Sick To My Stomach

Today, for the first time in a very long time the cricket made me feel sick, miserable and low throughout the day. Anyone who knows me will testify that I care deeply for my county cricket team but rarely does it affect me like this.

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Essex, The Cooper Associates County Ground, Day 1 Essex 109-2 are level with Somerset 109 all out (Lammonby 48)

I’m finding it hard now. Supporting Somerset CCC has never been an easy thing, the highs have, throughout my life, been spectacularly high, but the lows are pretty tough. The advantage my age gives me is that I’ve lived through plenty of the bad times and seen this fabulous club grow on and off the field. There is no entitlement here, far from it, Somerset like every other county have no divine right to be winners but when you care deeply about your team and the players who represent all your hopes and dreams this really hurts.

It was probably just as well that work commitments meant I missed the last thirty minutes of the morning session and pretty much everything from 2.30 until 5. It is one of the banes of my work that the day before a holiday, bank or otherwise, is usually manic. Today was one of those and some. Perhaps the cricketing Gods were trying to protect me? I like to think that I am professional enough to switch the brain over to work mode and focus fully on the client matter in hand, despite what Somerset are involved in, I achieved that today, but that sick feeling in my stomach never went away.

My return to the commentary saw Craig Overton and Tom Abell combine to take the first wicket of the Essex innings, for a brief moment all the reasons why I love this side so much came flooding back, the joy of a single Craig Overton wicket even on a day like today is a thing of wonder. Sadly an all too isolated one on this bleakest of days.

Overton struck again at the very end of the day to removed Westley for 13 but with Cook unbeaten on 59 and his namesake night watching for 3 off 29 balls that was it for bright spots today.

Despite the lows of last week, Thursday morning hope sprang eternal. The announcement of the team half an hour before the start of play is always of great interest, especially so when so many players unavailable last week were back in contention. I always think it tells a lot about the thinking of the brains trust. The retention of Ben Green to open and the omission of Jack Brooks and Kasey Aldridge was to me a clear sign that the view was that Somerset needed to shore up their beleaguered batting with Matt Renshaw slotting into the top six who played last week and Steve Davies dropping to 7.

By lunch the pattern was set, the afternoon continued the depression with the Essex openers showing what should have been possible for Somerset in their first innings. At tea Essex had reached 40 without loss in 16 overs, already almost halfway to Somerset’s first innings total.

Remarkably three of Somerset’s top five were dismissed in the morning session by the 19th ball they faced, Renshaw, Hildreth and Abell had all hit a single boundary in their brief innings before departing for 7, 5 and 11 respectively. If you wanted to summarise Somerset’s current batting malaise that stat alone encapsulates it. In tricky conditions all three had survived the initial examination but none were able to do more than contribute the briefest of cameos. Winning four-day cricket innings will not be built when your 3, 4 and 5 last 57 balls between them.

Tom Lammonby watched all this from the other end, having already lost his opening partner, Ben Green who scored freely in the first 20 minutes but perished to something too ambitious outside off-stump for 16.

The sorry progression continued at the other end from Somerset’s left-handed opener either side of lunch with Goldsworthy (0) and Davies (3) both continuing their batting woes. After James Rew’s performance on Tuesday for the 2s and with George Bartlett and Will Smeed both making runs you have to wonder how long either have to make the runs needed to keep their place in the side.

Essex had the luxury of not needing Simon Harmer until 30 minutes after lunch but he struck immediately getting turn and bounce to have Lewis Gregory caught by Sir Chef for 4 in his first over. In another 22 balls he had wrapped up the tail, finishing with 3-14 including Lammonby whose stoic resistance ended with him being one of Cook’s four catches including all three of Harmer’s dismissals. Tom’s innings spanned 120 balls and included 7 fours. How much easier would his task have been if one of his colleagues had stayed with him for a period of time. 

The first innings 180 at Southampton looks in hindsight like untold riches. Somerset’s first innings here exactly matches where Hampshire finished at the end of the first day exactly a week ago. The only difference being that Hampshire’s openers were not separated in reaching that score. Surely this trend has to be reversed soon, mathematically it can’t continue as even we can’t register negative totals.

By the close Essex had rubbed more salt into the Somerset wounds than any of us would care to think about. That is not to fault the efforts of the Somerset bowlers who bowled well, gave little away and had no luck. Overton, Gregory and Siddle look every bit the formidable combo we expected, they just need some runs to bowl at.