Bob Willis Trophy Central Group, v Worcestershire v Somerset, Worcester, September 6-9, 2020, Day 3 Somerset 251 (Abell 59, Gregory 37) and 193 (Lammonby 107*, Barnard 4-25 lead Worcestershire 200 (Davey 3-32, Overton 3-40) and 58-2 by 67 runs
We’ve had some tense mornings of cricket in the last few years in the County Championship us Somerset fans haven’t we but I’ll wager there haven’t been many of those that have exceeded this one. You know the sort of mornings when you have a perpetual knot in your stomach and the beginning of a headache.
Somerset fans are entitled to feel, once again, hard done by for this state of affairs. Having missed out on 8 points at Edgbaston they are still fighting for a win in this game to reach the final. Those lost points would have already sealed a place as Essex, who won by 9 wickets by just after midday finish on 90 from their five games.
It continues to beggar belief that Chelmsford consistently sees earlier finishes than almost any other ground in any given round of four day cricket with little comment let alone censure. But win they did (their fourth). The failure of Derbyshire to pick up any batting bonus points (195 all out) means the most they can garner from Aigburth with a win would also be 90 with three wins, hence they would lose out on the tie breaker to Essex.
So by lunch at New Road Worcestershire knew that if they could win this game they would be heading to Lords to meet Essex by virtue of their far superior number of wickets taken.
Jason Kerr said at the end of day 2 that his side would be targeting a lead of over 200. While Kerr is a far better judge of these things, and is proved right more often than not I really wanted 250+ using the simple expedient of wanting Worcestershire to have to make the game’s highest score in the final innings.
By lunch Kerr’s side had increased their advantage to 141 but for the loss of a further five. To say the game was delicately balanced would be an understatement. Somerset’s advantage to this point had to be chiselled out of the New Road pitch and some wonderfully accurate Worcestershire bowling. The first 30 mins saw only two runs for the loss of the skipper to the first ball of the day and while the rate of scoring picked up subsequently no batsmen ever looked comfortable as individual scores of 7,2,12,14 and 2 for the batsmen dismissed testify.
The one exception was Tom Lammonby who was unbeaten on 51 off 134 balls. In a game this low scoring and this close this was an innings of the highest quality and value worth easily double his unbeaten maiden century at Taunton in the second innings last time out.
The surface had become increasingly difficult to bat on as 14 wickets for 169 since tea yesterday indicates. The third morning saw an increase in the variable bounce as well as considerable encouragement for spin in the form of Brett D’Oliveira. Both encouraging to Somerset’s bowling attack augmented in this game by Jack Leach who Kerr described last evening as “world class”.
If the morning session had seen honours shared between Lammonby and the Worcestershire bowlers the afternoon belonged to Somerset’s young opener. He moved nicely through the gears as the innings progressed and was instrumental in the last 4 wickets adding 111 runs.
The initial progress before lunch with Gregory continued after before Lewis was caught by Jake Libby running back from cover for 17. Josh Davey announced his arrival with a nicely timed drive for 4 and continued his fine work with the bat from the first innings with 21 in a partnership of 55.
The eighth wicket partnership was defined by the 63rd over bowled by D’Oliveira which went for 20 runs (Davey 13, Lammonby 7) including a glorious six by Tom and two sweetly timed clipped drives by Josh. The lead was 227 when Davey went, caught superbly at mid-wicket off a fierce pull.
Lammonby, now in the company of Jack Leach, continued in the calmly controlled manner that defined this innings. Taking advantage of the bad balls clinically and showing due respect to the good balls he inched closer to his hundred. As if to emphasise his mastery he went to his hundred in the grand style driving D’Oliviera over long-on for six.
With the lead on 241 Leach, who had just played a sumptuous cover drive, departed LBW to Barnard to a ball that looked to me to have pitched just outside leg stump and three runs later Brooks followed caught behind off a wafty off drive.
Lammonby marched off undefeated on 107 an innings that defied adjectival praise carrying his bat for 222 balls. He became the youngest player to carry his bat beating a record that had stood for 106 years. Long forgotten will be the disappointment of being dismissed twice on the first day at Northampton.
It is no exaggeration to say this was an innings that was career-defining. Admiration for the knock has clearly gone beyond the sphere of Somerset supporters, it was described by The County Cricket Podcast as perhaps the innings of the tournament so far:
Tea was taken between innings after which Somerset’s bowlers turned the screw on Mitchell and Libby in an almost exact reprise of what we had seen at the start of Somerset’s second innings. While neither Libby or Mitchell looked in great discomfort they were give absolutely nothing by Overton or Davey.
The pressure created bore fruit in the tenth over, Lewis Gregory’s first, when Mitchell was comprehensively bowled through the gate for 2 with the total on 5. He repeated the same trick to remove the other opener, Libby, for 23 when the score was 30.
Thereafter, in fading light, Tom Fell and Jack Haynes inched Worcestershire at the close, which they reached early due to bad light on 54-2. In truth the five Somerset bowlers used (Abell preferring himself to Leach) were tidy but not threatening in this phase.
Somerset would have liked another wicket this evening 54-3 would seem a lot better than 54-2 but the positive of the early closure is that they have a less old ball to open up with tomorrow morning. Somerset remain firm favourites, especially as they have removed the two openers around who Worcestershire have built most of their substantial totals this year.
The pattern of this game so far and the trend of similar Somerset games over the last couple of seasons suggest they will bowl their way to a comfortable victory. If they do a Lords final and a chance to partly avenge last season’s last game against Essex beckons.
There is though, a postscript worth mentioning. We still have another day to play and, as we saw at Bristol, Covid which has been kind to the English domestic season can still throw a spanner in the works. With the developing story that the ECB may send issues of the tie-breaker to their technical committee if Derbyshire were to win, with a view to using net run rate as opposed to the published tie-breaker, there may yet be a twist in the tail of this season.