So Many Might Have Beens

A measure of the disappointment that is Somerset’s 2022 County Championship campaign is that I find myself writing this at the end of the third day actually feeling pretty good that we have taken the game into the last day, avoided an innings defeat and salvaged some pride. But points, wins and championship challenges seem, in the cold light of this evening, a long way away.

Somerset v Surrey, County Championship, Taunton, June 12th to 15th Day 3 – Somerset 180 & 319-8 (Gregory 71*, Goldsworthy 67) lead Surrey 382-9 innings closed (Burns 113, Jacks 88, Clark 63*) by 117 runs with two second innings wickets remaining

Talk about self-inflicted wounds! Somerset faced with the task of batting for a minimum 4 sessions to have any chance of saving this game. Halfway through the afternoon session they had gifted Surrey three of the four wickets to fall. Tom Lammonby mistimed a pull (a shot that is rapidly developing into an Achilles heel of significant proportions) off Gus Atkinson’s first ball of the innings, Tom Banton was strangled down the leg side nicking a ball he had no need to play at and then the captain running himself out going for a second that was never there. Only Ben Green, who nobly takes up the challenge of opening in red-ball cricket when needed, could be absolved of blame for his dismissal at this stage of the Somerset second innings.

It had all started so well. Somerset began needing to take only two wickets as the stricken Hashim Amla was still unable to resume his innings to wrap up the visitor’s first innings. Lewis Gregory duly obliged, dismissing Atkinson and Worrall in the first over of the day. The deficit remained at the overnight 202.

The dismissals of Banton and Abell, in the space of 8 balls was the blow to the collective Somerset solar plexus that was hardest to take. With the hard work done and a partnership of 74 looking to salvage more than pride it was not unexpected but no easier to take for that. While the two Toms had shown admirable intent both scoring at near to 50 runs per 100 balls their dismissals showed the deep mental scars that currently inhabit the Somerset red ball dressing room.  

Twas a day of “just when you thought Somerset were on the verge of something the hopes were punctured.” Those hopes were tenuous and fleeting given the batting travails of the first day and consequent deficit they began the third day with, but at least Somerset’s batsmen showed some fight. At least the Somerset batsmen showed they could bat in the manner and with the discipline required in the four-day format. 

I’ve been an advocate of Lewis Goldsworthy for two season now and while the numbers to date don’t make a case for him being an automatic pick in the first choice XI there is something about him which, for me, deserves a chance. The difficulty for him is that he is coming into a Somerset batting line up which already has two Toms still not first-team oven-ready and with the two experienced men, Hildreth and Davies, who would potentially bat either side of him, both struggling for form and runs.

But little Lewis has shown in 2nd team cricket that he can bat time and go on to make big hundreds. While I admit there is a difference between the two levels this is clear evidence he has the mentality to deliver big runs in long innings. Here he showed both discipline and a willingness to take advantage of the scoring opportunities a more benign surface and atmospheric conditions that prevented the swing of the first day. While 67 is nothing to get the Cornish flags out around the Andy Caddick Pavilion it is a career-best in a fledgling career and was made in tough circumstances. Coming in on Banton’s dismissal, seeing his captain run himself out and then lose the experienced Davies when the fifth wicket partnership was beginning to blossom were all psychological blows that he had to deal with.

As with Banton and Abell though he departed just when thoughts turned to him going on to make a significant contribution or perhaps, dare we hope, a career-defining one. 

Although the two Lewises only added 43 they were beginning to show real intent having erased the first-innings deficit. Will Jacks got one to bounce a little more and Goldsworthy’s attempted cut snicked off the top edge into the grateful gloves of Jamie Smith.

At that point the possibility of a three day finish still loomed but Lewis Gregory was into his stride and when the Devonian Lewis gets into his stride runs tend to flow quickly. Roelof couldn’t stay with him but Kasey Aldridge hung around long enough to allow the eighth wicket pair to add 54 before the still hostile Jamie O pinned him leg before for 15.

Peter Siddle saw Somerset through to the close with Gregory and the lead to 119 but realistically Somerset need to double that advantage if they are to have any hopes of a hugely improbable win. Even then it would take a Surrey collapse akin to what traumatised us all on the Saturday of the Hampshire game and that, with no Craig or Josh and against this Surrey batting line up is hugely improbable sadly.

If Somerset can avoid the rapid demise of the Surrey first innings at the start of day four and continue to show some fight then perhaps we can at least take away some positives from a game that, let’s be honest, has not been an easy watch for any Somerset loyalist.