Unnecessary Risk?

Steve Kirby will probably hate me for saying this. Jason Kerr will counter with a bunch of good reasons why I am wrong. But I can’t for the life of me understand why Somerset didn’t enforce the follow on. The reasons must be to give the bowlers a “rest” in a situation where the game was safe. But it allowed the balance in a game that Somerset have been in control of from the start to tip away from them when enforcing the follow on wouldn’t have done.

Surrey v Somerset, County Championship Group 2, The Oval, July 11th to 14th 2021, Somerset 429 (Hildreth 107, Lammonby 42) and 60-7 (Ashwin 5-23) lead Surrey 240 (Leach 6-43, van der Merwe 4-54) by 249 runs

By batting again, albeit with a lead of 189, against Ravi Ashwin on a surface that is, to say the least difficult to bat on, Somerset eschewed the opportunity of bowling Surrey out again, a second time and winning by an innings or at worst having a small fourth innings chase. Asking Surrey bat again would have ensured that there was not even a scintilla of a chance of defeat.

While it would be tough for a side to score 250 in a Championship game in two sessions on a flat pitch it is almost impossible at The Oval today. But it is that word almost that worries me. I am not prepared to allow Surrey even a slim chance to win this game. I want us to finish on a high and bounce into the last two T20s full of confidence.

Call me old fashioned but is it really necessary to “rest” Jack, Roelof, Marchant and Jack. Leach hasn’t bowled in a first team game for over a month, Brooks, de Lange, van der Merwe and Green will at most have to bowl four overs on Friday evening and four on Sunday afternoon and then have a week until they begin their One Day Cup title defence. 

In the days of strength and conditioning I find it hard to believe that that is beyond their capabilities or would seriously prejudice Somerset’s chance of progressing in the T20.

But, as I was described on Twitter last week by one kind correspondent, paraphrasing with expletives and references to imprisonment removed, I am a sad old blogger who doesn’t know what he is talking about.

The only logic I can find is that the Somerset brains trust felt that by giving the bowlers, Leach and van der Merwe especially, a couple of hours rest and they had a better chance of bowling Surrey out a second time. And as I’ve said many times before Jason Kerr et al know far more about cricket than I ever will.

Whatever the rights and wrongs what this decision produced this morning, after Somerset had taken the last two Surrey wickets in 17 minutes, was an opportunity for Ravi Ashwin to repay a part of The Ovalites investment in him. He removed Davies (probably didn’t hit it), Lammonby (what was he thinking?), Hildreth (palpably lbw on the back foot), Bartlett bowled and van der Merwe lbw. Ashwin has 5-23 in 13 overs.

With Moriarty taking a wicket in each of his first two overs Roelof only got 74 minutes of rest and Jack Leach 100 before they were on their way to the middle to face Surrey’s triumvirate of spinners.

Somerset reached lunch on 60-7, a lead of 249

I’ll just ask this question. Will the ECB’s pitch inspectors attention be drawn to a surface that produced 61 runs for 9 wickets in 30.1 overs.

Hampshire have picked up two Gloucestershire wickets this morning, but Gloucestershire have reduced the deficit to 52 with five wickets left.