue one bonus point in their draw with Hampshire to now trail Somerset by 6 points. 

The north provides Somerset’s closet challengers, Derbyshire now have 71 points so if they can match Essex’s performance in the last round they will qualify for Lords. They face Lancashire in Liverpool while Harmershire will be huge favourites at home to Middlesex. Let’s all guess what sort of surface Chelmsford conjure up on September 6th. A win for Middlesex could see them leapfrog Essex while Kent, who only trail Essex by 6 points having beaten Sorry Surrey (Jamie it’s not too late to change your mind), could also eclipse last season’s Champions.

Yorkshire are the only other team in with a chance, but they need to win big against Durham and then hope other results go their way.

Let’s just hope the weather doesn’t interfere with the final round. The main priority is a Somerset win, of course, to seal one of the final places. And then let the others sort themselves out and we’ll deal with whoever we have to play. But it would be nice to see Essex slip to third in their group wouldn’t it?