The Marchant of ?? Menace ??

Play finally got underway on day 2. Somerset's bowlers, missing their talisman Craig Overton, could not capitalise on winning the toss

Somerset v Surrey, County Championship Group 2, Taunton, May 14th to 17th Surrey 191-4 (Gregory 2-60)

This is one of those games that messes with your mind. Day 2 is day 1, play didn’t start until 2pm – four sessions were lost. When the action got underway Rory Burns wrong call allowed Tom Abell to invite the visitors to have a bat. I digress but doesn’t it annoy you when we say “Somerset won the toss” technically it is a case of Surrey losing the toss isn’t it? Silly I know but these things bother me.

But back to the madness of the day. Having “won” the toss Somerset’s bowlers had conditions to dream about. A green pitch, heavy cloud and the floodlights on. A two-hour session to wreak havoc with the much-vaunted Surrey batting line up.

But Somerset’s bowlers, without Craig Overton and Jack Leach, both rested, the former at the request of the ECB (don’t get me started) seemed to have lost their mojo. Were they missing their leader of the pack? Were they trying too hard knowing the conditions were in their favour? Whatever the reason it was a poor first session. Yes all three Surrey batsmen played and missed frequently, yes Somerset had no luck but 116-1 at tea was not what Jason Kerr would have hoped for.

Which brings me to Marchant. On a day when someone far clever than me came up with the nickname “The Marchant of Menace” his bowling before tea was, much as it has been this season, well lacklustre. There was a bit of a spark when his fellow-countryman Amla first came to the crease but yet again there were too many poor balls and little sign of the “menace” we saw in last season’s Bob Willis Trophy. In Craig’s absence it seemed even more noticeable.

During tea I wondered is he struggling with an injury? Is he not happy at Somerset, does he not agree with his role in the side? Or is it that these early season pitches just don’t suit him? I need Dan Kingdom to do some “Statto Magic” to confirm that one. And then after tea we saw what I was hoping for. Pace, hostility and yes, menace. He induced Rory Burns, who had batted like the international opener he is, to play on by virtue of his extra pace and bounce. 

There was just a glimmer of hope that Marchant could produce a spell and propel Somerset toward maximum bonus points, for that is the game here given the weather forecast. But it was not to be. De Lange bowled well, was threatening but could not add to his solitary wicket.

Surrey’s decline immediately after tea to 119-3 was halted by Ollie Pope, looking the talent he is until Tom Abell got him, giving Tom Banton his first dismissal for Somerset in red ball cricket for a gorgeous 33. But there were to be no further inroads for the hosts with a woefully out of form Ben Foakes (No ECB rest required for him!) and Jordan Smith seeing Surrey to the close at 191-4.

Josh Davey, hugely unlucky, was the pick of the Somerset bowlers. He reminds me on days like these of Mike Hendrick, the unsung support act to Botham and Willis in the England side of the 80s. Bowling beautifully, metronomically beating the bat but with no luck. Davey is the perfect foil to Overton but in Craig’s absence Somerset need de Lange to step up. If there is any play it will be a big day for the big man from Limpopo.