The Forlorn Pilgrimage

A last trip of the season to The County Ground to witness a third consecutive defeat in Division One and end any hope of that first ever title ... for another year.

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 314 (Lammonby 100, Azhar Ali 50, Wells 3-8) trail by 57 runs with 6 second innings wickets standing

For one last time the faithful descended on the County Ground, all to familiarly to us in the last three weeks they journeyed more in hope than expectation, their side’s hopes resting primarily on an overnight pair at opposite ends of their careers. 

James Hildreth hitherto desperately short of runs and confidence who had, in the last hour of the second day looked much more like the Hildy we all know and love, a man who knows that few opportunities like these to turn things around for his side remain in a distinguished career that yesterday took him to third on the all-time first-class run scorers for his county. Only his long-time buddy at the heart of the west country batting order, Marcus Trescothick and another who’s name adorns the hill adjacent to the pavilion named after Trescothick, the troubled genius that was Harold Gimblett.

Gimblett made a career of carrying a frail Somerset batting order, how he would empathise with the task that faced Hildreth at the start of the third day. The role of supporting Hildreth fell to Lewis Goldsworthy a Cornish tyro in his first season who has looked in the last couple of weeks as though his first season in the first team cannot end too soon. After being omitted for Scarborough last week his second team century forced his way back ahead of the claims of Tom Banton and George Bartlett.

The task that faced the local pair was to wipe off the remaining 57 run deficit on first innings and then help their side to something that could be defendable by their bowlers. Although to be fair in the absence of Messrs Overton, Davey, Gregory and Leach that something could have been of an order it was probably best not to think about.

That familiar walk, first done in 1970 from Canon Street Car Park, along Middles Street and into St James Street. The view may have changed, the feelings have not, this is my place as it was my father’s and wherever I may be in the world two cricketing hearts, father and son, will always be here.  

And that is what is so special about Somerset cricket, it is a unique club at the heart of the county and its people. For another season that collective heart is broken by the failure to secure a first Championship but unlike in previous seasons this will not be a case of so near with Somerset slippiing to their third consecutive defeat in Division One.

The biggest cheer of a truncated day came at 11:48 when Jack Brooks edged George Balderson through Lancashire’s porous slip cordon to avoid the triple indignity of a third innings defeat. Fun as it was, a large dose of Taunton humour, it succinctly encapsulated the disappointment of the last 2 weeks. This was hoped, supposed to be a strong title challenge for a side well placed at the start of the finals phase of the competition. The height of achievement now is not even a consolation win but damage limitation in terms of the margin of defeat.

The romantics among us had hoped that we would see James Hildreth top out his career landmark of yesterday with something significant today but he was first to go having added only 4, leaving almost before the catch to dismiss him was taken in the manner of a man who has come to accept his fate from the cricketing Gods.

Hildreth’s overnight partner went three overs later, having looked comfortable and eased into his days work with three beautifully timed fours. But Tom Bailey was too canny for young Lewis nipping one back to trap him lbw

Roelof did Roelof things for 24 balls but never suggested any degree of permanence and eventually fell caught in the cordon. Marchant de Lange completed the second pair of the match for a Somerset batsman departing second ball and Jack Brooks made a run a b all 15 to help Steve Davies see up the 300. But it was, in all honesty, a procession which ended when Ned Leonard was caught behind leaving Steve Davies unbeaten of 22.

The Lancashire target was 31. Their innings lasted only 35 balls but each was like a dagger to the heart. Somerset reduced to going through the motions of a defeat by lunch on the third day. It hurts like hell this afternoon,