Somerset’s C is Better Than Hampshire’s Two A’s and a B

When you score only five runs less that the entire opposition’s first innings having out-bowled their three-man seam attack and then take your 350th career wicket you know you’ve had a good day. Somerset’s C, Craig Overton’s contribution in this game so far is far better than Hampshire’s Abbas, Abbot and Barker.

Hampshire v Somerset, County Championship Group 2, The Ageas Bowl, Southampton, May 6th to 10th 2021, Day 2, Hampshire 79 (Gregory 4-26) and 92-3 (Overton 3-24) trail Somerset 336 (Overton 74, Abell 64) by 165 runs with 7 second innings wickets remaining

If you want to explain to someone who did not watch this day’s play the contrast between the Somerset and Hampshire batting you don’t need to look any further than the relative scoring rates. Somerset added 215 in 46 overs in the first half of the day, a rate of just under 5 an over. At tea, Hampshire were 28-0 off 16 – 1.75 per over. At that rate of progress Hampshire would need 144 overs to erase the 257 run first innings deficit which would occupy the whole of another full day’s play and three more overs.

Somerset’s free scoring had meant that they were able to begin the task of bowling Hampshire out a second time to seal the win by mid-afternoon. The improving weather forecast gives us all hope that there will be more play over the weekend than we had originally feared. And Somerset remain in an enviously strong position. There is no need to press any panic buttons, this is what four-day cricket is all about. Any right-minded Somerset supporter would have taken this position at the end of day two before a ball was bowled yesterday. But there is a lot of hard work still to be done to seal what would be a very important win.

With overhead conditions improving for batting Somerset supporters knew the work required in Hampshire’s second innings was considerably more than the first innings. It took until the 25th over to make the initial breakthrough with Overton removing Holland

The final session saw Hampshire’s glacial progress continue, apart from a weird two over spell where the previously utterly frugal Lewis Gregory and Tom Abell conceded five boundaries, runs were at a premium. Joe Weatherley reached 100 balls with his score in the low 20s but Tom Alsop, thanks to that flurry of boundaries, had raced past his partner of just 40 balls. 

Jack Leach’s first bowl of the game did not come until just before 5.30 on the second day. Encouragingly he got some immediate turn and bounce. I have a feeling that Taunton Deane’s Jack will have a big part to play tomorrow.

The final word of the day though had to go to Craig Overton. Brought back for a final burst he gave Weatherley a torrid time in his first over before rushing Alsop’s attempted pull which resulted in a simple catch to Josh Davey at mid-off. He then removed nightwatchman Kyle Abbot in his last over of the day to finish with 3-24 off 15 overs and Hampshire on 92-3. 

The close of play position see Hampshire still trailing by 165 runs, more than double their first innings score and crucially with Sam Northeast having to face the fresh Somerset bowlers whenever play starts tomorrow. Those last four overs of the day could prove the pivotal moment of this second innings.

In the first half of the day every one of Somerset’s batsmen made a significant contribution to their first innings. Strangely, given how well he batted on Thursday, Abell was the one who found the going toughest on the second day. He was the first to go bowled by Kyle Abbott having added only 12 to his overnight score.

Jack Leach – Nightwatchman of The Year 2019?

Jack Leach began at a run a ball stroking several off-side boundaries in a typically combative 34. When he departed 22 overs into the day he had more than done his job for the side.

Make no mistake batting had not become easy on this most capricious of surfaces. The Hampshire seam trio of Abbas, Abbot and Barker frequently beat the bat and induced false strokes but this seemed of little concern to Craig Overton. When he replaced Leach he immediately began scoring fluently with typical Craig O scoring shots of fearsome brutality. But this is a much sounder version of North Devon’s finest in 2021, he went to his second 50 immediately after lunch at a shade under a run a ball but had also demonstrated the sound defence and technique needed in this game.

Overton was 9th out for 74, only five short of matching the output of Hampshire’s first innings on his own. By that time Somerset had picked up a third bowling point and increased their lead to in excess of 200. Overton had been well supported by 33s from both Davies and the unbeaten Lewis Gregory.