Surrey v Somerset, County Championship, Division One, The Oval, 21st to 24th April – Days 1 & 2 Surrey 204-5 trail Somerset 337 all out (Abell 150*) by 133 runs with 5 first innings wickets remaining
Matt Roller, writing for ESPN CricInfo after the first day stated that Tom Abell’s inclusion in the names in the debate for the England captaincy was an indication of the paucity of options as opposed to Abell’s credentials. Roller’s opinion is, understandably based on the Somerset’ skipper’s run of low scores in his last 12 innings and is no reflection of his qualities as a leader or tactician.
While I understand that it would be really tough for Abell, or anyone else for that matter to be asked to come into a struggling England side and take the resins in their first test, I think roller has misjudged his comments because he focussed only on Abell’s batting rather than his holistic contribution.
The fact is that Tom does not think he has been in bad form. His reaction when Anthony Gibson said to him after day one, “you’ve been in a dreadful run of form” and his subsequent comments revealed that Abell was considerably more upbeat about his batting than we were and events over the first four sessions of this game showed his confidence was not misplaced.
298 balls over 7 hours and 6 minutes of increased assurance produced a career-best 150 for our Tom which will have many sitting up and taking notice. Abell will need several more substantial innings similar to this if he is to have a case for higher honours but that is for another time. For now all that needs to be said is that he has, yet again, demonstrated his undoubted ability at this level.
There is still though a feeling that this was not good enough from Somerset’s batting. When your number 3 ends unbeaten of 150 and there is a 48 and a 54 in the top five as well you should really be scoring significantly in excess of 400. Abell, Renshaw and Hildreth contributed 77% of their side’s total. If that sounds churlish, you may be right but I’m sure I am not alone thinking what might have been
If only one of Somersets 10 and 11 could have hung around as long as Jack Leach’s 49 balls Tom Abell could probably have taken Somerset to something in excess of 350 but it was not to be. When Jack Brooks was last man out for a six-ball duck Surrey were left with a potentially awkward 20 minutes to bat to lunch but would have been pleased to have restricted a Somerset first innings that at one point was 223-3.
Burns and Patel survived a probingly accurate but not threatening six over burst from Craig and Peter Siddle to give Surrey the first session.
The tense cricket continued in the afternoon with Somerset keeping it tight and then striking twice in quick succession to remove Burns and Amla and reduce the hosts to 48-3. It could have been even better but Tom Banton, hindered perhaps by his recently broken finger, put down Ben Foakes when he as only 2.
Ollie Pope alongside Foakes gradually eased Surrey back into the game with a partnership of 80 in 27 overs. Pope was particularly quick to seize on anything short or wide and benefitted from the ring-rustiness of Jack Brooks.
The Headband Warrior could not find any rhythm or control to the extent that at one point in the final session Surrey when were 164-4 Brooks’s figures were 58-1 off 11 (5.19) while the rest of the attack contributed 106-3 off 42 (2.52). Peter Siddle as superb going at less than 1.25 an over at this point with figures of 1-16 off 13.
The wicket to have fallen by this stage was Pope who looked like he could take Surrey close to parity by the close. He had reached 47 off just 73 balls when Tom Banton took an almost unbelievable one-handed catch on the run to dismiss him. A couple of hours earlier Banton had shelled that straightforward chance off Foakes and now he was celebrating something very special. How the fates play with us all?
Abell was desperate for control and with Josh Davey also looking like he needed a bowl he turned to Siddle and Leach who proceeded to reel off 5 consecutive maidens. Although Foakes and Sam Curran were able to get the scoreboard moving again with a brace of boundaries the pressure did the job with Siddle removing the Surrey and England ‘keeper thanks to a splendid Matt Renshaw grab.
Curran and Will Jacks saw their side through to the close but with 12 overs until the new ball Somerset will hope that the support bowlers can keep it tight first thing allowing a fresh Overton and Siddle to make full use of the second new ball. I’d give Craig and Peter 2 overs each and then use Jack Leach and Josh Davey to turn the screw until the new ball is available.
For once it looks like we will have a Somerset Championship game going deep into the fourth day but much will depend on Somerset’s batsmen being able to make significant runs second time around. A lead of 50 plus on first innings would be a nice start.