A Spot of Bother

Somerset's official twitter account just after midday was spot on but it got a whole lot worse.

LV County Championship Group 2, Middlesex v Somerset, Lord’s Day 2, Middlesex 313 Gregory 5-64 & 87-2 lead Somerset 172 de Lange 51 by 228 runs

Not my words but a tweet from the SCCC when the skipper was dismissed just after midday. It is fair to say it got a whole lot worse, 89-9 worse before the last wicket pair of Jack Leach and Marchant de Lange almost doubled the total adding 83 for the last wicket.

If Somerset’s bowlers were below par on the first morning they were hugely improved after tea today. Craig and Lewis were right on it from the from their respective first balls reducing Middlesex to 14-2 (both to Craig) when first innings centurion Robson departed. Somerset needed to bowl Middlesex out for less than 100, a tough ask at the best of times and almost impossible on this surface.

By the close Middlesex had extended their lead to 228 runs a completely dominant position from which Somerset seem to have little chance to escape with anything. With no lost time the visitors will have to bat more than 4 sessions or chase well in excess of 350. That would be a performance of champions.

Amazing thing social media. A place where a team can go from certainties for the title to wooden spooners in the space of an hour. Those of us who are little more experienced in the ways of cricket or a little less bullish at the start of the season will not have gone from such extremes in such a short space of time. But the underlying concern about the frailties of this Somerset batting side were on display in abundance at the first attempt in this year’s Championship.

It was a procession either side of lunch (40-4) with little to mitigate. Middlesex’s bowlers showed what can be done in these conditions and with the ageless Tim Murtagh to the fore offered no respite for the beleaguered Somerset line up, Lammonby and Hildreth might have benefitted from DRS if it existed in this competition. But that is merely scratching at the surface.

Somerset’s success in the last two seasons has been due to their batsmen getting just enough runs for their stellar bowling attack. Remember last season a score of 200 was beyond almost all of Somerset’s opponents. 

To put it into perspective Somerset outscored Sam Robson by just 7 on first innings on a day when Essex, Kent and Hampshire amassed 490-9, 455 and 612-5. It is a complete mystery to me how they are unable to regularly put significant totals on the board. Ask any of the other 17 first class counties if they’d take any of the three Tom’s, Hildy or George Bartlett off us and they’d jump at the chance. Just remember all five are serious talents and will over the course of their respective careers each score a huge amount of runs. 

I am sure far greater cricketing brains than mine are scratching their heads and in the case of Messrs Hurry, Kerr and Troughton will be working so hard to do what is needed. In a game that is essentially a collection of one-on-one battles what is clearly needed is collective confidence. Even if not a conscious thought I suspect somerset’s top order are all putting themselves under more pressure feeling that they have to score runs as those around them aren’t. That tightens and restricts natural ability and at this level that can be the difference between success and failure. Reverse that mindset with a couple of decent team totals and the problems will go away.

It would be nice if that would begin tomorrow.But for now this is a real problem and if Somerset can’t turn it around in the second innings here they will return to Taunton well of the pace in their group after only the first round of games.