Vitality Blast – Central Group, Somerset v Glamorgan, Taunton, September 1 Somerset 134-2, 16.1 overs (Abell 74*, Hildreth 34*) beat Glamorgan 133-8 by 8 wickets
Take your mind back to the evening of the second day of Somerset’s opening Bob Willis Trophy game. Somerset were 38-2 in their second innings when Tom Abell joined James Hildreth and, despite a substantial first innings lead needed something substantial from the third wicket pair.
In the 19 overs that followed they built a partnership of 93 which, while it wasn’t to continue the following morning showed us all what we had been missing during the lost months of this cricket season.
It can be reasonably argued that from the close of that second day’s play the fortunes of Hildreth and Abell have gone in very different directions. Abell went on to a century in that innings and made another last week at home against Gloucestershire. Hildreth has looked terribly out of touch all season, which for a man of his abundant natural talent must be incredibly frustrating but, because Hildreth is that sort of player there is very little middle ground. It is a case of waiting until, as it will, it clicks.
Abell rightly had the bulk of the headlines last night but the fact that Hildreth was there at the close was a big plus for me. Not the flowing, glorious Hildreth but a gutsy iteration batting with the usual intelligence and realising that all he had to do was stick around and give his captain the strike. 34 in 36 balls with only three boundaries tells the tale of the struggle it was but to me toward the end of his innings it looked like the touch was coming back.
The third wicket partnership bettered their red-ball performance of early August by 17 runs taking Somerset comfortably to an eight-wicket victory and significantly boosting the all-important net run rate in the process.
But let’s go back to the skipper. It is worth remembering that at the start of last season Tom Abell seemed to be a middle-order square peg in a round hole, by no means a certainty to feature in the Somerset T20 side. Now he is integral to this season’s “Blast” campaign and alongside Babar and Banton (when available) one of the three key members of Somerset’s batting line-up in this format.
Bold words? I don’t think so. The man chosen by Somerset in 2017 to lead them for the next decade or more, and who struggled in that first season to hold onto his place in the side, is developing into a fine all-formats batsman in front of our eyes. The promise of his youth is now blossoming into runs and gloriously so.
What was most noticeable about last night’s innings was the way he scored his runs. His 74 came off 45 balls with ten boundaries, one a maximum but this was a beautiful innings full of elegant strokes, glorious timing and plenty of inventiveness. If David Gower had played T20 cricket, this is the sort of innings you would have expected him to treat us to.
The only shame was that his bowlers had restricted the Glamorgan innings to such an extent that a second successive T20 hundred at Taunton was beyond Abell’s reach. The truth is that from the second ball of the Glamorgan innings, when Max Waller trapped Dan Douthwaite palpably lbw, Somerset were in control of this game; 25-3 in the fifth over, 90-7 with five overs left tells the story. It was only some low order long-handle from Marchant de Lange (28 off 18) that propelled the target over 6 an over.
This it should be remembered with a Somerset bowling attack without Lewis Gregory and Jamie Overton and in which Craig Overton only bowled two overs. Ben Green and Ollie Sale both bowled their full allocation and while the latter wasn’t as impressive as he had been at Northampton the former picked up four wickets while only conceding 26 runs. And Josh Davey made a welcome T20 appearance, continuing where he left off a week ago with red ball in hand with 2-17 in his three overs.
It was difficult before the T20 season got underway to guess what line-up Somerset would play but what we are seeing, albeit early in the competition, is a continuation of the policy of giving the “fringe” players experience. In the context of this unusual season the lack of overseas players has allowed most sides to adopt such a policy. The difference is that Somerset are winning while providing very valuable first team experience.
Tom Lammonby provides a case in point. A fixture in the middle order of the Blast side last year he hasn’t figured this year so far but has been developing nicely as a makeshift opener in the longer form of the game. With the imminent departure of Jamie and Dom it is encouraging to see the broadening of the squad and first team experience, doubly so while we are winning!
The weirdness that is the 2020 cricket season continues apace. Somerset play two T20s in the next two days, away to Worcestershire at Edgbaston (of course) tomorrow afternoon and then home to Birmingham on Friday. That will take us to halfway in the group stages of the Blast before the final round of the Bob Willis Trophy at Worcester starting on Sunday. And then, as if two games against “the Pears” in a week isn’t enough, the Worcester Rapids visit Taunton on Friday 11th September.
The announcement of the England squads for the two limited over series against Australia means that Lewis Gregory will be available and with Babar Azam cleared by the PCB and ECB to open the batting there will be more interesting selection decisions to be made tomorrow, weather permitting.
After such a long period without cricket it seems a little strange to have so much cricket in such a short space of time. SomersetNorth is aiming to keep on top of match reports for the rest of the season, hopefully all the way to Lords and Edgbaston. I’ll also try to keep abreast of the other groups in both competitions so look out on Saturday for a review of the Blast at the halfway stage and a preview of the BWT game at Worcester as well as reports on the next two games in the T20 as soon as I can get them written and posted.