Being Roelof van der Merwe

Old enemy beaten in dramatic come from behind win at Bristol. Who could ask for more?

Gloucestershire v Somerset, T20 South Group, Bristol, June 9th Somerset 114-7 (van der Merwe 48* [15-4-4]) beat Gloucestershire 101*5, by 3 wickets with 3 balls to spare DLS 

The received wisdom in 20 years of T20 cricket is that the team losing three wickets in the power play loses far more often than wins. The same can probably be said for a team that concedes 24 off the first over it bowls. But there is one fact of white-ball cricket that has no statistical basis – when you have Roelof van der Merwe in your side you are never out of the contest.

After Gloucestershire’s rollicking start, when the rain came I was thinking that I’d take a washed-out no result point, that Somerset had dodged a bullet and an almost certain defeat.

When play eventually resumed, a reduced 10 over Duckworth Lewis Stern contest awaited us. Remarkably a combination of van der Merwe, Gregory and Green hauled the visitors back into the game with sensible economic bowling. Considering the two overs bowled by Tom Lammonby and Lewis Goldsworthy went for 39 and Peter Siddle’s two for 23 it is remarkable that the other 7 overs cost only 39.

The worry though was that, while this was another fine performance by the Somerset bowlers another turgid Bristol one day surface had greeted us. Why you have to ask can a ground that produces two Championship pitches that are batting paradises yet be unable to produce a 40 over strip that at least encourages stroke play? Or perhaps we all know the answer ….

This was not going to be an easy chase even with a relatively minimal uplift in the target derived by DLS, especially with the excellent David Payne in the home attack. Payne struck immediately, persuading Tom Banton to fend-nudge a short ball outside off stump to deep gully. When Ton Abell steered a catch to point early in the third over Somerset were 15-3 and gooses already seemed cooked. 

Worse was to come as the Somerset batting found different ways of getting caught, shots which to me seemed to indicate they had not come to terms with the challenges the Nevil Road track set them.

Tom Lammonby arrived when Abell departed and, in his usual busy, allowed the flames of hope to flicker but when he went for 23 off 10 the total was exactly 50. Ben Green had helped Lammonby add hope to those flickering flames but he went shortly after and Somerset were at the social-media-grumbling-nadir of their innings.

With four overs and three wickets left Somerset were less than halfway to their target. 

But the eighth-wicket pair of Davey and van der Merwe were seemingly unfazed. You sensed from the interaction between the pair that there was belief and there was a plan. Davey got underway with a sweetly-timed clip to the mid-wicket boundary. Josh is such an intelligent cricketer, a man who never seems fazed by any situation and importantly here the perfectly content foil to the more spectacular at the other end.

And was Roelof spectacular. The initial “well at least we are going down with a fight” became “this is another one where the hope kills you”. Cricket was fun again. 

Payne’s second and final over was always going to be pivotal. Gloucestershire chose to use him in the 9thhoping, no doubt, to leave Somerset something impossible in the last over even of the big left-hander didn’t manage to pick up a wicket.

Wonderfully for Somerset, it didn’t work out that way. I am not going to provide a detail of that over as by now by normally assiduous note-taking had been abandoned. All I can say that the first three balls disappeared to and over various boundaries as RvdM, bristling belief coursing through every cell in his body put Somerset in prime position. You could see, and almost hear, the air going out of the fielders and home crowd ball by ball. Wonderful.

Ryan Higgins got the last over short straw but it only took 3 balls to get the job done. Pesky neighbours put firmly in their place, the cider train rocking back to Taunton. Hopefully the adrenalin from this win will translate positively into this evening’s game against the bottom of the table reigning champions at Taunton.

Speaking of the Cooper Associates County Ground, Gordon Hollins needs to find a part of the ground to attach Roelof’s name to. If he can’t he needs to build one or, to hell with it rename the whole ground and give the man freedom of Somerset.

Arise Sir Roelof.