The (Almost) Immovable Object

One man stood between Somerset and their hopes of lifting the Bob Willis Trophy. Sir Alistair Cook batted almost all day for a monumental 172 but Somerset are not out of this after a superb final session fightback

Bob Willis Trophy Final – Somerset v Essex, September 23rd – 27th 2020, Day 3 Somerset 119-4 (Byrom 51*, S Cook 2-38) Essex 271-6  (Cook 172, Gregory 4-58)

The beauty of writing a blog post rather than constructing a match report is that you can focus on what you want to and ignore the bits you don’t want to write about.

At tea Essex were 196-1 off 65 overs, Cook 131* off 208 balls and Westley 51 off 136. Having said last evening that day 3 was going to be moving day for Essex’s knight, much to Somerset’s frustration, it was un-moving day. He faced 289 balls and hit 26 fours in his 172 and was responsible for 65% of his side’s total when he was dismissed with the second new ball.

Now I’ve got nothing against Sir Alistair, you can’t have anything but admiration for everything he’s achieved at county and international level but if I never have to watch him bat again I won’t be disappointed. It is just so hard to watch.

What you can’t deny is that the man is a class act. And he demonstrated it here surviving testing opening spells from both Craig Overton and Lewis Gregory before steadily expand his range of shot and, significantly upping his scoring rate through the afternoon.

That solitary success in the first two sessions was Nick Browne who looked like a man who hadn’t had an innings at this level for over a month. You couldn’t fault the Somerset bowlers or fielders who kept at it in difficult conditions. To say Essex have had the better of the conditions on all three days would be an understatement. This was a horrid day to be in the field, cold with a strong blustery wind on a surface which appears to be getting lower and slower quite quickly. But despite the adversity a Somerset head did not drop.

This, for me, is one of the joys of cricket and one of the joys of supporting your team. I’m not sure if it’s a result of the early years of my Somerset support but there is something pleasurable in the sheer bloody-mindedness of suffering with your team adversities such as this. 

In truth it is probably one of the many virtues my Dad has instilled in me. He supported Somerset before I arrived on the scene through thin and thinner and there was no way any son of his was going to turn his back on Somerset just because things were going against us.

Immediately after tea this fabulous Somerset side got reward. Tom Abell’s slightly surprising decision to persevere with Tom Lammonby after tea got almost immediate reward with Westley chipping his first and the second ball after tea to the skipper at short mid-wicket.

Lewis Gregory followed up with two in two balls in the following over removing Dan (“Phoebe”) Lawrence caught Lammonby at mid-wicket and then trapping the gargantuan Walter lbw first ball.

Jack Leach who had looked in need of a long bowl before tea, switched ends to replace Lammonby and began to bowl in the way we know he is capable of. Both Cook and “he who shall not be named” found him a real threat with almost every ball. Importantly Somerset began to exert the real control which has been so instrumental to their success this year. Cook added only 17 in the first hour after tea as Essex moved from 196-1 to 227-4.

This period of stagnation was a bit of a phoney war with the two, very experienced Essex batsmen focussed on just one thing, surviving to face the new ball. Leach particularly settled into a beautiful rhythm from the Pavilion End in glorious sunshine. The result was a change in the dynamic of the game in this period. While not taking the advantage away from Essex, the importance of the new ball grew significantly.

The new ball was you sensed going to be critical. When it arrived, Somerset knew that they had to take the wicket of Cook and several of his teammates quickly if they were not to trail on first innings. 

Craig Overton struck with the first ball of his second over with the new ball removing ten Doeschate LBW 264-5. Essex eschewed the option of a night-watchman for a night-Porter, Jamie of that ilk to be precise. With six overs remaining and a fired up Overton steaming in he had his work cut out. He was lucky an inadvertent jab which looped into the air didn’t fall to hand from his first ball and had equally little clue with his third. That brought Ben Green in at short leg as Craig set about the Essex seamer in a way that was almost cruel.

The next over brought even more good news for Somerset fans with Lewis Gregory removing Cook thanks to a very good low catch at second slip. A dismissal made even more impressive given the sharp shadows and low sun shining directly into his eyes. 

Essex trail by 30 with four wickets left. Somerset have done magnificently to fightback as they have.

There is still a lot of cricket to be played in this game and a lot can happen. While Somerset are definitely behind in the game you only have to look back to the events of the last afternoon and evening of last season to realise what Tom Abell’s side are capable of.