Somerset v Lancashire, County Championship Division One, Taunton September 12th to 15th Lancashire 373 (Wells 100, Croft 71, Bailey 54*, Bohannon 50, Brooks 4-77, Abell 3-63) Somerset 90 and 226-4 (Lammonby 100, Azhar Ali 50) trail by 57 runs with 6 second innings wickets standing
At 2.14 Somerset’s first innings in their last home Championship match of the season ended in the 39th over. Azhar Ali who had batted all but two balls of that innings dismissed for 39. For those of you who have been away visiting another planet for the last couple of weeks that is the highest individual score by a Somerset batsman in their last six championship innings.
Since scoring 429 in the first innings at The Oval in July Somerset’s red ball innings totals are: 69, 107, 181, 134 and 141, a sequence emphatically punctuated with this exclamation mark of a performance in front of the Somerset faithful.
It all started as well as possible with two wickets in the first fifteen minutes to wrap up the Lancashire first innings. In that brief spell the Marchant de Lange I have wanted to see all seasons emerged all pace and bristling hostility. But in an innings that had allowed the opposition to score at least a hundred too many it was a case of too little too late from the big paceman.
Somerset shuffled the batting pack again with Ben Green promoted to open, Tom Abell at 4 and James Hildreth at 5 but Green like his predecessors atop the order perished promptly bowled by a Bailey beauty second ball.
For a while (12 overs and 3 balls) Tom Lammonby and Azhar Ali appeared to be batting with both purpose and resolve taking the score to 32. But then in the space of just seven overs three wickets fell for just seven runs as Lammonby, Abell and Hildreth departed. Lewis Goldsworthy and Azhar saw their side to lunch without further loss at 46-4 but it was close with the young Cornish batsman looking particularly vulnerable outside off stump.
The last of those pre-lunch wickets to fall was James Hildreth. A man who is so palpably short of confidence at the moment that it painful to see. He had already been reprieved by not being adjudged lbw to a ball that looked to be hitting all three, but it was a short reprieve as he left in the following over.
These days Somerset batting collapses seem to happen in consecutive innings, but in this game we managed two in the same innings either side of the lunch break. And the second was even more spectacular than the first.
Goldsworthy, having been dropped at first slip by Luke Wells perished at second and within the blink of an eye 65-5 became 76-8. Davies (1) van der Merwe (4 off 2 balls) and de Lange (second ball duck). It could have been 76-9 if the fallible Lancashire slip cordon had held onto a chance at second slip off Brooks first ball.
The only ray of light in the first innings was a sumptuous Ned Leonard off drive but Azhar, who had changed his bat on Leonard’s arrival a sign I hoped of a more aggressive approach, was unable to keep Leonard company going lbw to the second ball of the returning Tom Bailey’s tenth over.
Unsurprisingly the talk between innings in a ground that was not a happy place was very much around whether Somerset could take this into a third day. A deficit of 283 and a first innings that lasted two balls under 40 overs did not bode well for those of us planning to spend day 3 at the ground.
So, how do you explain a teatime score of 89-1 off just 17 overs? The Somerset’s batsmen’s approach, presumably on the basis that a prudent approach wasn’t working, was much much more positive second time around. I scribbled in my notes after 10 overs, when Tom Lammonby had almost run himself out for the second time in the innings that this was “aggressive bordering on reckless”.
But I tell you what it was fun. The first wicket partnership passed the almost unheralded 50 mark with Ben Green on 28 off 35 balls and Tom Lammonby 23 off 25 which included a sumptuously timed six over deep mid-wicket. With six overs to the break Dane Vilas turned to the leg-spin of Matt Parkinson for the first time in the game but after a pair of singles and a four off the first three balls Green tried something too expansive and was routinely stumped for 31.
Azhar Ali, a little over an hour after his first innings dismissal, joined Lammonby to see the home side to tea without further loss as the former continued his “positive” approach to reach 45 off just 48 balls at the break. And they continued merrily after the break too. Lammonby defending resolutely and hitting cleanly saw Somerset into the last hour with the deficit reduced to under a hundred.
Lammonby reached his hundred just after 5pm with a second glorious straight six off Parkinson. With Azhar settled into a nice rhythm and the partnership worth over 100 you felt that f the second wicket pair could just get to the close that would, while not putting Somerset in control, at least offer a semblance of hope especially against a Lancashire attack that was palpably tiring as the evening session wore on. Matt Parkinsos second spell from the River End had not produced any further success with Lammonby, straight sixes aside, scoring it seemed at will against the leggie.
Dane Vilas, in it seemed desperation turned to the very occasional spin of Luke Wells (73 career first class wickets), it proved to be inspirational as he dismissed Lammonby, Abell and Azhar Ali in the space of 3 overs. 194-1 had become 199-4. If ever Somerset needed James Hildreth to rediscover his form now was the time.
The initial signs were promising, the footwork and assurance seemed back, remarkably compared to his scratchy first innings. He received a huge boost when he reached 11 to move past Peter Wight and into third on the list off all-time leading runs scorers for the county, an achievement pleasingly acknowledged by the Lancashire fielders when it was announced by Mark Tyler at the end of the over.
Hildreth finished on 22 not out and Lewis Goldsworthy 5.
Among the wreckage of Somerset’s three division one games this season this weas at least a pleasingly proud and positive effort by Somerset, something that this club and crowd desperately needed.