An Innings and 254 Runs

The old enemy have been defeated in their own backyard. The cider derby was one-sided from the outset, the opposition badly hit by injuries both before and during the game. But don’t let that detract from the pleasure derived from this victory, even a full-strength Gloucestershire would have found it hard to resist this juggernaut of a performance from Tom Abell’s side. This was a performance of a county that should be challenging for the title. A complete team performance. Enjoy

County Championship Division One, Gloucestershire v Somerset, The County Ground Bristol, May 12thto 15th, Day 3 Somerset 591-7 dec (Abell 142, Renshaw 94, Gregory 89, Lammonby 76, Hildreth 53) beat Gloucestershire 186 (Leach 5-49 ) and 159 by an innings and 246 runs 

There is a huge amount of joy in my heart when Somerset win any game of cricket. It’s been like that for me for over 50 years and it keeps on improving. But after the travails of the end of last season and early this a second successive dominating County Championship is very special. 

We often hear it said that supporting Somerset is never easy. That we always make it hard for ourselves.  Not in this game.

From the first half hour of day one, when Matt Renshaw and Tom Lammonby set the tone with confident stroke play and positive running Somerset were in charge in this game. There were no moments of crisis, no passage of play that was tense or you felt was crucial. 

At the end of day one I felt that it had been a very good day but was a portent of an attritional contest where bat dominated ball.  Tom Abell had shown in his approach that his focus was very much on batting once and batting big but we all thought it was going to need something very special to bowl the opposition out twice.

Day two couldn’t have gone much better. Not only did Somerset reach the substantial total they were targeting but they did so well before tea with wickets in hand. The sight of the leader of your attack ending the innings by smiting a huge six and then almost sprinting off was one to behold unless you are a Gloucestershire opener.

Anthony Gibson absolutely nailed it when he said that one of the hallmarks of this Somerset bowling attack is that they are on it from ball one, no looseners, no genteel easing into rhythm. Steve Kirby takes a huge amount of credit for this, his bowling attack may not be moulded in his image but they exude his competitiveness from ball one.

Peter Siddle almost certainly didn’t need any persuading to buy into such an ethos. You get the impression that he has built a very successful career on such guiding principles. So it was no surprise that his first ball, the first of the Gloucester reply was right on the money. Scott gone lbw and the task of batting seven sessions appeared even more remote than it had two minutes earlier.

By the close Somerset had taken three more wickets, all to the credit of Jack Leach, hope of a victory to propel Somerset to the top end of the table, hope of building on the feel-good from the win two weeks ago against the champions.

The overnight pair, Higgins and Bethell, started the day as if they wanted to clear the deficit by tea but, as is often the case the Somerset attack slowly ceded control reducing the scoring opportunities and building pressure on the batsmen. Heats would have fluttered from Weston to Wellington when big Craig had to leave the field after only one ball of an over 20 minutes into the day with what appeared to be a knee injury. But to great relief he returned soon after and was sufficiently recovered to play his part with the ball and his catching later in the day.

Once Josh Davey struck twice in quick succession before noon with the total still not past 150 the first innings writing was on the wall. There was the annoyance of not being able to finish the job before lunch but almost immediately thereafter Jack Leach wrapped things up sealing his five-wicket bag in the process. 

I wrote yesterday that those who are quick to accuse Leachy of being who should pay attention to this performance. As ever I write from the heart. As ever Dan Kingdom has the numbers to nail it.

Dan Kingdom – putting the Jack Leach detractors in their box in one tweet. Splendid

If Jack had been the standout in the first innings, the second was a complete team effort. Craig, whether hampered by his knee or not took two and Leach another three but Siddle, Davey and Gregory all contributed. And, captain fantastic got in on the act twice, first with a stunning over the shoulder full stretch grab straight after tea to remove James Bracey and then in the next Leach over making a run out that would have caused panic to many look routine. 74-4 at tea was 81-6 and with Gloucestershire’s captain unable to come to the crease we were almost there.

With the cup final underway, Craig and Jack would have been keen to get themselves in front of a TV as soon as possible. Zak Chappell and the very impressive Jacob Bethell had other ideas occupying 13 overs while adding 56 but Somerset were not to be denied a three day win.

Overton cleaned up Chappell then pouched Taylor off Leach and despite Brad Wheal hanging around for another 7 overs Leach wrapped things up in time for extra time and penalties.

This is Somerset’s second-biggest innings victory in their history topped only by the innings and 259 runs against Leicestershire at Taunton in 2007 the only two occasions when we have won by in excess of an innings and 200. It doesn’t get much better.

Tougher tests lie ahead. The swift re-match against Hampshire will be an interesting benchmark next week and there is a huge mountain to climb. But for now let’s savour this wonderful performance, savour the joy of beating Gloucestershire. If Kent can somehow hold on at Beckenham tomorrow this win will gain even greater significance, it’s a tough task but after today the treble is still on.