Day 2: Somerset v Surrey

Another warm day in Taunton and another good crowd at the CACG saw Surrey add just 50 runs to their overnight score. Ricky Clarke made 59 not out and Jack Leach took 3 of the last 4 wickets. Surrey would have been disappointed not to have made more but took an early wicket in Trescothick (4).

In the afternoon Hildreth and Azhar Ali shared a partnership. Ali scored 50 off just 49 balls before he chipped a Gareth Batty delivery low to Ryan Patel at mid wicket when on 60. His dismissal was the first of 3 quick wickets either side of tea with Abell and Bartlett both falling cheaply.

Hildreth then found a solid partner in Davies and would have been expecting another championship century before he gave a caught and bowled chance to Clarke on 90. Davies and Gregory then saw Somerset safely through to the close of play leaving the hosts on 243-5, and the game finely poised.

In other Somerset news, we are of course through to the final of The Royal London One Day Cup, having first beaten Worcestershire on the 10th of May at New Road. Somerset racked up 337 after Worcestershire elected to field. Banton compiled his highest one day score and there were handy contributions all the way down the order.

The Australian Callum Ferguson had a day to forget, having dropped Banton twice before being run out when he had made 21. The Worcestershire reply never took off and they were dismissed for just 190, Azhar Ali bagging 5 wickets with his part-time spin.

So to the semi final against Nottinghamshire the following Sunday at Trent Bridge. Again the hosts elected to field and again Somerset compiled 337. Azhar Ali made 72, Trego 73, Banton 59 and the almost inevitable cameos from Gregory and the Overtons.

In reply, Nottinghamshire could only muster 222 due to excellent Somerset bowling. The principal contributors being Slater (58), Hales (54) and Fletcher (43). So we now look forward to the final against Hampshire at Lord’s. Getting a trophy under our belts would doubtless give us a boost for the remainder of the season and hopefully spur us on to greater glories!

County Championship :Somerset v Surrey

The first day of this game at the CACG was a warm one with a decent crowd, many of whom needed suncream and hats. Surrey won the toss and sensibly elected to bat. Somerset’s seamers struggled and Leach was not his usual accurate self. Thus by tea Surrey were 217-2 with only Stoneman(50) and Borthwick (1) back in the pavilion.

The wait for the next wicket continued until the 75th over when Groenwald had Burns caught by Overton for a well made 107. Elgar also made a century before being trapped LBW by Gregory. Foakes and Jack’s fell cheaply towards the end of the day, meaning Surrey are 330 for 6, and Somerset have lots of work to do to stay in the game.

Return to Form.

Somerset finally returned to winning ways at the Cooper Associates County Ground on Tuesday the 7th of May, following three defeats in a row. The victory over Surrey by 5 wickets means that we qualify for a quarter final play-off against Worcestershire at New Road on Friday.

Dean Elgar made 64, and the ever reliable Ben Foakes,46 in an inadequate total of 289 that Somerset surpassed with 26 balls to spare thanks to 93 from James Hildreth and fifties from Bartlett and Banton. The Overton’s were the twin destroyers of Surrey’s batting, sharing 7 wickets.

The preceding Sunday at the same ground was a very different affair with Somerset losing to Hampshire by 7 wickets. After winning the toss and batting first, the hosts were dismissed for just 216. Most of the batsmen made starts but were unable to capitalise. In reply Hampshire made light work of the meagre total, chasing it down with 18.3 overs to spare, with fifties from Markram, Donald and Northeast.

Somerset were also outplayed by Middlesex at the Radlett ground on May the 1st. 106 from Sam Robson and 90 from Nick Gubbins enabled the hosts to post a record total of 346-6. The Somerset chase never got going. Only Azhar Ali (46) and a last wicket stand of 50 between Groenewald and Davey provided any resistance in a total of 246.

In other news relevant to Somerset and England, Jofra Archer is dominating the headlines. Opinion is divided on whether he should be included in England’s World Cup squad. Current England bowlers and several pundits have expressed concerns that it would upset a successful dynamic, while others are keen for him to be included, including Andrew Flintoff who says he would ‘drop anyone’ for Archer.

Personally I would pick him as his talent is undeniable. His pace, ability to bowl slower balls and yorkers at will are match winning ingredients. Minor jiggling should do little to upset a winning formula and actually stimulate healthy competition in the bowling department. We shall see. What does everyone else think?

The First Defeat!

Alas Somerset’s unbeaten start to the season finally came to an end on Sunday the 28th of April against Gloucestershire at the Bristol County Ground. Having elected to bat, Somerset’s progress was slow, with Azhar’s 43 coming off 85 balls. The innings was given much needed impetus towards the end thanks to another contribution from Overton and a rapid 50 from Gregory who struck 4 sixes.

At first it looked as if Somerset might be able to defend their 249 while the Gloucestershire innings was faltering. However van Buuren managed to get them back on track with 61, while Higgins helped them over the line by hitting 17 in the penultimate over. For once, Somerset’s bowlers didn’t execute their skills as they have been doing, but they remain top of their group in the One Day Cup.

This defeat was preceded by two rain affected games that Somerset won via the Duckworth/Lewis method. The first was against Sussex at Hove where Somerset accrued 283 for 8 after choosing to bat first. This total was thanks largely to 68 from Azhar and 81 from Hildreth, with useful knocks of 44 from Abell and 50 from Gregory. The Sussex innings was stymied by the rain and good bowling from Overton, Davey, Groenewald and Gregory, who shared the wickets to fall. Sussex had reached 62 for 4 at the close, meaning that Somerset won by 68 runs (DLS).

In the following match on the 26th , Essex won the toss and elected to field. Centuries from Azhar and Trego helped Somerset amass 353. It was a wet night that just got wetter, meaning that the Essex reply was constantly interrupted and extinguished in the 17th over, thus handing victory to Somerset by 36 runs via DLS.

Winning this game meant that Somerset had 6 wins from 6 in both the One Day Cup and the County Championship. Their batting has been more consistent than in previous seasons with the young Abell impressing in the four day format. The bowling has been excellent while Gregory and Overton continue to perform with both bat and ball.

In other news within the cricket world, what a shame it is both for and about Alex Hales. Such a talented and destructive batsman and a proven match winner who has obviously succumbed to the temptations that surround all professional sports people. Failing two drug tests in a row hints at a problem or an addiction, so I hope he gets the help he needs to conquer conquer his demons and reintegrate himself into the England team. Whatever the ECB may have said to him regarding selection, they obviously had no choice once the truth became public.

Fortunately for England there are quality reinforcements in the shape of Vince, Malan, Duckett and hopefully a rehabilitated Jason Roy. Finding opening batsmen for the Test side remains more of a challenge however. Personally I’d like to see Bairstow opening alongside Vince, with Malan perhaps slotting in at 3. What does everyone else think?

Blooming good start.

So the weather is warm, the flowers are blooming and Somerset’s season is also showing early promise with four wins out of four. On Thursday the 11th, Somerset travelled to Trent Bridge and ended up beating Nottinghamshire by an innings and 14 runs after amassing 403, thanks to centuries from Abell and Bartlett. The strong batting was backed up by excellent bowling from Gregory (6 for 68) and a match winning spell from Leach (6 for 36). Broad was the stand out bowler for Nottinghamshire, whose 5 wickets will be encouraging for England fans.

The following Friday the 19th saw a beautiful day in Somerset both weather and cricket wise. Kent were the visitors again, this time in the One Day Cup. Batting first, Somerset set an imposing total of 358, the main contributors being Banton (107), Gregory (51) and Overton (66). The latter again demonstrated his all round skills by decimating Kent with the ball, finishing with figures of 5 for 18 as Kent limped to 94 all out.

Two days later in Cardiff, Somerset played Glamorgan in a one day thriller. 67 from Hildreth and a vital 41 not out from the impressive Overton helped the cider boys reach 261 off their 50 overs. At 41 for 6, thanks again to the bowling of Overton (3 for 51), Glamorgan’s hopes appeared extinguished. However a partnership between Lloyd (84) and Wagg (62) saw the hosts reach 259 before Somerset gratefully took their final wicket.

So things are looking rosy for Somerset players and fans. Gregory and Overton are continuing to blossom as quality all rounders and the team is displaying a ruthlessness not evident in previous seasons. Let’s hope this good form continues and Somerset are able to end the season with glory, alongside England. Watch this space!

Kent v Somerset: Final Day.

The day started gloomily for Somerset literally and metaphorically. Resuming on 171 for 7 they lost Overton and Davey early on. However, Bartlett and Brooks then shared a stunning last wicket stand to take Somerset from 181 for 9 to 243 all out. Their aggression meant that a game Kent had dominated for two days was suddenly swung wide open. The visitors were now looking at a target of 209 as the sun begun to appear.

The momentum continued in the home side’s favour when Gregory snared Sean Dickson with the very first ball of the Kent innings. Renshaw soon followed, the victim of a beautiful outswinger from Brooks ,who was beginning to find some rythm, perhaps bouyed by his batting heroics. Bell-Drummond and Crawley steadied the Kent ship briefly before both fell in quick succession to the relentless Gregory either side of Overton dismissing Khun lbw. These three quick wickets just before the lunch break turned the tide decidedly in Somerset’s direction.

The sky clouded over again and Somerset supporters were hoping it stayed that way for the remainder of Kent’s innings. The floodlights were also half on when Gregory found the outside edge of Robinson’s bat with just his third ball of the afternoon.

This was looking like an increasingly tall order for Kent who were without the talents of Denley and Billings. A determined vigil from Blake was ended when Overton had him caught behind for 20. Podmore was struck on the helmet by the same bowler before being dismissed lbw shortly after by Brooks. The veteran Stevens did his best to shepherd the tail during his 43 not out but Gregory and Davey took the final two wickets to complete an incredible 74 run victory for Somerset.

The sun was well and truly shining by the time the jubilant home supporters drifted from the ground. There had been some talk of the nature of the pitch but in truth the tumbling wickets were mainly due to outstanding bowling by both teams.

The changing overhead conditions played a part meaning batting was easier at certain moments, and perhaps during Somerset’s crucial last partnership. It was unfortunate for Claydon to take 9 wickets in his comeback match and end up on the losing side. Ultimately though, this was a glorious win for Somerset that had seemed highly improbable for the first two days.

Day 2: Somerset v Kent

It was another overcast day at the Cooper Associates ground which enabled Davey and Gregory to make early inroads into the Kent batting. Renshaw and Podmore added little to the overnight score, before a partnership between Bell-Drummond and Khun progressed Kent from 97 for 4 to 144 for 5. Incisive bowling from Gregory and Overton meant Kent were restricted to 209, with Abell and Brooks chipping in at the end.

Somerset would have been pleased by this, however with plenty of sideways movement still available they were soon 17 for 3. Another promising partnership between Abell and Davies took the score to 90 for 5. Claydon had Abell caught behind, though he was reluctant to leave the crease, and a clear nick was not in evidence to many! Bartlett remains not out on 35 and Overton on 27 which gives Somerset some hope of setting up a competitive run chase.

One more wicket in the day would have instigated a compulsory pitch inspection. Batting has certainly been difficult for both sides, but the pitch has helped create a tight and exciting game. Tomorrow should be captivating. Come on Somerset!