Four From Four

Without any arrogance if you had told me in the last week of August that Somerset would be four from four in Division One I'd have expected to be in Birmingham today celebrating a first ever title. That's not how it turned out. Jason Kerr has his work cut out this winter,

Warwickshire v Somerset, County Championship Division One, September 21st to 24th 2021, Edgbaston, Birmingham, Day 4, Warwickshire 367 (Hain 83, Overton 5-88)  & 294-3 beat Somerset 389 (Gregory 68, Ali 60, Lammonby 59, Davies 52, Leach 49) & 154 by 118 runs

This is, by my reckoning the 18,738th day since I became a Somerset supporter, a day back in early June 1970 when my Dad took me to The County Ground to watch Somerset, ironically, play Warwickshire. There have been plenty of amazing highs and some pretty low lows but throughout it remarkably very very few where my pride in my county has been as damaged as today.

September has been bad, four division one defeats out of four but I’d harboured hopes that Somerset’s gutsy performance until mid-afternoon yesterday would continue for just one more day. It didn’t. It will be small consolation to Lancashire’s players and supporters to say I know how you feel but strangely I feel as physically sick as I write thisas I did on the corresponding days in 2010, 2016 and 2019.

Let me say at this point that I am not one who subscribes to the view prevailing on social media last evening that Somerset should allow Warwickshire to win as a payback for 2010. For those who can’t recall that was the dire last day capitulation at Old Trafford which allowed Nottinghamshire to snatch the trophy out of Marcus Trescothick’s grasp at Chester-le-Street. 

But I’ve watched enough cricket, and enough of the Somerset 2021 variety to know the way things were moving after the last session yesterday. Eight sessions of grit and fight from Tom Abell’s side were undermined by a poor last couple of hours when Warwickshire added 179-1 pretty much as they liked against a deflated looking bowling (I hesitate to say “attack”) effort. 

My mind when back to another occasions when Somerset were pipped to the title in recent history. In 2016 Somerset bowled a deflated and relegated Nottinghamshire side was bowled out in two sessions by a Somerset attack and fielding display that was too much for the visiting batsmen who clearly had their minds on anything but batting to survive. Notts did, it is fair to say have five sessions to survive but I doubt if that made any difference to the mindset or performance.

After the phoney war of the first hour when a further 115 were added in 15 overs for two irrelevant wickets, the equation was set, Warwickshire gave themselves 79 overs to take the ten wickets they need to win the county championship. Somerset’s (theoretical) target was 273 at a shade under 3.5 an over.

By lunch 12 off those overs had been occupied and one wicket, that of Tom Lammonby to a loose shot outside the off stump to Danny Briggs’ second ball. Lammonby and Green had been looking comfortable in the early exchanges so it was an unforgiveable lapse by the prodigiously talented left hander.

Within 20 minutes of the resumption Somerset’s plight was looking dire. Ben Green strangled down the leg side off Tim Bresnan and a plainly impaired Azhar caught five balls  later by Sam Hain at slip off Woakes. 63 overs left and already it was a survive not chase scenario. Replays suggested Green was as unlucky at Lammonby had been at the same ground in the final last Saturday.

Ben Green one of the few Somerset batsmen who was not to blame for his dismissal today

Tom Abell having played sensibly for 20 balls inexplicably attempted a run-down shot which he succeeded in only guiding to Rob Yates in the slips. A chastened Abell departed for his third duck in his last four innings and Warwickshire had the best part of 57 overs to pick up six wickets. 

Lewis Goldsworthy who’s innings was the definition of a curate’s egg was next to go playing loosely outside his off stump for 31 off 44 balls. Not exactly what was required in the situation with just 28 overs used and a further 51 remaining.  Anthony Gibson’s tweet at the loss of that wicket summed it up perfectly, “I’m afraid this is dismal”.

Tea arrived at 102-7 Davies and Overton both having failed to survive the session although neither as culpable as the majority of their predecessors, Overton in particular getting a beauty from Woakes that bowled him. Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach set to resume with just the 40 overs to survive.

There was a scenario in my head yesterday around mid-afternoon where I foresaw Jack Leach batting 20+ overs to see Somerset to the draw and Lancashire to the title. The requirement of Taunton Deane’s finest was more than double that and it proved beyond him when Chris Woakes got one through his defences immediately after tea.

Josh Davey and Lewis Gregory but the ever-reliable Josh Davey kept Gregory company for 10 overs thereafter. As ever with Somerset cricket it is the hope that kills and the moment I did the overs left / possible finish time calculation Gregory slashed at a ball outside his off stump and former Gloucestershire bowler Craig Miles had his third wicket. There were 28 overs left, Jack Brooks drove a handsome four and then edged former Gloucestershire bowler Liam Norwell to the Warwickshire skipper Will Rhodes.

Josh Davey last man standing for a beaten Somerset side

This is not a time for knee-jerk reactions or recriminations but my proud county has been humbled in the last four weeks and there is a lot of tough talking and hard work ahead if the 2022 season is going to be successful. 

Of course we’ll regroup. By April we will be anticipating the new season, hopefully with a new signing or two and the prospect of another crop of talented youngsters coming off the production line that is the Somerset Academy, Rew, Baker, Aldridge, Thomas and Leonard will, I hope, all be ready to stake a case by the spring and that is the hope that will sustain me through what will be a long tough winter for this deeply saddened Somerset supporter.