Well Batted James Rew

How do you sum up the first two days at Taunton? At 6.09pm on the second day James Rew edged a ball through the slips for 4 which meant Somerset saved the follow-on. The fact that that produced the biggest cheer of the first two days says it all.

Somerset v Gloucestershire, County Championship, Taunton, September 5th to 9th – Days 1 & 2 – Gloucestershire 343 (Harris 159) Somerset 209-8 (Imam-ul-Haq 90, James Rew 35*) trail by134 runs 

How do you sum up the first two days at Taunton? At 6.09pm on the second day James Rew edged a ball through the slips for 4 which meant Somerset saved the follow-on. The fact that that produced the biggest cheer of the first two days says it all.

Two words. James Rew.

I’ll admit I’ve not been able to follow the first two days anywhere near as closely as I’d have liked. Work has to come first and It is currently taking up a lot of time so am happy to admit that my impressions may be off the mark but from what I heard this afternoon I am a little concerned at the criticism being directed the way of Somerset’s young wicketkeeper batsman.

On a day when, with the exception of Imam-ul-Haq and a yet again all-too-fleeting George Bartlett, the rest of the Somerset top order contributed just 18 runs, Rew’s unbeaten 35 was crucial in ensuring Somerset avoided the ignominy of being asked to follow on. I understand that Rew has taken 147 balls to get to the mid-thirties and might have allowed the bowlers to dominate him but what was required when he came in at 87-4 was occupation of the crease. The old adage that you can’t make runs from the dressing room might be worth mentioning here.

Pretty much all summer the perception has been that Somerset’s batting has been too fragile. How, many said, we needed someone to bat time, wear the bowlers down and play “proper red-ball cricket”. So why, when Rew does that do people feel the need to criticise him for being more passive? Geoffrey Boycott would be purring with pleasure while I, to channel another legendary Yorkshireman, Fred Trueman, “Cannot understand what is going off.”

Somerset have added 122 runs since Rew came to the crease and ensured that Somerset have, at the very least a decent shot at a draw and the precious points that would garner. James Rew, you are doing fine by me, a 50 in this innings would be worth far more than that in the context of this game and this season. 

Oh yest. The 2022 County Championship season! September 2022 started with nowhere near the same level of optimism as 2021. No title to fight for, instead a relegation battle to confront. But the speed at which optimism for a strong end to this championship season evaporated on the first day of the final block of last season shows similar parallels to a year ago.

Revisiting my opening paragraph from day 1 against bottom of the table Notts at Taunton last year read as follows:

”Somerset’s bid for the 2021 County Championship resumed at Taunton today but the difficulty of succeeding in that bid without Craig Overton and Lewis Gregory was clear for all to see. With none of the Somerset bowlers looking consistently threatening on an easy paced pitch the visitors were able to close in a position which puts them slightly ahead.”

It would only take a little tweaking to sum up day 1 in 2022.

At the end of day 2 Somerset find themselves in an uncomfortable, potentially precarious position entirely of their own making against their local rivals who, in case we forget, arrived in Taunton at the foot of the table and without a win in four-day cricket this year. And it is a position that is very much of their own making.

The honest truth is that the Somerset brains trust got it wrong on day 1 and the players have (with two natable exceptions) underperformed on days 1 & 2. 

Why did Somerset choose to bowl first? Was this a misreading of the pitch? Surely the decision was based on a belief that the wicket the game is being played on would be much more bowler-friendly early on, one that Somerset’s albeit depleted bowling attack would be able to take advantage of.

Questions need to be asked. This is not the first time in recent history that Somerset have palpably made the wrong decision after Tom Abell had called correctly. There can only be two explanations, either the pitch prepared is not what was asked for and expected and/or the Somerset dressing room are not very good at reading the surfaces presented to them.  

On this pitch Somerset have, In every respect, been second best over the first two days. Sadly the only surprise has been the amount of play that has been possible on Monday and Tuesday with the anticipated rain mostly avoiding the County Ground, something which before the game I had hoped would be to Somerset’s advantage but has turned out to be very much to their detriment.

Gloucestershire’s overseas opener Marcus Harris took full advantage batting for all but the last over and a half of day one to ease past 150. How we hoped Somerset’s top order would replicate that when their chance came. How Somerset’s debutant overseas opener must have longed to have had the opportunity to bat first on this surface. When his chance did come on the second day Imam showed just what is possible with a little application and patience on this surface.

With Gloucestershire at 250-1 early into the evening session on day 1 Somerset were really looking down the barrel but a last session spell of 70-5 the result of a much-improved bowling performance brought a little comfort for the Somerset faithful.

The prompt wrapping up of the Gloucestershire first innings on the second morning was mainly due to poor shot selection but any Somerset supporter would have been worried that it was a portent of what was to come. The promise of Somerset’s batting in this competition in July vanished promptly as, Imam excepted, the top five failed to inconvenience the visitor’s bowlers for too long. 

Finally, and please indulge me here for a couple of words, but there is something I’d like to say and as this is my blog I’m going to. When Lewis Gregory departed first ball in the middle of the evening session the follow on loomed large but thanks to Rew and some stoic support from Sajid Khan at least avoided that embarrassment.

Finally, as you are all aware SomersrtNorth has been very quiet since late June. Sorry. A combination of COVID, two holidays and a stack of work have been responsible. Hopefully normal service is now resumed.

But I wanted to take a moment if I may to get something off my chest. It has not surprised me but disappointed me that some have found it necessary to make unkind comments about me and the blog on social media and imply that my lack of writing has been because of Somerset’s poor form. What utter nonsense.

While I respect the opinion of others and their right to express them those who take the cowardly opportunity to attack in a personal way have no place in my world. I am happy to accept that most of what I write and say about Somerset cricket is wrong and equally happy to be accused of seeing Somerset cricket through maroon and black tinted spectacles. But I am and always will be as long as God gives me breath a loyal and avid Somerset man and I will always come down on the side of trying to see the best in my team and doing all I can to support my team.

I started writing this blog because I enjoy it and because after my Dad passed away I missed our daily discussions about Somerset cricket. I am immensely grateful that many read and like what I write and thank those who have supported the blog. I do not write for any financial reward or have any agenda governed by the club but simply to express my opinion.

For those of you who don’t like it or feel the need to be unpleasant can I suggest you direct you sad attention elsewhere. Or perhaps have a go at actually supporting Somerset for a day or two. On the whole it is a nice thing, although the last two do, I admit, make it hard. Very hard.