Challenge Accepted

I am not going to credit the writer as I remain unsure of the provenance of the Facebook account it came from but suffice to say I’ve yet to see a positive comment from that source – which is fine, we are all entitled to our opinion – but this was one of the better efforts from that source. The gist of the comment was, “Ah gonna be fun to see what Mr Tancock makes of that” but for some reason I can’t quite fathom it was subsequently deleted. Apologies to the author if I’ve misquoted but I’m happy I’ve got the gist. Comment deleted too late, challenge accepted

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Hampshire, The Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton, May 19st to 22nd 2022 Day 2, Somerset 211 and 69 (Barker6-27) lost to  Hampshire 280 (Overton 4-57, Siddle 4-80) and 1-0 by 10 wickets

A game that for the first 150 odd overs was close fought and competitive unravelled very quickly after lunch on day 3 as Somerset, the current kings of county collapses, excelled even themselves losing all 10 wickets in just 90 minutes in 25 overs. A third innings performance that I defy anyone to find a suitable adjective to describe is probably best summed up by the final wicket falling when Josh Davey was bowled playing no stroke. Cruelly Hampshire were left to score just 1 to win, which was in a way more cruel than an innings defeat.

When Somerset’s 10th wicket fell around 15 minutes before 4 you could predict the social media vitriol and the targets that was directed at. But one comment, tagged on to yesterday’s blog post caught my attention and issued a challenge which I’m happy to accept.

Let’s get the gory details out of the way first. 

It all started pretty well with Ben Brown lasting only 10 minutes before Peter Siddle trapped him lbw. 152-5 and still training by 59. But from that point it was Hampshire’s day. Donald, Barker and Fuller with 57, 36 and 38 converted that deficit into a lead of 69 by lunch. Craig Overton and Peter Siddle both picked up four wickets but you felt that maybe this was more a case of the surface becoming a little easier to bat on.

The fact that Somerset wrapped up the Hampshire innings in short order once they had taken the second new ball was a concern as was two dropped catches in the slips, something that has been rarer than hen’s teeth this season. The lunch interval was one where all of Somerset spent 40 minutes contemplating the challenge the batters faced.

In a pragmatic moment my thought process was that this was a game we were now unlikely to win. We needed to get to tea having cleared the deficit for the loss of at most two wickets and then hope that the final session brought something around 100 (at just under 3 an over in the extended session scheduled) with wickets in hand for some fun on the final morning. 

All that went out of the window within 15 overs of the innings when Somerset subsided to 25-6. From there it was some “achievement” to make Hampshire bat again but it was a pyric victory of the highest order.

There is no sugar coating this, it was terrible, dreadful, unwatchable. We know that all professional sports team can have off days, bad days but this was so far off the scale of bad as to be beyond that. It is not to say that this has come out of the blue either. Since the Oval last summer there has been barely a game without a major batting collapse and the 8 defeats in the last 10 games tell a story.

Many will jump to the easy narrative that the wins over Warwickshire and Gloucestershire were lucky achieved against poor teams and that this game reflects the true trend of Somerset cricket in 2022 but I don’t agree. But I’m not going to try to even pretend that I have the technical knowledge to comment on what is wrong. There are plenty of people who support this little old blog who know much more about the technicalities of cricket and quite a few in the Somerset set up who know far more. I wouldn’t presume to claim to have the answers.

But what I do know if this. I AM A SOMERSET COUNTY CRICKET CLUB SUPPORTER. I have been since my Dad took me to see Roy Virgin, Brian Langford, Tom Cartwright, Hallam Moseley et al on 6ht June 1970 (yes I’ve checked). I was there that September weekend in 1978 when two trophies slipped through our hands and I was there in the same weekend a year later when we won the first two. 

If like me you are Somerset born and bred you don’t have a choice in the matter. I freely admit I started supporting the football team I do because they were serial winners when I was a child but I didn’t have the choice with my cricket team and I am glad of it.

I am sure I have written this before and I’m sure I will write it again but the key here is how each of us interprets the phrase to support. For me supporting Somerset is about the regional identity which I feel so strongly living away from the county, about the pride in our little county, stuck in a region often forgotten in the south-west extremity of the UK. When I talk to people up here and tell them I come from Somerset two comments spring into their minds, cider and cricket. I’m pretty certain that wasn’t the case back in 1970 so it is something for all of us to be proud of.

Supporting your club is about being there through the good times and the bad. I’ve always felt that suffering the bad times make the good times that much sweeter, an appreciation I am sure I gained from seeing my Dad’s tears of joy at Lords in September 1979. The first trophy meant so much to me but to him, who had been following the county for 30 mostly very lean years by then, the joy was all the greater.

If you want to pile on the team, the coaches, the management at SCCC this evening fill your boots. If that is your coping strategy fair enough, that is your prerogative. But if like me, a defeat like this makes you sick to your stomach, makes you feel hurt, embarrassed and want to cry I feel your pain.

But to Tom Abell and his team and everyone connected on and off the field with Somerset cricket including everyone who supports the club I say this. I will passionately support MY TEAM for as long as I draw breath it is a birth right and a privilege to be a man of Somerset  and I will forever be grateful for that. 

To quote another passionate cricket lover, Sir Tim Rice, 

“Have I said too much? 

There’s nothing more I can think of to say to you” 

and then to paraphrase – 

all you have to do is read this,

and know that every word is true,