Somerset Fight for Pride and Championship Integrity

If Warwickshire are going to win the county championship later this week they are going to have to do it the hard way as Somerset avoided the follow on at Edgbaston and in the process picked up that rarest of things in the 2021 A BATTING BONUS POINT. At long last we are seeing substantial glimpses of the Somerset side we all know and love. Thankfully.

Warwickshire v Somerset, County Championship Division One, September 21st to 24th 2021, Edgbaston, Birmingham, Day 2, Somerset 239-5 (Ali 60, Lammonby 59, Davies 48*) trail Warwickshire 367 (Hain 83, Overton 5-88) by 128 runs with 5 first innings wickets remaining

I’m not going to predict the course this game will take but all the onus has to be on Warwickshire to make the running tomorrow. Early wickets would make their task a little easier but if Somerset can get within 50 before lunch tomorrow you can foresee a scenario where Warwickshire either have to set Somerset a very gettable target or collapse in a heap in pursuit of quick third innings runs. Another two days of this gutsy performance from Somerset will do wonders for their confidence going into the close season and as importantly for someone who has loved championship cricket all his life, the credibility of the county championship.

Having digested overnight the bizarre admission form Jason Kerr that he saw this as a very good batting wicket, in turn providing the answer to the question I posed yesterday – the decision to bowl first was a defensive one we arrived at the start of day 2 with the focus on Warwickshire’s target of accruing batting bonus points in the remaining 14 overs before the cut off at 110 overs.

On a gloriously sunny morning in Birmingham Craig Overton and Jack Brooks removed the overnight pair in. the first four overs as they continued their aggressively accurate approach. Overton removed Burgess to a beauty that lifted outside off stump to remove Burgess and Brooks followed up with a full inswinger to bowl Hain through the gate. Overton struck again in the next over to remove Woakes to a sharp catch by Tom Lammonby at “backward gully” (copyright BBC West Midlands) and when he held on to a return catch off Bresnan Warwickshire had slipped to 304-8. Somerset had matched their wicket haul from 96 overs the first day within 35 minutes in one-twelfth the number of overs.

This early burst did not belie any deterioration in the surface, something that all Somerset supporters are keenly attuned to these days, but excellent bowling and assistance from the overhead conditions despite the sun blazing down on the ground.

Mind you Somerset’s progress on the second morning paled into insignificance compared to the division two champions, Essex who completed an innings and 44 runs. 30 wickets in 96.3 overs with an aggregate of 296 runs at an average of 9.87 runs per wicket. All done an hour and a half before lunch on day 2!

The ninth wicket pair of Liam Norwell and Danny Briggs were undaunted by the distance of the bonus point target, Briggs taking a particular like to Josh Davey but Norwell perished to a wonderful catch by Azhar Ali over his right shoulder in front of the sightscreen, optimistically trying to go over a boundary populated by all 9 Somerset fielders.

All the good work done to frustrate Warwickshire’s attempt to pick up that extra batting point was to nought however as the first three balls of the 110th over, bowled by Jack Brooks went 4,4,6, an over that eventually cost 20 and ended on 359-9. The title was back within Warwickshire’s control and momentum shifted massively towards the home side.

Craig Overton wrapped things up with a second caught and bowled to complete a five wicket haul all garnered on this second morning. Tom Lammonby and Ben Green were left with just over half an hour to bat until lunch, unfortunately Green, who got underway with a six, was unable to complete that initial task being bowled by Chris Woakes for 14. Lunch was taken at 36-1.

The post lunch session saw Lammonby continue in the vein of the Lancashire second innings and having recorded his first first innings first class 50 was surprisingly out, caught and bowled by Danny Briggs off an off drive that was six inches too close to the bowler. Such are the fine margins but Lammonby again showed signs of his 2020 form in this innings. Azhar Ali had been circumspect to start but was also moving up through the gears as the afternoon progressed. He lost his captain for just 14 with the total on 132, Abell looking like a man who won’t be sad to see the end of this cricket season.

Lewis Goldsworthy accompanied Azhar to tea but not without a few alarms especially outside the off stump. Azhar continued where he left off after the break moving past his fifty and promising something significant but the evergreen Tim Bresnan got him for 60, (124 balls, 10 fours 1 six) with the deficit exactly 200. Goldsworthy, who once again looks like a man who needs a winter break, perished for 13 with a shot that can only be ascribed to a loss of concentration. At 187-5 the follow-on target was still 31 away.

Steve Davies, who loves batting against Warwickshire and Lewis Gregory set their stall out to be there at the close and between them they eased past the follow on target adding 52 off 16.5 overs and as importantly occupying 129 balls.    

The degree to which Somerset will be able to make further inroads into the current deficit needs to be rationalised with the prospect of the first session tomorrow morning, which if it is anything like this morning, will not be easy to negotiate and the added complication of the second new ball.

Elsewhere Lancashire and Hampshire are down to a one innings game at Aigburth after the visitors took a 2-run lead on first innings. They closed on 158-7, a lead of 160 , Indebted to an 80 run sixth innings stand between James Vince and Liam Dawson who made 69 and 41 respectively, scores that are probably worth at least double that given the capriciousness of the south Liverpool track. But just when you felt Hampshire were building toward an unassailable lead both departed in consecutive overs and 

The burning question for the third day is have batting conditions eased to such an extent that a chase of 200 is easier than the first two days suggest? Even if it has though Lancashire face the prospect of a fourth innings chase under the pressure of knowing failure will rule out their chances of the title.

Nottinghamshire dismissed Yorkshire for 73 in no time at all on the second morning and enforced the follow on but with the game at Liverpool looking nailed on for a positive result Notts are out of things. Yorkshire made a better fist of their second innings when they followed on closing on 169-3 a deficit of 54. It could have been even better for the Yorkies who lost two wickets in the last seven overs of the day.