Damp Squib

Judged in the context of winning the Championship – and that is the point of all this after all – Somerset have either deliberately or by chance significantly improved their prospects over the last four days. But the flaw of the points carry-forward is, as many of us expected, being exposed in the latter part of this competition and I don’t like it.

Somerset v Hampshire, County Championship Group 2, The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, June 3rd to 6th 2021, Day Four, Somerset 360 (Gregory 107, van der Merwe 88, Barker 6-72) and 409-6 declared (Bartlett 100, Abell 98, Davies 82, Banton 51*) drew with Hampshire 311 (Mc Manus 91, Davey 5—78) and 88-2

You can take the title above either way you want, attributing it to the storms that ended play prematurely or the disappointment of the final day of what had previously been an enthralling high-quality contest. 

Somerset’s supporters were still scratching their heads when Tom Banton and George Bartlett walked out at 11am to resume Somerset’s second innings. It was no surprise they did given the use of a nightwatchman the previous evening but if anyone like me was expecting to see the reason for Josh Davey’s appearance last evening become clear they were disappointed.

The first 45 minutes meandered along with neither Somerset batsman looking to do anything aggressive. Hampshire grateful for the overs they would have to bat reducing were in no mood to hurry proceedings along.

Finally there was a change of intent seeming to come from the delivery of a message to the middle. Immediately Banton switched, delightfully into one-day mode with Bartlett happy to do likewise. The pair seemed to have been given a  time limit to reach their personal milestones of century and half century and the runs flowed.

Tom Banton – must bat in the middle order in the Championship after this display

Banton reached his fifty first but when Bartlett followed there was no immediate closure of the innings, instead the declaration was delayed until Bartlett was, pointlessly, dismissed in the following over.

The bizarre tactics by Somerset should not detract from George’s innings. Regular readers will know I am a big fan and when he bats like this I could watch him for hours. His runs made sure there was no danger of the visitors bowling Somerset out and having a gettable target o chase.

Banton likewise will have gained a huge amount of confidence from his hour and a bit in the middle this morning. He looks in prime form as we move into the first phase of the Blast. But, more importantly for me, in a red ball context he has shown that he merits a place in Somerset’s championship middle order.

Anthony Gibson was spot on when he said on commentary that Somerset had effectively wasted 20 overs from the moment Lewis Goldsworthy was dismissed until the gear change kicked in. A target of 459 in 75 overs though certainly made the game safe from a Somerset point of view.

The Hampshire innings never really had enough time to define itself. Lewis Gregory’s dismissal of both openers either side of lunch hinted, at 39-2 that there was a chance Somerset could achieve the dramatic but Sam Northeast and Tom Alsop saw to it that that wasn’t going to happen.

When the rain arrived, initially bringing an early tea and then the end of the game around 5pm it was, even for a diehard Somerset fan like myself more than a little relief. The game had become more that a little pointless.

That though is an ironic word in this context as the pattern of the last part of the game was very much centered around points. Not just the 15 from this game that take Somerset clear at the top of the table and firmly in control of their own destiny in the group when it resume in early July but the fact that Hampshire remain very much in contention in the group as well. If the south-coasters do qualify Somerset will take the most handsome of points total into division one.

Judged in the context of winning the Championship – and that is the point of all this after all – Somerset have either deliberately or by chance significantly improved their prospects over the last four days. But the flaw of the points carry-forward is, as many of us expected, being exposed in the latter part of this competition and I don’t like it. If we are to continue this format in the future then room has to be found for the additional game. No question.

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