Topsy Turvey

Much to be cheerful about for Somerset supporters despite a decline of 99-7 from 143-0 there is plenty to be cheerful about for Somerset supporters – more play on the first day that anyone could reasonably have hope for, Devon Conway and an imminent return for Tom Abell. But I’m asking all Somerset supporters to say a cricketing prayer this evening.

Somerset v Leicestershire, County Championship Group 2, The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, July 3rd to 7th  2021, Day One, Somerset 242-7 (Conway 88, Davies 65)

Somerset, the side who, as all their supporters know, have to regularly bale themselves out of an early order batting collapse turned that convention on its head at Taunton today with a decline in the second half of the day after Devon Conway and Stephen Davies had added a superb 143 for the first wicket.

This game is far more advanced than anyone expected it to be after the first day. While there was a lengthy interruption in mid-afternoon a total of 74 overs completed in the day was far better than most weather forecasts anticipated. When you consider that the ODI at Bristol was abandoned after only one innings the Cooper Associates County Ground was once again blessed.

Somerset closed on 242-7 which, depending on your point of view you can consider pretty good or very disappointing. In the former’s corner is the argument that this was a good toss for the visitors to win and decent conditions to bowl in. Anything approaching 300 would represent quite an achievement in the first innings of the game. In the opposite corner, having reached 143 without loss 99-7 represents yet another poor batting effort against a bowling attack that is not the strongest in this group.

I allowed myself the thought, misguidedly, just before the rain interruption that perhaps we could bat big and bat once, a luxury rarely afforded to those of us with Dragons close to our hearts. But, once Steve Davies (yet again showing why he is so respected by his peers) was, surprisingly dismissed any hopes of a dominating win slipped away quickly.

Paradoxically the Somerset demise happened in the best batting conditions of the day but as with the Middlesex game on Friday once Devon Conway was dismissed the rest of the batting totally lost its way. The left-handed opener has, in the space of 10 days become a talisman for Somerset, his dismissal producing a gasp from me and I suspect many other Somerset supporters only 12 short of what would have been a deserved debut century.

Back in the day, when the opposition had the temerity to dismiss Sir Viv Somerset supporters felt much the same. It was impossible then for Richards to have made a mistake, his departure must be some cruel fate from a higher authority as there is no other expectation. Already, for me, Conway is in the same category, he seems to bat on a higher level, with more time, a greater range of shots and a superior shot selection to the rest of the side. It is a tribute to how well Davies played that he did not look out of place in Devon’s company.

Conway, as we all know had arrived back at Taunton via South Africa and New Zealand but, we can without doubt claim home as one of our own. He has the most West Country surname in all cricket and so, from this point on he will be known here as much ours as The Quantocks, Cider, or Tractor.

While we have a batsman new to the county who is looking like scoring runs is the easiest thing in the world the man who sits fourth on the county’s all-time run-scorer list is sadly out of sorts. James Hildreth, a man who has a special place in my heart for many reasons but perhaps most poignantly one of my Dad’s all-time favourites. I need every Somerset supporter to make a little prayer for Hildy to recover his form as part of their evening ritual. The prospect of a Somerset side without both Trescothick and Hildreth is one I’m not prepared to contemplate at the moment. Like his more senior lifelong teammate James Hildreth deserves the right to chose when he quits the first-class game. Surely those self same cricketing gods who occasionally play with greats like Richards and Conway can find somewhere in their hearts to give Somerset’s number 4 the runs he deserves.

Surely the Cricketing Gods can see their way to bringing back happier times for James Hildreth?

All is not doom and gloom though while Lewis Gregory didn’t make the side he looks like being ready for Friday and the injury crisis that I feared would derail our season seems to be evaporating. Best, and most surprisingly of all, Tom Abell is expected to return for the Hampshire game on Friday. Captain Fantastic can add “unbelievably quick recovery from injury” to his many other superpowers.

And a final word for the ground staff at Taunton. Their selfless, unremitting toil to get the game started on time after the rain yesterday and again this afternoon was just as crucial to the Championship campaign and Devon and Steve’s runs or Craig’s wickets. Thank you guys.