Two Horse Race

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Notts, Taunton, Day One – Somerset 326 All Out (Davies 74, Bess 51, Wood 4-85) and 122 (Ali 65, Ashwin 5-59, Patterson-White 5-73 beat Notts 241 (Libby 77, Nash 50 ret hurt, Bess 5-59) & 122 All Out (J Overton 4-24, Leach 4-42) by 132 runs 

The summers of my childhood and youth were spent with my Dad at the County Ground, the autumns and winters at Taunton racecourse. Not the whole time you understand but a sizeable majority of it, or at least that’s how it seems from the distance of 45 years or so.

Dad loved his horse racing as much as he loved his cricket. He actually had a pretty encyclopaedic knowledge of national hunt racing which never ceased to amaze me. But one of his most endearing features was his favourite phrases which he used watching his two favourite sports.

When Somerset were batting in a one-day game he used to look at his scorecard (on which he assiduously recorded the score at the end of each over) and regularly opine, “we need one really good over here”. There were many more not least of which was him turning to me half way down the back straight and telling me, that this was a “two horse race”. Naively – you’re allowed that when you are 10 and 11 – I never asked him at the time which two horses, so I’ll never know if he was right or wrong, but more often than not the race would most emphatically come down the final straight contested by just two horses!

The county championship title race seems, as it heads down the back straight, to be a two-horse race. (And there are no prizes for naming the two horses here!)

Somerset maintained their 15-point lead atop Division One of the County Championship after completing the double over bottom of the table Nottinghamshire at Taunton today. With second placed Essex beating third placed Yorkshire earlier in the day there is now a 40-point gap between second and third with five gamers remaining. 

Gratifyingly victory, just into the additional 8 overs claimed by Tom Abell at 6pm, Jamie Overton wrapped up a fine victory for the leaders bowling Jake Ball to complete a searingly fast second spell which wrapped up the Notts innings. Overton, who had earlier beaten Tom Moores for pace to claim his first wicket just after tea is now finding the rhythm and consistency we all know he is capable of. 

Moreover, to produce such an electric spell on a wicket that had for the last 4 sessions been the preserve of the spinners, demonstrates that Somerset possess a threat no other county can match. I for one am looking forward to seeing Jamie bowling at the weekend at Headingley although I suspect Garry Balance among others isn’t!

Overton had a big part to play earlier in the day with the bat. After a very comfortable first hour when Tom Abell and Azhar Ali took their overnight partnership to 55 the skipper was unluckily dismissed to a fluke of a catch by Ben Slater.

That precipitated a collapse from 56-1 to 115-8. While the lead by then had almost reached 200 Somerset would have hoped and anticipated more at the start of the day. Enter Jamie who in 11 overs helped Azhar Ali add 51 priceless runs. By the time he departed the lead was 251 and Nottinghamshire resolve was broken beyond repair. 

Azhar Ali though was superb. He must have relished the battle with Ashwin and the opportunity to demonstrate his ability on a wicket offering one of India’s finest turn and bounce. His innings lasted 196 mins and he faced 184 balls hitting only 4 fours. It was worth of 150+ on many other surfaces.

Somerset. Like Notts at the start of the day opened the bowling with a seam / spin combination. For Ashwin and Wood read Leach and Gregory but unlike the third innings Somerset made inroads early and regularly. The outcome was never in doubt but to wrap things up so efficiently further demonstrates the quality of this Somerset attack.

Oh, and if anyone mentions to you in the next few days that “Ciderabad” is back can I suggest a rejoinder along the lines of, “well if it is I hate to think how frighteningly quick Jamie Overton will be on a quicker wicket”.

#DareToDream #DoItForTres

It’s Been Emotional

Did anyone else feel it? There was a weight on the shoulders of Somerset cricket on Friday. A weight of expectation, the weight of surely not again, a weight of expectation on this emerging side under their young captain.  

The weather in Taunton on Friday seemed to sense it. A gloriously warm and sunny late May afternoon became sullen and grey as the evening arrived. Were even the Gods feeling this weight? 

Or perhaps it was our forbears. Those departed Somerset fans who had never seen their beloved county win anything or those who had witnessed the achievements of “Rosey’s Army” but then suffered the purgatory of Shepton Mallett and the subsequent years. 

We all have lost loved ones who fell into one or both of these categories. 

I certainly felt that weight.  Four years ago my Dad passed away and never a day passes without me missing him. During the cricket season the pain is multiplied a thousandfold. The lost opportunities to discuss and dissect every day’s play missed as painfully today as they were four years ago. 

Being a Somerset supporter, as he taught me, is not an enterprise to be entered into lightly or with an expectation of sustained happiness but my god isn’t it worth it. Those of us lucky enough to be born in that wonderful county have a passion for our team that is in our blood. It really does mean everything. 

Dad longed for one more trophy in his lifetime but it was never to be. 

Saturday morning dawned bright in The Vale, the Gods were watching Taunton. The forbears had pulled up their favourite seats. The signs announcing the forthcoming World Cup added to the feeling that the town was ready for the final it all felt that this was going to be the occasion when it would finally come right. 

From the moment Hampshire elected to bat the weight seemed to ease, perceptibly. A defensive decision based on the weakened Hampshire not wishing to want to expose their weakened batting line up to the pressure of a run chase in the final. There was enough in the wicket to have interested Abbott and Edwards but it was the Somerset bowlers who were given first use of the track and, with Josh Davey to the fore, seized control. Wickets fell in the fourth, eighth, thirteenth and twentieth overs. Wickets that crucially stunted any attacking ambitions of Hampshire and exposed the admirable Gareth Berg, batting a couple of places too high in the order, with over half the overs remaining. 

Jamie Overton has in the last two weeks be playing his trade with Northants in division two. A move officially explained as to give him long spells in 4 day cricket. But Jamie, like his brother, like all of us has Somerset cricket in his every fibre. He has clearly missed being around this group since the semi-final and he was out to prove how much Somerset means to him, how much he has missed it. 

The tactic of using pace in the middle overs, high quality pace delivered with real feeling, further undermined the holders, removed any prospect of a recovery. The extent of the pressure Jamie applied was seen not only in his analysis but in the results at the other end. 

Tom Abell, joyously, trusted himself with the ball and removed Sam Northeast who had clearly set himself to bat through. The acting Hampshire captain was bowled attempting something ugly over mid-wicket after 89 balls of graft and application. There is no doubt that Northeast’s dismissal owed a huge amount to the pressure Jamie had exerted. 

Abell added a second when he also bowled Kyle Abbott to reduce Hampshire to 180-8 in the 41st over. 

Hereabouts Somerset made their only misstep of the day, removing Jamie from the attack when he could almost would have wrapped up the innings for less than 200 was a misjudgment. Fuller and Crane were allowed time to breathe and the prospered to the extent of a 65 run stand that brought a scintilla of respectability to their total. 

Jamie finished with 3-48, figures spoiled by the inevitable consequences of delivering the last over. Josh Davey who did not bowl his full quota 2-28 from 8 and Tom Abell 3-19 from 5.

Where Somerset had looked as if they were chasing under 200 the last wicket stand had shifted some of the momentum toward the holders. But where Jamie Overton had lifted a fair chunk of our collective weight Tom Banton was about to shove it aside and smash it into tiny pieces. 

The petulant Fidel Edwards opened with three overs of juicy leg stump half volleys costing 31 runs, propelling Somerset’s response into immediate overdrive and further enhancing a burgeoning reputation. Banton feasted on the offerings mixing power with grace and timing. A flipped six over the short mid-wicket boundary left us all gasping. The sun shone, the Gods smiled and Azhar joined the fun. The opening stand, easing back after the opening salvo, compiled 112 within the first 20 overs.

By the time Banton was caught behind almost half the chase was completed. Edwards had returned from the pavilion end and had found a better line, length and rhythm without sadly dialing down the boorishness. He removed Azhar in the following over but Somerset’s advantage at that time was such that Trego and Hildreth could ease along at four an over without jeopardising the victory prospects. 

The fairy-tail ending of these two loyal servants being there at the end was it to be. Neither was that of our young Tauntonian captain seeing it through. Abell getting caught on the leg side playing one of those lack-of-concentration shots that are currently the difference between his results and his capabilities.

But there was James Hildreth. The man who had hit the winning run at The Oval in 2005. Accompanied by George Bartlett, maturing in front of our eyes ball by ball. Hildy was into his cruise, making batting look ridiculously easy. The target was 42 away when the pair got together and they accelerated as the target got closer. 40 became 30 became 20, Bartlett rotating the strike efficiently, Hildreth growing in confidence and repertoire. The outcome was no longer in doubt and the man that all Somerset cherish as one of our greatest was going to see it home. 

The weight had long gone, this was pure euphoria, emotion swirling as we enjoyed these moments. Ten second places was not going to be come eleven. Enough of that nonsense. The county of Wellard and White of Gimblett, Trescothick and Rose, the adopted home of Richards and Garner was about to write another chapter in its history. 

And then, inexplicably, the tears began to build. The wish that Dad had been able to see this. Hit me hard.  How he would have enjoyed seeing James Hildreth hit the winning run. Hildreth you see is his type of cricketer, unassuming, supremely talented and most of all one of those like Denning and Marks who epitomizes what a Somerset cricketer is.

How fitting that Edwards, the worthy successor to the Robin Jackman of the 1981 final, the pantomime villain was hit for three fours off three balls by Hildreth to seal the win. A victory for the spirit of cricket. A victory for the good guys. 

The weight finally swept away by a wave of emotion. Tears flowed from the eyes of your correspondent, proper tears sobs of joy, sobs of pride. When Tom Abell, a young man who absolutely gets what this means to all of us had to fight to hold back his tears before he collected the trophy, they flowed again. 

Even as I finish this piece 24 hours on the tears are not far away. I’ve watched the highlights back, thought all day about what to write and read as much as I can on social media and in the press and I can’t stop smiling inside. I am from Somerset. We have finally won something and we’ve done it with a young team that is truly our own. 

1979 was, as Brian Rose has described it, the moment of the century for Somerset cricket. My God I feel privileged to have been there that day. A first ever trophy sweetened, if that is possible, by the collective experience of the same weekend the previous year and the fallout from Worcester earlier that year. 

That victory in 1979 turned a very good team into a great team, a team of winners. Forty years on there is every possibility that this experience, the collective experience of 25thMay 2019, will usher in a period of sustained silverware.

But all that is for another day. Like, I suspect most Somerset fans, I am emotional beyond belief so happy I could burst and I am going to savour every morsel of this. And call me daft but since those last few overs yesterday evening I can feel Dad close, enjoying this with me just as much did in 1979.

WeAreSomerset

Dare to Dream

Dare to Dream

County Championship Division One, Taunton, Day 3- Somerset 209 and 164 (Overton 36, Norwell 7-41)Warwickshire 135 (C Overton 5-31) and 189 (Hain 92*) beat Warwickshire by 49 runs 

Looking back at a scorecard of this game at the end of the season or in years to come a 49-run victory in a low scoring game like this will seem pretty comprehensive. And it was. Somerset out-batted, out-bowled and out-fielded and Warwickshire and were deserved victors. The problem is when you are “in the moment” and the opponents last wicket stand has added 49 runs and halved the requirement for victory things are far from comfortable for us supporters.

The rational mind goes out of the window at such times and thoughts turn to how damaging defeat will be, how a promising start in the championship could unravel, how a loss could be terminal for a title challenge. All irrational but those and many other negative thoughts swirl around in your brain as the last wicket pair add a single here, a boundary there.

The problem for Somerset supporters was that this wasn’t a typical last wicket stand, partly because Oliver Hannon-Dalby has previous at Taunton in this regard but mainly because Sam Hain was inching toward a century in a game where the previous highest score (ignoring extras) was 36. 

The requirement when they came together was 99 Somerset having taken 3 wickets for the addition of 37 runs in 15 overs. In this context a last wicket stand of 49 in 17 overs was beginning to get a little too close for comfort until Lewis Gregory returning for a pre-lunch burst induced Hannon-Dalby to edge, fittingly, to Craig Overton. 

Judging by the reaction of Hain, and to a greater degree Hannon-Dalby the Warwickshire pair clearly thought they thought they had a chance of victory. The crowd had gone ever quieter and the tension seemed to be, for the first time in the session, creeping into the Somerset side with a few nervous looking loose deliveries and some very unusual mis-fields.

But of course, now it is all over, the points secured and, at least temporarily, the gap at the top of the table extended to 32 points all seems the tension of lunchtime seems to have dissipated. Somerset have an extra day to prepare for Saturday’s final with a third win in four games. 

There is no doubt there is a growing feeling that this could be our year. I’ve heard both the Surrey and Warwickshire commentators make explicit reference to this already. The wider cricket community is aware of the momentum that is building behind Somerset. That’s a good thing, if you go into games with the opposition feeling they are playing the champions elect it is worth a couple of wickets or a bunch of runs before a ball is bowled. Surrey benefitted from this last year when they went on their run from early June.

I have made a pledge to myself that I am not going to ignore this fact as the season goes on. While I am a naturally superstitious person and don’t want to jinx things it would be absurd to ignore what we have here and what is building.

Anthony Gibson admitted last week that he has spent plenty of time thinking of what he will say if he is on commentary at the moment our collective lifelong dreams become reality. I have also thought about this moment a lot and will be trying to make representations to Anthony to that effect if we continue to perform as we have done. I feel the weight of my family no longer with us firmly on my shoulders as I am sure many of us do and this thing is as much for all of them as it is for Tom and the boys.

Before I am accused of getting ahead of myself let me just say in mitigation that, having documented much of last season for The Incider when I read back over those posts during the winter there was always something in reserve, that visceral expression of feeling and what this means to me. I don’t want to repeat that this year in my writing so will not apologise for expressing my feelings about the progress of the season game by game, “in the moment”

And yes the next three games, all away, against Surrey, Kent and then Essex, which will take us to the half-way point in the championship in terms of games played will tell us a lot about our title aspirations. But Somerset can go into that run of games, with another off-week after Kent, with confidence.

As I write this before close of play in the other games two of our potential rivals have work to do to wrap up victories. Hampshire have built a lead of 350 mainly thanks to a third wicket stand of 257 between Ajinka Rahane and Sam Northeast who both made centuries. The outcome of this one will be decided by how well the pitch at Newport IoW holds up and also on whether Notts have the temperament to bat out the last day. A little session before the close may be pivotal.

Surrey lead Kent by 370 with four wickets left and must be nearing a declaration. Again being played at an out-ground, in this instance Beckenham, the outcome here is more likely to be decided by the resilience of the Kent batting which I am afraid I don’t back to achieve the draw.

If Hampshire and Surrey both win Somerset’s lead at the top of Hampshire will be just 2 points while will have 47 points trailing top place by 27 with a game in hand.

Somerset have their first off-week of the season next week while our current nearest rivals in the division, Yorkshire and Hampshire play each other at Headingley. Surrey will be looking to make up ground with a visit to Edgbaston and Essex, who I think are in with a real shout of contending this year host Kent.

I’ll be keeping a close eye on those games, and the performance of Dome Bess (Northants also have an off week next week). Let’s hope by the time those games get underway we have some silverware to cherish. 

Time for Calm Heads

County Championship Division One, Taunton, Day 2 – Warwickshire 135  (C Overton 5-31) and 103-6 (Hain 43*) require 136 runs to beat Somerset 209 and 164 (Overton 36, Norwell 7-41)

A day which started with more questions than answers; how would the pitch behave on day 2, what the Somerset approach would be in their second innings, how would Tres fare with the spotlight on him ever more acutely, ended with just one can Warwickshire’s Sam Hain and their tail pull together 136 more runs to record a most improbable win.

The seven hours between these two states of mind were tortuous for all Somerset fans. Judging my some of the tweets coming in to the BBC commentary there is a whole swathe across south west England and as in my case farther afield of angst ridden, nerve wracked cricket fans living every ball, every twist and turn with Tom Abell and this team. For the sake of our championship aspirations long may it continue but if it does it is going to be one hell of a journey.  

Objective number one was to wrap up the Warwickshire first innings as quickly as possible. Jack Leach made the ideal start getting Jeetan Patel to the second ball of the day to complete the unfinished overnight over as a double wicket maiden. 

A third wicket fell with the Warwickshire total on 110 when Liam Banks was lbw to Craig Overton without addition to his overnight 26. Last pair Norwell and Hannon-Dalby added a 25 in 8 overs before Craig bowled the ex-Gloucestershire man to finish with 5-31 and Somerset with a first innings lead of 74.

That lead had only reached 88 when James Hildreth was the second wicket to fall for a fourth ball duck, Azhar having gone to his third ball also without scoring. Within the first hour 5 wickets had gone. 

The skipper joined Marcus who had begun positively and together they taken the score to 37 before Tres was adjudged lbw to Norwell for 23. Frustratingly for those of us hoping Marcus would make a telling contribution he got a start and seemed to be more relaxed at the crease in this innings but you have to wonder if this contribution was enough for him to retain his place. 

With Hildy having failed again it seems to me that we need to look at the batting order as a whole. I’ve said for a while that I’d like to see Tres drop down to 5 or 6, keeping his experience in the side but if Hildreth is to move back to four the only way to do so would be to bring in Tom Banton at the top of the order and drop Steven Davies. The other factor is whether Tom Abell would be prepared to move back to open the innings now he has firmly established himself as the captain. If not perhaps move to 3?

The top 6 would then be; Banton, Azhar, Abell, Hildreth, Trescothick, Bartlett. It is time to give Tom his chance this might seem very harsh on Davies and many would argue he deserves to retain his place in the side ahead of Tres but something needs to be done to this batting order as it is not consistently produce the runs needed by a side with championship aspirations.

The pattern of Somerset’s first innings continued up to and immediately after the lunch break, Somerset scoring at around 4 an over but losing wickets regularly. By lunch Somerset had virtually doubled their lead but had lost half their second innings wickets at 75-5, Tom Abell 23 and George Bartlett 14 return to the Andy Caddick Pavilion in time for sandwiches. Immediately after lunch it became 75-6 when Lewis was bowled by Norwell (his fifth wicket of the innings) and 3 runs later Norwell struck again to remove Steven Davies for 10. 

The farcical nature of this game was summed up just after 2.10pm when Somerset’s official twitter account tweeted “Nice little partnership of 20 this between Craig Overton and Josh Davey. Somerset 98/7 and lead by 172 runs”. It says it all really that Ben Warren, like all of us. Saw a 20 run partnership of being worthy of note! 

Josh Davey didn’t last much longer Hannon-Dalby’s first wicket of the second innings when he reached 10. Davey was caught at deep square leg which at least bucked the trend of lbws and close catches.

The 9thwicket was slightly more productive than the 8thadding 32 before Tim Gronewald went caught behind off Brookes. 139-9. Jack Leach joined Craig Overton who by then had reached a very well-constructed 25, the pair added a further 25 before Leach was caught behind for 9 leaving Craig 36 not out making him joint top scorer in the game with Josh Davey from the first innings.

Craig Overton 5-31 in Warwickshire’s first innings and 36* in Somerset’s second innings

The last three Somerset wickets added 86 runs compared with the 78 the first seven mustered. The lingering question was whether this was evidence of the wicket easing, in which case Warwickshire’s task might be considerably easier than the scoreboard suggests.

So Warwickshire’s target was 239 in just over 7 sessions or 230 overs. Lewis Gregory began with a wicket maiden removing Will Rhodes for a duck. Immediately before tea Gregory struck again getting Yates for 8 also caught behind with the total on 26. A little partnership which had begun to raise questions in my mind as to whether the wicket was easing despite the number of balls that were beating the bat.

Dominic Sibley remained a big obstacle for Somerset unbeaten on 12 but with 15 wickets having fallen already on day 2 and only 8 left to fall there was certainly a debate about whether Somerset could complete the job on day 2. Sam Hain joined Sibley and they made batting look significantly easier in the post-tea period adding the almost obligatory 20 before Jack Leach got Sibley nonchalantly caught at slip by Lewis Gregory 46-3.

Adam Hose followed quickly to make it 55-4, a wicket which, unless I am very much mistaken, was celebrated with a little more vigour than any of the others. It seems the bad taste of mid-2017 may still linger. The impressive Liam Banks joined Hain who was by now batting with greater assurance than probably anyone in the game so far and they took the total on to 84 before Tom Abell got Banks lbw.

I am not going to claim that what I wrote in my preview on Saturday has had any influence on the skipper but it is pleasing to see that the skipper is backing his bowling more in this game than previously this season. Five runs later George Bartlett’s brilliance in the field effecting the crucial run out of Tim Ambrose, running in at pace from cover with only one stump to aim at.

Hot Hands – George Bartlett, stunning run out to dismiss Tim Ambrose

While one more wicket would have sent the game into an additional 30 minutes but Somerset seemed to settle for reaching the earlier close and to come back fresh in the morning.

While Somerset are now strong favourites but will want to see the back of Sam Hain quickly to ease all our nerves and hope that Jeetan Patel can’t stay with him. A repeat of the first half hour this morning would do very nicely. We need to manage our reserves of nerves, there is a long season stretching out in front of us. 

The Green Green Grass of Home

County Championship Division One, Taunton, Day 1 – Warwickshire 110-7 (C Overton 3-25) trail Somerset 209 all out (Extras 47, Davey 36, O Hannon-Dalby 5-18)) by 99 runs

Somerset would under most circumstances have been very happy to adjourn at lunch on the first day of a championship game with 143 runs at a shade under 5 an over. The problem was that they had lost 7 wickets in doing so. 

It is impossible to write anything about the first day’s play without reference to the other games around the country. Bizarrely only Hampshire, who were 88-0 on the Isle of Wight against Notts had shown any semblance of normality. Surrey were 91-5 having been 65-5 v Kent, Durham 54-5 v Gloucs (they were 34-5 at one point), Worcestershire 66-7 having been 38-7 v Lancashire and Sussex 77-6 against Northants.

Even more bizarrely of those teams only Hampshire and Durham were not in very strong positions by close of play. But more of that later.

Pre game my thoughts were that Somerset faced a different sort of pressure heading into this game. Expectations were high that Warwickshire, bottom of the table with no wins and a meagre 7 points from their first two games, both at home, were there for the taking. There was also the obvious distraction of a Lords Final on Saturday.

Selection has become a thing in the last couple of weeks. Tom Banton’s white ball performances combined with Marcus’ early season struggles had created uncertainty at the top of the order. Jack Brooks injury was thought by many to mean the return of Jamie Overton from his loan spell at Northampton but, as predicted on The Incider over the weekend, the selectors chose to leave Jamie to face Sussex at Northampton and recalled Josh Davey. 

My first reaction on hearing that Warwickshire had elected to bowl was that his was more of a defensive move by the visitors, not wanting to bat first against the Somerset attack especially as there was more than a little tinge of green in the wicket. I suspect Warwickshire’s fragile batting would have struggled massively if they had chosen to bat first. It was Somerset’s daunting task to face that challenge.

The only word to describe the next three hours is frenetic. Somerset’ s batsmen, certainly before lunch could be split into two very distinct tribes – Azhar and Davies, who doggedly resisted and accumulated and the rest who went at pretty much a run a ball and perished when they had got into the teens. No until the arrival of Josh Davey at No 9 did we see a sensible mixture of the two.

I’ve decided to write the Somerset innings in one paragraph with little punctuation. The intention being for the reader to get through the text quickly and finish reading slightly dazed and breathless as that was the effect of the innings on Somerset supporters.

Tres was out 5 in second over, again caught in the slips amid a frenetic start which saw 13 off first over including 4 leg byes and 2 no-balls. Hildy joined Azhar and got off to a flier with 15 off his first 12 balls including 3 fours but was then caught at point cutting first ball of 7thover for 15. Tom and Azhar stabilised things for a while but just before the first hour, in the 14thover the skipper was trapped LBW by Hannon-Dalby for 14. 57-3 which soon became 61-4 when Azhar was bowled by ex-Gloucestershire man Liam Norwell, George Bartlett Joined Steven Davies and raced to 15 off 13 balls before playing on to the returning Brookes 77-5 in the 18thLewis’ arrival unsurprisingly saw more positive intent and in just over 7 overs the he and Davies added 46, Gregory’s share was 20 when 10 minutes before lunch he went caught in the slips 123-6 with extras now comfortably top scorer with 31. In the four overs up to lunch after Lewis was dismissed Somerset added another 20 with Craig Overton moving on to 11 off 11 balls and passing Steven Davies who lunched on 9 off 35 balls. Somerset’s interval total of 143-6 off 29 overs was just shy of 5 runs an over. Craig Overton went almost immediately after lunch, the fourth Somerset batsman dismissed for 15 with the total on 147-7. Josh Davey joined Steven Davies and together they added 58 before Davies was lbw to Warwickshire skipper Jeetan Patel with the score on 205. Davey went in the following over without addition to the score for a well-made 36 off 56 balls and two overs later Jack Leach was caught in the slips to leave Somerset 209 all out.  

Top Scorer Josh Davey

Extras were comfortably the top scorer with 47 almost half of them no balls and in total accounted for a remarkable 22.5% of the total, Josh Davey 36 and Steve Davies 23 off 75 were the next two top scorers.  

And at 2.48 pm breathe! 

Warwickshire adopted a totally contrasting approach to the task of batting on this pitch. At tea they had reached 42 for the loss of two wickets off 14 overs, a positively rapid rate of scoring compared with the final session in which they barely scraped above 2 an over. 

Huge credit has to go yet again to the bowlers who bowled with exemplary skill and discipline and a big plus was to see Tom Abell bring himself on much earlier than usual. His spell mid-session of 5-3-7-0 helped build the pressure which resulted in the late fall of 2 wickets.

Abell, assisted by Craig Overton was responsible for the first wicket, a run out of Will Rhodes after a horrible mix up between the openers and Overton then removed rookie No 3 Robert Yates for 8. Overton getting lift from just short of a length but at greater pace than Hannon-Dalby had shown earlier in the day when taking a career best 5-18.

Dominic Sibley was the wicket Somerset most wanted, the opener is on a prolific run of a century in each of his last 6 first class games and he was superbly caught by Craig off Timmy G for 26 off 85 balls. That was the fifth wicket to fall after Overton had removed Sam Hain and Adam Hose in quick succession. I’ll bite my lip about how good the latter felt after Hose’s departure for greener pastures (!)

Another of Warwickshire’s array of teenagers, Liam Banks batted through to the close to end 26 not out but he lost two more partners in doing so, Tim Ambrose was comprehensively bowled by Lewis Gregory who then turned catcher at slip as Jack Leach took his first wicket with what was the last ball of the day to leave Warwickshire on 110-7.

Given the nature of the pitch Somerset will be glad to avoid batting for the first part of the morning and will hope to take advantage of the freshness of the overnight wicket to quickly wrap up the last three wickets. Assuming they can do so with a lead of around 50 or more they will be optimistic of batting themselves into a very strong position. The Taunton pitch has in the recent past become considerably easier to bat on on days two and three but his pitch is greener than anything we have seen for quite a while so it may be over optimistic to hope batting will be that much easier until later in the day.

What is evident is that Somerset are a considerably better side than their opponents but what is equally clear is that their batsmen need to demonstrate this and give the bowlers something to bowl at. Whether this is a matter of time or whether the transformation can’t happen without a change in the batting order and/or personnel.

Social media was inevitably abuzz after the fall of the first wicket so we’ll leave that debate until tomorrow or Wednesday and hope above hope that the great man can put something substantial together. The other main topic of debate was the pitch with the obvious question about the likelihood of a visit from the pitch inspectors getting a good airing. The majority view and the one I subscribe to is that the 17 wickets was more due to poor technique and application rather than the surface although I agree with many who felt that if 17 wickets had fallen to Jeetan Patel and Jack Leach it would have been a case for the ECB’s man to “start the car”.  

Somerset weren’t the only side in the Championship who staged a fightback after a poor session. Surrey closed on 420-9 at Beckenham, Durham reached 158 and had reduced Gloucs to 120-5 and Worcestershire having made 172 had half the Lancashire side back in the pavilion for 88. But the most stunning recovery was at Northampton where Ben Brown and Chris Jordan both made unbeaten 150s as they added 302 for the seventh Sussex wicket. Jamie Overton finished the day with 1-69 off 15 overs. 

Decisions, Determination, Destiny?

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Surrey, Taunton, Day 1

There are days in championship cricket that are like this. Attritional days when the toss, luck, wicket goes against you. But these days are at the end of the season as important as those where everything goes right and you run through the opposition or bat serenely all day. The test of a side with real title ambitions is whether it is able to not let the game get away from it and when the opportunity arises fight back, especially when, as in this match, you are facing last season’s champions.

Having elected to contest the toss it was no surprise that Surrey couldn’t wait to bat. Somerset’s bowlers were presented with the first “batting day” of this young season and, for the most part toiled. A pair of wickets either side of lunch saw Surrey pegged back to 99-2 but two of the more obdurate left-handers in county cricket proceeded to bat well into the final session. Rory Burns made 107 and Dean Elgar 103 as the pair added 166 untroubled runs. Encouragingly however the run rate never got much above 3 an over even when Surrey were taking on Jack Leach with some clearly planned controlled aggression.

Somerset were partly culpable for their own difficulties before tea, most tellingly when Burns was dropped by Azhar off Jack Brooks, the sort of drop which utterly deflates the fielding side. But this team is built of better stuff and they dusted themselves down from that disappointment and regrouped in the tea interval to take 4-30 in the first hour after tea. Tom Abell was the catalyst for the fight back getting some nip , bounce and possibly reverse swing out of the old ball.

Lewis Gregory was again the pick of the bowlers with 3-44 (17 already this season) but Tim Groenewald was economical and picked up the key wicket of Burns. Jack Brooks after an excellent opening spell was once again expensive and it never really happened for either Craig Overton on Jack Leach. 

A seventh wicket stand of 35 enabled Surrey to close the day on 330-6 a position that will no doubt have disappointed the visitors. Somerset buoyed by their last session performance will hope that they can bowl as well with a relatively new second new ball and keep the visitors first innings under 400.

With the weather set fair for days 2 and 3 the pitch should be at its best for batting. If Somerset can build a platform on day 2, they may, unexpectedly, find themselves in a position of some ascendancy on the last day.  

The build-up to this first meeting of last season’s top two was one of contrasts. Somerset arrived on the back of a superb three days in the one-day cup which more than made amends for the mid-campaign swoon. Having dominated the first half of the group phase Somerset saw the prospect of a home quarter or semi-final dashed by three consecutive defeats.

It says a great deal about the mental strength of the group that they were able to go to the top two in the north group and win both with superb all-round performances. Surrey by contrast had an utterly forgettable one-day cup campaign which saw them finish bottom of the south group. So while Somerset would have rolled back from Nottingham full of confidence Surrey really were glad to see a red ball in the umpires’ hands.

Further debate and contrast surrounded the various squad and selection decisions made by Somerset in the build-up to the game. Dom Bess and Jamie Overton have gone off on month long loans to Yorkshire and Northants respectively a subject of much debate among Somerset supporters on social media particularly the Jamie Overton loan. 

Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of those decisions Somerset still had some selection decisions to make. Which of the “red ball specialists” would come back into the side? Jack Leach and Jack Brooks were virtual certainties but the possibility of Tom Banton replacing either Tres or Steven Davies after his one-day heroics was the subject for much debate.

I need to say here that they clamour in some parts for Marcus to step down is misplaced. As was the deplorable comments on thatvideo late last week. To criticise Somerset’s left handed opener for some low scores in the April championship games is unfair. To belittle him in the way many did for slipping over twice while batting in a 2ndXI game unforgivable. Marcus deserves far greater respect.

Let’s not forget Somerset have won both of their opening championship games with Marcus being an integral part of that team. His value is not only measured in runs but in the experience he provides in support of Tom Abell. His enthusiasm is undimmed. The effect his presence has on the opposition still palpable. Anyone who saw his catch at short leg off Jack Leach as Somerset closed in on victory on the third afternoon at Nottingham will know his reflexes and skills remain of the highest order.

That is not to say that either Trescothick or Davies are entitled to a place in the Championship side. They will be more aware than anyone that they need to deliver in the next two games at Taunton, aware that there are worthy replacements waiting in the wings. The first innings against Surrey would be the perfect time for the pair to make substantial contributions.

The Somerset line-up was the same as that at Trent Bridge in mid-April with the exception of Timmy G coming in to replace Josh Davey in what was probably a case of workload management. I’m not trying to be in anyway disparaging toward Groenewald but I felt, as did Anthony Gibson, that Jamie Overton would have given Surrey’s batsmen more to think about. His extra pace providing a different dimension from what was available. It will be interesting to see what Morkel and McKerr can get out of the pitch on day 2.

Speaking after the day’s play, Jason “Manager of the Month” Kerr explained the logic behind Jamie’s loan move. There is clearly a concern to ensure he is ready for the rigours of 4-day cricket and Somerset’s hierarchy see the loan as a chance for him to demonstrate his match fitness.

Surrey without the injured Ollie Pope, the Currans and Liam Plunkett for post-IPL / international reasons brought back Scott Borthwick, Rikki Clarke and Morne Morkel in a very recognisable version of their 2018 side.

Like most Somerset supporters our attention was drawn to events at Old Trafford and Canterbury where, respectively Jamie Overton and Dom Bess were making their loan debuts. Bess was first into action shortly after lunch scoring a run a ball 25 as the White Rose were dismissed for 210. Bess bowled three overs for 10 without taking a wicket as Kent replied with 130-4.

Northants, who also batted first were bowled out for 230, Jamie Overton made a very un-Jamie like 6 off 25 balls and had figures of 4-1-11-0.

Mixed Fortunes, Mixed Emotions

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Surrey, Taunton, Day 2 – Somerset 243-5 trail Surrey 380 All Out by 137 runs with 5 first innings wickets remaining, 

A game worthy of last season’s top two is unfolding at Taunton. After two days there is very little to choose between the two sides with each having had periods of ascendancy throughout the first two days. 

The morning session belonged to Somerset who bowled Surrey out for the addition of 50 runs, over half of which came in a frustrating last wicket stand. Having added 20 with Rikki Clarke in 10 overs and 45 minutes, a testament to Lewis and Craig’s control. Ironically it was a double bowling change which broke that stand, Jack Leach bowling Ryan Patel in his first over. Three overs later Groenewald struck getting Morkel caught behind for 1, and an over later Batty was gone LBW to Leach 352-9. 

Rikki Clarke has apparently scored more runs against Somerset that any other county. He added another 59 unbeaten (his seventh career score of 50 or more against Somerset) and with Conor McKerr added 28 for the last wicket before the McKerr was caught off Leach attempting something over-expansive 

Groenewald finished with 2-62 off 24 overs a return notable for its economy, thoroughly justifying his selection and proving once again that Jason Kerr knows a lot more about cricket than I do! Jack Brooks was unable to field or bowl due to a calf injury. Andy Hurry was quick to play down concerns in his lunchtime interview with the BBC but such injuries are a concern for quick bowlers and might be indicative of wider joint problems. It seems highly unlikely that Brooks will be fit for Warwickshire next Monday so the possibility of an immediate recall of Jamie from Northants appears highly likely. Overton, according to Charlie Taylor who is commentating at Old Trafford, bowled with considerable pace and hostility and much better than his 1-68 indicates. 

McKerr’s dismissal left Marcus and Azhar a nasty 20 minute spell to see out against Clarke and Morkel which they did to lunch at 10-0 off 5 overs. This sort of phase of a championship game is what makes the longer form first class game so wonderful. While we all enjoy the 50-over format given Somerset’s current success, a little spell like this, set in the context of the game and season is like no other. 

Being able to listen to the commentary of Anthony Gibson and Mark Church who are, while partisan in their support of their respective counties, proper cricket supporters. Gibson appreciative of the menace of Morkel, Church effusive in his adoration of an Azhar cover drive. Two consummate professionals with no media ego just a desire to share their enjoyment of the game we love. In a week where TMS is again letting itself down the powers that be at the BBC would do well to nurture Gibson, Church and their peers on the county commentary circuit.

Having lunched with a small sense of achievement of surviving that nasty spell, Trescothick went immediately after without adding to his solitary boundary. Having defended Marcus yesterday there is no doubt that 26 years and 2 days after he made his Championship debut for Somerset the great man is in desperate need of some runs.

We, as Somerset supporters in a horrible position. We have a team that is a very real championship contender. We also have a legend closing in, albeit painfully slowly, on the mythical mark set in the 50s by Harold Gimblett. All of us want nothing more than to see Tres’ making substantial runs and being an integral part of that side. But ever more vulnerable early in his innings is now the time to consider asking Banton to open with Azhar and move Marcus down to five? The logic is inescapable, Trescothick is more likely to flourish in such a less testing role away from the pressure and jeopardy of the new ball. The problem is such a move would involve dropping either Davies, with Tom taking the gloves, or George Bartlett or compromising the bowling depth. 

Where Next for Marcus?

Marcus’ dismissal heralded a sudden change in the direction of the day’s play. Whereas batting had been an Attritional task against quality bowling Azhar and James Hildreth proceeded to add 94 runs in 17 overs. It seemed midway through the session that Somerset were building a position to really put Surrey under pressure while the visiting bowlers were made to look distinctly ordinary.

But as abruptly as fortunes had swung in Somerset’s favour they swung against them with the dismissals of Azhar and the skipper as the introduction of the much despised Gareth Batty and reintroduction of Morne Morkel first slowed the run rate and then took the 2 wickets to reduce Somerset to 117-3 half an hour before tea. Azhar who had been imperious seemed to lose concentration while Abell inexplicably for a batsman of his class played perhaps the worst shot of the season to one of the worst balls of the season.

Pausing to reflect half way through the second day it is worth noting that Somerset had fought magnificently since mid-way through the final session of the first day reducing Surrey from 265-2 to 380 all out (115-8) and then reached 104-1 making the two careless dismissals of top order batsmen all the more annoying.

George Bartlett joined James Hildreth and the pair stabilised things up to tea to adjourn at 140-3. Bartlett seemed immediately at ease while Hildreth was purring and had reached 61 off 98 balls in just under 2 hours with 9 fours in that gorgeous way that only James Hildreth can.    

The final session began in identical fashion to the afternoon session with McKerr taking a wicket in the first over of the resumption this time removing George Bartlett palpably LBW this time Hildreth’s rebuilding job was in conjunction with Steven Davies. Davies, like Trescothick would have been aware of the growing clamour for Tom Banton to get a place in the championship side at his expense, unlike Trescothick able to respond with significant runs.

The partnership, while not as flowing as the earlier Hildreth / Azhar alliance, added a very good 70 when Hildreth was deceived by Rikki Clarke looking to push the ball into the onside and only succeeding in giving a return catch to the bowler. For the second time this season Hildreth perished in the 90s when something even more substantial seemed possible.

With another 18 overs to go in the day Somerset were grateful for the maturity of Lewis Gregory, curbing his natural attacking instincts to see out the day on 18 with Davies 54 not out. While they have only added 32 their joint contribution has closed a potential door of opportunity for Surrey.

James Hildreth’s post close of play assessment of the balance of the game being 60-40 in favour of Surrey might be a bit of a case of dressing room mind games rather than a fair assessment. His comment that the wicket is beginning to take spin and his hope that Somerset can build a position where we can “unleash Jack Leach on them” is perhaps more indicative of the mood in the home dressing room. 

Somerset will be hoping for the overnight two to push on tomorrow. With a new ball due in 12 overs there is every possibility that they will be able to take advantage of the harder ball. We all know what an hour of Gregory in his pomp could do and if Davies can avoid his recent propensity to get out early in a session when set Surrey might start their second innings with at best a slender lead and the momentum against them.

An intriguing third day awaits.

Everything to Play for on Day Four

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Surrey, Taunton, Day 3 – Surrey 380 All Out and 152-5 lead Somerset by 134 runs with 5 second innings wickets remaining, 

Somerset will consider themselves in a strong but not yet match-winning position at the end of a fascinating third day at Taunton. With a day to go all four results are theoretically possible in a game that may go a long way to deciding the destiny of this year’s County Championship. 

The performance of this Somerset side in this game has been one of consummate professionalism. They never allowed Surrey to get into a position of dominance even when passing 250 in the first innings for only two down and have, from the moment Surrey’s third wicket fell, worked their way back into a position of some strength. While any victory target on the final day will be tough against the Champions, Somerset have earned the right to have a shot at completing what would be a magnificent performance.

Having achieved a first innings lead of 18 Somerset have removed half of Surrey’s second innings and with the last of those removed Surrey’s captain the obdurate and hugely talented Rory Burns. With Dean Elgar unable to take part on the third day, reported as unwell by Surrey’s official twitter account, the possibility remains of Somerset needing only four wickets tomorrow to set up a run chase. 

I closed yesterday’s post play post with a quote from James Hildreth in which he said that the wicket is beginning to take spin and expressed his hope that Somerset can build a position where we can “unleash Jack Leach on them”. I also expressed the hope that Steven Davies could avoid his recent propensity to get out early in a session to enable Somerset to build the base for Somerset’s England spinner.

Davies did not do what was required getting out in the second over of the day after adding only 4 to his overnight score but yet again Somerset’s lower order came through with flying colours. Led by Lewis Gregory who made his second first class century and his first at Taunton with an unbeaten 129 and ably supported by Craig Overton, Tim Groenewald and Jack Leach in stands of 51, 64 and 32 respectively.

Groenewald deserves special mention for his 13 which lasted 66 balls and 95 minutes which was worth far more than the runs he contributed. Timmy was the recipient of a fearful barrage from Morkel and must have been close to retiring hurt just before lunch. But as we all know Timmy G is a very tough character and his determination, in obvious pain and discomfort, to guts it out was pivotal in Somerset’s lower order resistance. 

It also sent out a very powerful to Morkel, Batty and the Champions that this Somerset side are not to be bullied and will not be bowed. 

The only disappointment was that, not for the first time in recent history Somerset fell marginally short of the final batting bonus point when Jack Brooks succumbed to his second ball to leave the total 2 short of the required 400.

It has now become impossible to find a new superlative for Gregory who is clearly in the form of his life and has allied his undoubted natural talent to full fitness, after overcoming a long-running back injury, and maturity to fully justify his place at the top of the PCA rankings.

Run out of Superlatives – Lewis Gregory

Having added 147 for the last 4 wickets Somerset carried that momentum into the Surrey second innings reducing them to 19-2 and 43-3, a lead of 25 at that time. Needless to say Gregory took the first wicket to remove Mark Stoneman and then removed Ben Foakes. With Jack Leach also claiming a couple of wickets in this phase Somerset would have harboured hopes of dealing a mortal blow to their opponents in the final session.

With Jack Brooks unable to bowl Leach had the crucial role to wheel away from one end allowing the seamers to rotate at the far end. Rory Burns, Somerset’s shrewd captain seemed well aware of the influence his England counterpart was likely to have taking every opportunity to prevent Leach from settling into one of those trademark long metronomic spells that frequently turns promising into match-winning positions for Somerset.

Will Jacks, on a pair was tormented by Leach and seemed stuck on nought for an eternity but, he benefitted from a loosener from Groenewald and a couple of pieces of poor fielding to get away and by the close had become increasingly fluent with 31.

The wicket of Burns, attempting to advance to Leach once too often, shortly before the close leaves Surrey in need of further resistance from Jacks and will hope that Rikki Clarke can continue his outstanding record against Somerset. The fact that Morne Morkel was sent in as nightwatchman indicate to me that Elgar’s indisposition may be more serious than we have been led to believe and that Clarke needed to be protected overnight.

Craig Overton bowled really well without success and I wouldn’t be surprised if his first spell tomorrow gives him the wickets he deserves. With Gregory and Leach also keen to get among the action Somerset will be hopeful of restricting the target to under 200. The possibilities are endless tomorrow but, if the cricketing Gods are reading this, a nice unbeaten 80 odd for Marcus in a successful run chase would do very nicely thank you!

#DareToDream

Decisions, Determination, Destiny?

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Surrey, Taunton, Day 1, Surrey 330-6

There are days in championship cricket that are like this. Attritional days when the toss, luck, wicket goes against you. But these days are at the end of the season as important as those where everything goes right and you run through the opposition or bat serenely all day. The test of a side with real title ambitions is whether it is able to not let the game get away from it and when the opportunity arises fight back, especially when, as in this match, you are facing last season’s champions.

Having elected to contest the toss it was no surprise that Surrey couldn’t wait to bat. Somerset’s bowlers were presented with the first “batting day” of this young season and, for the most part toiled. A pair of wickets either side of lunch saw Surrey pegged back to 99-2 but two of the more obdurate left-handers in county cricket proceeded to bat well into the final session. Rory Burns made 107 and Dean Elgar 103 as the pair added 166 untroubled runs. Encouragingly however the run rate never got much above 3 an over even when Surrey were taking on Jack Leach with some clearly planned controlled aggression.

Somerset were partly culpable for their own difficulties before tea, most tellingly when Burns was dropped by Azhar off Jack Brooks, the sort of drop which utterly deflates the fielding side. But this team is built of better stuff and they dusted themselves down from that disappointment and regrouped in the tea interval to take 4-30 in the first hour after tea. Tom Abell was the catalyst for the fight back getting some nip , bounce and possibly reverse swing out of the old ball.

Lewis Gregory was again the pick of the bowlers with 3-44 (17 already this season) but Tim Groenewald was economical and picked up the key wicket of Burns. Jack Brooks after an excellent opening spell was once again expensive and it never really happened for either Craig Overton on Jack Leach. 

Lewis Gregory, yet again the pick of Somerset’s bowlers on day one and now 17 championship wickets for the season

A seventh wicket stand of 35 enabled Surrey to close the day on 330-6 a position that will no doubt have disappointed the visitors. Somerset buoyed by their last session performance will hope that they can bowl as well with a relatively new second new ball and keep the visitors first innings under 400.

With the weather set fair for days 2 and 3 the pitch should be at its best for batting. If Somerset can build a platform on day 2, they may, unexpectedly, find themselves in a position of some ascendancy on the last day.  

The build-up to this first meeting of last season’s top two was one of contrasts. Somerset arrived on the back of a superb three days in the one-day cup which more than made amends for the mid-campaign swoon. Having dominated the first half of the group phase Somerset saw the prospect of a home quarter or semi-final dashed by three consecutive defeats.

It says a great deal about the mental strength of the group that they were able to go to the top two in the north group and win both with superb all-round performances. Surrey by contrast had an utterly forgettable one-day cup campaign which saw them finish bottom of the south group. So while Somerset would have rolled back from Nottingham full of confidence Surrey really were glad to see a red ball in the umpires’ hands.

Further debate and contrast surrounded the various squad and selection decisions made by Somerset in the build-up to the game. Dom Bess and Jamie Overton have gone off on month long loans to Yorkshire and Northants respectively a subject of much debate among Somerset supporters on social media particularly the Jamie Overton loan. 

Irrespective of the rights or wrongs of those decisions Somerset still had some selection decisions to make. Which of the “red ball specialists” would come back into the side? Jack Leach and Jack Brooks were virtual certainties but the possibility of Tom Banton replacing either Tres or Steven Davies after his one-day heroics was the subject for much debate.

I need to say here that they clamour in some parts for Marcus to step down is misplaced. As was the deplorable comments on thatvideo late last week. To criticise Somerset’s left handed opener for some low scores in the April championship games is unfair. To belittle him in the way many did for slipping over twice while batting in a 2ndXI game unforgivable. Marcus deserves far greater respect.

Let’s not forget Somerset have won both of their opening championship games with Marcus being an integral part of that team. His value is not only measured in runs but in the experience he provides in support of Tom Abell. His enthusiasm is undimmed. The effect his presence has on the opposition still palpable. Anyone who saw his catch at short leg off Jack Leach as Somerset closed in on victory on the third afternoon at Nottingham will know his reflexes and skills remain of the highest order.

That is not to say that either Trescothick or Davies are entitled to a place in the Championship side. They will be more aware than anyone that they need to deliver in the next two games at Taunton, aware that there are worthy replacements waiting in the wings. The first innings against Surrey would be the perfect time for the pair to make substantial contributions.

The Somerset line-up was the same as that at Trent Bridge in mid-April with the exception of Timmy G coming in to replace Josh Davey in what was probably a case of workload management. I’m not trying to be in anyway disparaging toward Groenewald but I felt, as did Anthony Gibson, that Jamie Overton would have given Surrey’s batsmen more to think about. His extra pace providing a different dimension from what was available. It will be interesting to see what Morkel and McKerr can get out of the pitch on day 2.

Speaking after the day’s play, Jason “Manager of the Month” Kerr explained the logic behind Jamie’s loan move. There is clearly a concern to ensure he is ready for the rigours of 4-day cricket and Somerset’s hierarchy see the loan as a chance for him to demonstrate his match fitness.

Surrey without the injured Ollie Pope, the Currans and Liam Plunkett for post-IPL / international reasons brought back Scott Borthwick, Rikki Clarke and Morne Morkel in a very recognisable version of their 2018 side.

Like most Somerset supporters our attention was drawn to events at Old Trafford and Canterbury where, respectively Jamie Overton and Dom Bess were making their loan debuts. Bess was first into action shortly after lunch scoring a run a ball 25 as the White Rose were dismissed for 210. Bess bowled three overs for 10 without taking a wicket as Kent replied with 130-4.

Heading off on loan – Dom Bess

Northants, who also batted first were bowled out for 230, Jamie Overton made a very un-Jamie like 6 off 25 balls and had figures of 4-1-11-0.

To Travel Hopefully, One Day Cup Knockout Preview


While Somerset do not face a Champions League Semi-final second leg sized task over the next three days it is undeniable that they have made the task of progressing to the One Day Cup final considerably harder than it should have been.

After opening the campaign with four straight wins a home tie in either of the knockout rounds was the least we all hoped for, but successive poor performances against Gloucestershire, Middlesex and Hampshire left the Cidermen scrambling for a win on Tuesday to qualify.

The reasons for this abrupt downturn in form are hard to fathom so while the performance against Surrey was, apart from Kent, perhaps their most complete all-round performance questions remain as we travel to Worcester tomorrow.

So, rather than indulging ourselves in some unhelpful navel gazing what do Somerset need to do to progress? In simple terms bat better, the lack of consistency from the top three (where have we said that before) needs to disappear allowing Hildy to come in without the need for a rebuild of the innings and in turn giving a platform for the lower middle order to do what they do best and post a formidable score.

I’m also inclined to be a little worried about the bowling and wouldn’t mind another change but given that both Jack’s are playing a three-day second XI game at present that seems unlikely.

Worcester have proven themselves to be a formidable one-day outfit over the recent past and on their own ground they will be tough to beat. But paradoxically I think the conditions at New Road might suit our bowlers better that Taunton. If we can perform at near our optimum that should be more than enough to progress.

The real disadvantage of finishing third in the group is that, if we progress tomorrow, the daunting prospect of Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge awaits. 

Forget the innings victory in the Championship last month, Notts are an entirely different prospect in white ball cricket. Like Somerset they started the competition like a train but they fell away as well with two losses and a no result to just pip Worcestershire to top spot in the North.

Notts batting is the sort that, whatever on your viewpoint, you might want to watch from behind the sofa. It can be destructive and self-destructive in equal measure. Having listened to a good bit of the coverage of Notts in the competition so far it is clear that their supporters are a bag of nerves as to which batting performance they will produce on a given day.

One final consideration, the history of this competition has, in the recent past, seen the group winners fail to progress more often than not making a mockery of the “seeding” group winners receive. So taking that into account my predictions for the knock out stage are as follows:

If Somerset beat Worcestershire I give them the better chance of overcoming Notts on Sunday. Lancashire will see off Middlesex but Hampshire will be too strong leaving us with a Notts or Somerset v Hampshire final.

#DareToDream