Back in the Old Routine

Somerset find themselves in a parlous position after day one of their 2022 County Championship season. Without a welcome return to productivity of James Hildreth and some spirited lower middle-order support for Roelof van der Merwe the position would be even worse, hard as that is to imagine.

County Championship Division One, Hampshire v Somerset, The Rose Bowl Southampton, Day 1. Hampshire 109-0 trail Somerset 180 all out (Hildreth 87) by71 runs with ten second innings wickets remaining

With astonishingly bad timing work commitments conspired to keep me away from any live stream or commentary for most of the first day of Somerset’s 2022 season. Which got me thinking of the reasons why I started this blog in the first place. For those of you who have read this before my apologies, but please indulge me.

When, back in the mid-eighties life took me away from Somerset, my Dad and I developed a routine of speaking on the phone almost daily during the cricket season. I would call him initially when I got home and then, when mobile phones became commonplace, on the evening commute and we would dissect the day’s play.

All I had to go on initially was Dad reading me the scorecard from Ceefax and we would speculate about the day’s events with nothing else to go on but the bare numbers. 

Then the internet arrived and we used to read the match report first and then discuss. It was a joy partly because as my Dad was no longer able to get to The County Ground it kept his lifelong love affair with Somerset Cricket alive and partly because it kept my Somerset roots, geographically stretched by my work commitments, strong.

When Dad passed away (7 years ago next month) I missed those calls so much. I found myself having the conversation with him in my head most days. And then, about a month later Somerset snatched a dramatic fourth-day win at Taunton in the Championship and I rang him on my mobile as I walked back to my car. Suddenly as realisation dawned I hung up and burst into tears in the street,

And that was the genesis of what is now SomersetNorth. Initially I wrote something every day just for myself and then, perhaps arrogantly, took it a step further.

So today it seems to me that I have come full circle. Especially because two of his favourite players still pulling on the Dragon were instrumental in the only bright spots for Tom Abell’s side today. To try to honour the man who gave me my love of Somerset cricket and inspired this whole cricket writing thing I’m going to try to write a few paragraphs in the style of how Dad would have talked me through the day on the phone. If you are reading this up there Dad I hope it brings back some happy memories.

“So what was Tom Abell thinking then? Winning the toss and batting, on the first day of the season, at THAT ground and with such a fragile batting line-up”. I would probably have responded – I did like to wind him up – “seems to me we haven’t taken any learnings from last season, it was a bold move, probably a little too bold”

Dad, “well obviously a little too bold. 180 all out! If it wasn’t for Hildreth it would have been a complete embarrassment. And look at the scores elsewhere, far and away the worst batting display of the day”

But, didn’t you say that it was good bowling in the morning rather than bad batting? “Yes but that proves my point, why win the toss and bat against Abbott, Abbas and Barker?”

Well I told you we’d do well to get out with a draw and that was before we knew how many first-choice players would be unavailable. And at least Hildy got some runs, let’s hope it is the springboard to a strong season for him.

“Well, he owes us after the last few seasons doesn’t he?” (note Dad was a big Hildy fan which gives you an indication of his “glass half empty” view of all things SCCC) “disappointing that he didn’t go on though, getting out to a spinner when well set, should have made a hundred.” 

And I’d say something like, “Looks like he was pretty fluent though 129 balls and 10 fours”.

When I made a good point Dad was not to be deterred, he would, in this instance, shift the focus and wonder what was happening with the bowling, apart from Siddle he’d conclude that wasn’t good enough and we’d share a few minutes bemoaning the cruelties depriving us of Craig, Lewis, Josh, Jack and Jack et al

He’d signal the end of the conversation with, well it will be all over tomorrow and I’d know that was that for the day. God I miss him so much.

Yes I know this is as bad a start as it can get but I’ve felt for a few months that this may not be a season where our quest for the title is sated (although desperately hoping I’m wrong) but I’m not going to be downhearted.

Cricket is back. I am a Somerset man born and bred and nothing is going to change that.

Keep the faith.