Sticking To The Task

On the evidence of today you have to say that if ever there was a surface for the Somerset batsmen to get back into form this is it. On the evidence of the last three weeks tha

Warwickshire v Somerset, County Championship Division One, September 21st to 24th 2021, Edgbaston, Birmingham, Day 1, Warwickshire 283-4 (Hain 83*)

Warwickshire’s players and ground staff appear not to have read the ECB’s script for the last round of Championship matches. While wickets tumbled at Chelmsford (a ridiculous 25) Canterbury (14), both of little surprise but neither likely to attract any notice from the powers that be, Bristol (16) and most relevantly Aigburth (13) the Edgbaston surface and the diligence if adventurousness of the Warwickshire batsmen on a first day track that clearly was in favour of the batsmen bucked the trend.

Mind you The Oval where Glamorgan reached 359-4 (Eddie Byrom 45) and Derby, where the home side’s 371-5 probably owed something to Sussex’s underpowered bowling, also bucked the trend of result pitches.

It really is a disgrace that yet again a blind eye will be turned to these poor pitches because it is seamers taking the wickets. At some point Essex need to start the season with a points deduction to prove at the very least that all counties are competing on a level playing field (no pun intended).

But back to Edgbaston. You have to wonder what could have been if only Somerset could have produced the results to match Tom Abell’s success with the toss in the last month. Four wins out of four and another insertion of the opposition but you suspect the skipper would have been a little more hopeful with Craig Overton, Josh Davey and Jack Leach back in the side.

The main talking point however will be the omission of James Hildreth and inclusion of Lewis Gregory. Gregory is listed to bat at 7 so it is not a direct replacement with Goldsworthy and Davies both moving up a place in the middle order. Sad as it is to see Somerset’s third in the all time first class run charts left out it is understandable given his recent travails. Gregory’s inclusion as a batsman only leads though to concerns that even though he is not bowling his back may not stand up to two innings of fielding and any extended time at the crease.

Was this a bold decision based on the belief that a 10:30 start in late September would offer the best bowling conditions to Somerset’s partially restored bowling attack? Or was it a defensive move fearful of what Chris Woakes might do to the fragile Somerset batting order. I’ve not heard any post-match interviews as I write this so cannot comment

That first hour showed us all what we have missed with Craig Overton and Josh Davey bowling a miserly line and length and picking up the wicket of Robert Yates well caught low down at third slip by Tom Abell. At the end of the first hour Sibley and Rhodes had ground their way to 25 off 14 overs with Jack Brooks having joined the attack and continuing the good work done by Craig and Josh.

Apart from a bizarre period of four consecutive balls which went for boundaries Somerset kept the hosts under control throughout the first session which ended at 80-1. But you felt during that session that Somerset needed more than a solitary wicket to justify the decision to bowl first. As Rhodes and the horrible to watch Sibley continued after lunch past the hundred partnership you sensed that Warwickshire were building a platform to make a serious attempt to notch maximum batting points. A desire that would have been helped when Sibley became the third wicket with the score on 139-3, Rhodes having already perished to a uncontrolled drive at a ball form Tom Lammonby that was far to wide for the shot.

Tom Lammonby – he can bowl too you know

Lammonby and Brooks both backed the opening pair up well and Jack Leach keeping things tight on a pitch offering him little the anticipated acceleration did not materialise in the afternoon session. Indeed it was only after the second new ball had been taken that things quickened up for the home side. Sam Hain off the back of a golden pair last week ended on 83 off 152 balls and with Matt Lamb, out for 44 off 92, they picked the pace up in the last hour. But Warwickshire slipped back into neutral after Lamb departed clearly wanting to ensure they had specialist batting at both ends tomorrow morning where they need 67 off 14 overs to pick up a third bating point.

For those of you who have watched or listened today you won’t want me to repeat the significance of 350 as the Warwickshire commentators, Clive Ekin in particular, must have mentioned it every 10 minutes for the last two sessions.

Gratifyingly, after my preview yesterday when I borrowed from the NASA playbook of flight director Gene Krantz and asked for a performance from Somerset that was “Tough and Competent” that was exactly what we got. The fans of Hampshire, Lancashire and Notts can have no complaints with the Somerset performance. So far.

If I was Tom Abell I’d extend that mantra if necessary to an ultra-defensive field tomorrow at the first sign of aggression. Frustrate The Bears and see where that takes us.

Of course we have the prospect of Somerset batting tomorrow with a score beginning with a 3 on the board already. Who knows where that will end!