Well Batted Both

A fine fifth wicket stand at the end of the day between debutant Lewis Goldsworthy and George Bartlett gave Somerset supporters cause for optimism at the end of day 2

LV County Championship Group 2, Somerset v Middlesex, Taunton, April 29th to May 2nd, Day 2, Somerset 178-4 (Bartlett 43*, Abell 41, Hildreth 39, Goldsworthy 34*) trail Middlesex 357 all out by 179 runs with 6 second innings wickets remaining

It’s not every day that a Somerset batsman moves into the top four all-time leading run scorers for your county. That is has happened twice in this century is even more remarkable. But early in the afternoon session James Hildreth moved passed Bill Alley’s 16,644 with a trademark effortless boundary.

Bill Alley’s Bat in the Somerset Museum – with thanks to Mike Unwin

That boundary took the Somerset total into the twenties as Somerset’s third wicket pair began a repair job after Lammonby and then Banton had departed in quick succession with the score on 16. But before the “another Somerset top order collapse” brigade saddle up and ride into view it is worth considering that the young Somerset openers had shaped up pretty well in tough conditions. 

Both had looked less frenetic, more organised and very determined to play a proper red-ball innings. They are developing, they still need time but I believe that before this campaign is out we will be treated to something pretty special from the Top Order Tom’s ©

The day up to that point had been a strange staccato one, A 50 minute first session where Somerset bowled with much better control and picked up the wicket of Luke Holman. When play resumed after an early lunch Middlesex needed 12 runs off two overs to pick up their fourth batting bonus point. Somerset needed two wickets to pick up maximum batting points. The first over of the session saw the visitors get 11 of those runs as Tom Abell bowled the epitome of a loosener or three.

The 110th over started with Anthony Gibson, quite reasonably opining that Somerset’s chances of picking up another bonus point was significantly slimmer that Middlesex’s. Remarkably halfway through the over Josh Davey had removed White and Finn without conceding a run. For a change Somerset had picked up that elusive final bonus point.

Tim Murtagh picked up two lofted boundaries behind the wicket before Davey had him caught at fine leg off the last ball of the over. Davey, who had been unable to contribute as much in this innings as his captain would have liked showed his value yet again finishing with 3-33 off just 14 overs.

Hildreth’s opportunity to significantly eat into the gap between him and third placed Peter Wight ended with the first ball after tea. A promising third wicket stand of 70 which was beginning to blossom in the latter part of the afternoon session ended. 

That left Abell, now joined by George Bartlett, with the bulk of the responsibility, initially to pass the 208 follow-on target. Abell could consider himself fortunate to have still been there at tea having been given two reprieves in the 19th over. Both thanks to Middlesex slip catching which seemed to want to emulate the Somerset performance on the first morning. Having added 10 to his interval score however Abell, in a seeming loss of concentration, tamely chipped a low catch to a specifically placed short mid-wicket. Somerset’s two premier batsmen gone within five overs of the resumption still 110 short of their initial target.

Lewis Goldsworthy joined George Bartlett the latter at the start of a curate’s egg of an innings mixing gorgeous drives with numerous play and misses and edges. Only one of those edges went to hand but Middlesex, in the form of Sam Robson, shelled a sharp chance at second slip.

A further rain interruption came on the stroke of 5 with Bartlett on 18 and Goldsworthy, who was looking calm and very organised, 5. 120-4. When they resumed an hour later the Somerset fifth wicket pair faced an awkward 14 overs until the close. The fact that they negotiated through to the close without being separated adding 80, while not turning the game on its head, has kept Somerset in the context.

With Hampshire looking like they will only pick up 1 point and Gloucestershire also staring at a minimal bonus point return Somerset’s first objective must be to ensure they can’t be beaten while maximising their haul of batting bonus points. Just another 222 in 55 overs needed!

The deficit is still substantial (Somerset are half way to a first innings lead) but if these two could bat through until lunch tomorrow Somerset could put themselves in a position to put real pressure on Middlesex in their second innings. Memories of the Saturday collapse at Lord’s will still be fresh in the away dressing room, it might be Somerset’s biggest weapon.

For now though, let’s all enjoy Lewis Goldsworthy’s debut and hope that both he and George can make substantial contributions tomorrow. Well batted both.