Good Rain

At the halfway point Somerset still have a place at Lords in their own hands. But after a superb second half of the day much remains to be done.

Bob Willis Trophy Central Group, v Worcestershire v Somerset, Worcester, September 6-9, 2020, Day 2 Somerset 251 (Abell 59, Gregory 37) and 16-1 lead Worcestershire 200 (Davey 3-32, Overton 3-40) by 67 runs

By 3pm on the second day of this pivotal Bob Willis Trophy game, with an early tea having been taken due to an early afternoon squall Somerset had made minimal progress in their task of securing a fourth win and with it a place in the Lords final. 

Worcestershire in the form of Jake Libby, Daryl Mitchell and Tom Fell had moved the hosts to 121 -1 with, truth be told little alarm. As expected, Somerset’s closest pursuers were providing a much stiffer test than any of their previous four opponents.

Somerset hadn’t bowled particularly badly, the surface was offering little to the bowlers although Jack Leach was getting some lift and turn, but Craig Overton (troubled by issues with the bowling crease) and Josh Davey were a little below their stellar form of 2020 and both Lewis Gregory and Jack Brooks bowled with little luck.

Brooks would have been justified if he had eaten his lunchtime sandwiches through clenched teeth. Having trapped Libby LBW off the last ball of the session he heard umpire Bailey’s call of no-ball to cancel out a fine delivery. With the extra ball he induced a slip which Jack Leach, unexpectedly fielding at first slip was unable to hold on to.

The immediate post-lunch period, unlike the first day, did not indicate any shift in the respective fortunes of the two sides adding another 27 without loss.

I found myself thinking of that win that was snatched away from us at Edgbaston by the rain and started scribbling points combinations for the top five in the competition fearing at best a draw for Tom Abell’s side. Encouragement was to be found in the fortunes of Derbyshire were conspiring to fall in a first innings heap against Lancashire at Aigburth, where the Liverpool CC ground was living up to its reputation of being a tough place to bat. The chances of any batting bowling points for the North group leaders had gone and with a first innings deficit of over 100 the win was also looking extremely unlikely. With Yorkshire rained off for the day at Leeds it looks like the North group may be the ones to miss out on a final place.

At Chelmsford Essex had secured a first innings lead of 98 and were gradually working their way through Middlesex’s second innings. A win seeming inevitable. After drawing the fire of one Don Topley on twitter last evening by quoting Cricinfo’s match report on day one, the pernicious Chelmsford surface seemed to be a little less challenging for the batsmen. I await Mr Topley’s follow up with interest! 

But for a change this particular form of precipitation seemed to be just what somerset needed. The conditions didn’t seem to change much but with a now ageing ball the break was just want was needed. Within an hour and a half of the resumption Somerset’s bowlers had turned the contest if not decisively then at least significantly in their favour. 

Worcestershire were dismissed for 200, a collapse of 79-9 in 22 overs had been engineered by the Somerset bowlers but this time it was Lewis Gregory and Jack Brooks who made the initial breakthroughs. 121-1 became 128-4 with Fell, Haynes and Libby all back in the pavilion within 3 overs.

The one thing you don’t need to give this Somerset bowling attack is any sort of sniff of an opportunity. Doubly so when Craig Overton was walking from second slip to second slip harbouring a sense of injustice. When Tom Abell threw him the ball he immediately made amends removing D’Oliveira, the counter attacking Wessels, after a little “interaction” thanks to a superb Eddie Byrom catch and Ben Cox caught by Abell at third slip

Josh Davey, who had joined Overton in the Somerset attack, removed Ed Barnard playing on and swiftly wrapped up the innings removing Joe Leach caught by his namesake at first slip and Josh Tongue. Two statistical notes, this was the first batting bonus point Somerset have conceded in the competition while Josh Davey reached 100 Somerset wickets when he removed Barnard.

While a lead of 51 is not game-winning it is certainly significant in games at this time of year which typically are low scoring and where runs accumulated per innings decline as the game progresses.

Tom Lammonby and Tom Abell saw their side to the close for the loss of only Ben Green in a tricky period of fading September light to an early close but there is still much to do. A target of over 200 would be ideal especially as I can’t see any shift in the balance of power between bat and ball but, yet again Somerset will need their bowlers to propel them to victory.

The weather forecast for Worcester indicates that we should see two full days’ play so it seems that in all probability this game will see a positive result which would be enough, for the winners to go to Lords. After two days of this fascinating contest Somerset still have matters in their own hands.

Will they do it? The first hour / session will be crucial tomorrow. If Somerset could emerge from that with a lead in excess of 130 with no more than four wickets down, then absolutely yes. Time for the two Toms to do it again?   

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