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CC 2019 Som v Yorkshire 10-13 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Discussion started by Farmer White , 11 September, 2019 09:44
CC 2019 Som v Yorkshire 10-13 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Farmer White 11 September, 2019 09:44
My first day report - Ebb and flow - is now on my website home page via this link:


It is also reproduced in full here:

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Yorkshire. 10th, 11th,12th and 13th September 2019. Taunton.

Somerset. M. Vijay, S.M. Davies (w), T.B. Abell (c), J.C. Hildreth, T. Banton, G.A. Bartlett, L. Gregory, D.M. Bess, R.E. van der Merwe, J. Overton, J.H. Davey.

Yorkshire. A. Lyth. W.A.R. Fraine, G.S. Ballance, T. Kohler-Cadmore, S.A. Patterson, H.C. Brook, J.A. Tattersall (w), T.T. Bresnan, K.A. Maharaj, B.O. Coad, D. Oliver.

Toss. Uncontested. Somerset required to bat.

First day. 10th September – Ebb and flow

Feet up, head back, dozing lazily in the breeze as tufty white clouds float across a warm azure sky. A warm sun, not too hot, plays on the back of the neck and cricketers play lazily on the green. The quintessential English vision of tranquillity. Nerves at rest. The watcher at one with the world. Heaven on earth or as near as it ever comes. The ageless, idyllic view of cricket. But not at Taunton. Not on this day. That age-old view of cricket is not what the County Championship is about, and the County Championship is all that this day was about. And in consequence the day was all about tension and relief, anxiety and elation, desperation and hope, highs and lows, clenching of teeth and clapping of hands, missed heartbeats and racing hearts. Of cut and thrust, of ebb and flow; and any concoction of emotion which can be conjured from that list of ingredients of a day watching Somerset play cricket when the County Championship might be on the line. And no doubt Yorkshire hearts suffer too, and swell, when a Championship beckons as, if Somerset and Essex falter badly enough, it might again this year.

The scene before the start of the first day of this match was anything but idyllic, at least for Somerset. Yorkshire eyes must have been torn between eyeing the heavens above and the pitch below. For above, instead of tufty white clouds, there were glowering banks of smooth grey slate hanging heavily and low, and threatening rain or a swinging ball. If the eyes looked down, the pitch looked invitingly green. Not a day for a toss and so Somerset found themselves facing Yorkshire bowlers seeking their dues from such conditions.

The conditions may have been distinctly autumn but the crowd was high summer. Every stand in the ground with the exception of the Somerset Stand was heavily populated. I have tended to underestimate crowds this season and so with some adjustment for that this one was perhaps 2500. The Taunton buzz filled the air early and was expectant in tone. The Championship was never far from the discussion but anything ‘cricket’ might float by. There was advice too for the Somerset batsmen, usually suggesting one more run than those in the middle thought wise. There was a hint of a chill on the breeze but if the sky was autumn the temperature still had some memory of summer about it. In short, if those clouds held their moisture, it was a good day to watch cricket.

And to play it if you were a bowler. From the start the Yorkshire pace bowlers barely wasted a ball as four slips waited for what the conditions suggested were inevitable offerings from the edge of the bat. Coad and Patterson tested the technique and the patience of the Somerset batsmen from the start. Murali Vijay did find the Colin Atkinson boundary in Coad’s first over with a perfect off drive which never left the ground, and brought cries of “Lovely shot!”, but he was otherwise restricted to intense and determined defence of his wicket, although once an edge off Coad bounced a foot short of slip.

Steven Davies seemed equally determined on defence until he began to unfurl his range of deflection strokes. He turned Patterson fine with the lightest of touches to the Sir Ian Botham Stand for four and again slightly more square for two. Against Coad he dropped the face of the bat onto the passing ball and coaxed it past slip for two. But as soon as he tried to put the bat to the ball with some force he was out, caught at cover trying to drive. “That looked like it stuck in the pitch a bit,” said the person with me. He has played a lot of cricket over the years. “The keeper is standing up to their seamers,” he added. “That, and the wide silly-mid-on, would suggest the ball sticking,” he continued as part of the expert summary he provided for me throughout the day.

Somerset, in the form of Vijay and Abell, got their heads down and battled their way forward at two runs an over for an hour. It was intense ‘toe to toe’ cricket. The tension in the crowd evident from the hushing of the buzz. “Yorkshire haven’t bowled a long hop yet,” said my summarizer. After that hour Vijay had seven and Somerset were 28 for 1. Yorkshire turned to Duanne Olivier who, from the Somerset Pavilion End, injected some extra pace into the proceedings. In his first over, Vijay edged him to the keeper. A replay shows the ball swinging in late and, as Vijay followed the swing, going straight through off the pitch. Two overs later Hildreth misjudged Olivier’s pace, was too late on the ball, and was bowled under the bat as the face came down. “Come on boys,” someone shouted, “the Championship is on the line.” The shout reflected both the depth of Somerset desire for that elusive grail and the intensity of the hope that this group of players might just have it in them to turn that will o’ the wisp into reality.

When Bresnan moved a ball in off the pitch, it took the inside edge of Banton’s bat and flew off the pad towards first slip where Lyth dived forward to take the catch. Yorkshire had taken three key Somerset wickets in seven overs for 15 runs. Somerset were 46 for 4 with half an hour to go to lunch, the stomach was beginning to clench and the chatter had become the hesitant.

Abell, batting well out of his crease, was joined by Bartlett. Bartlett tends to keep the scoreboard busy and he was soon driving Olivier off his toes and past the square leg fielder to the short Caddick Pavilion boundary for four. When he drove Olivier square through the off side towards the Somerset Stand the ball flew off the bat but seemed to apply the brakes as it approached the more distant boundary. Threes, where on most days the ball would have skimmed to the boundary, were to be a feature of the Somerset innings, the rain of the previous day taking its toll on the Somerset score.

Abell meanwhile was chiselling a score out of the rock formed by the conditions and the accuracy of the persistently testing Yorkshire bowling. Forward or back he defended against the seamers. Twice he had edged wide of slip fielders for four and once driven with that classical correctness of his through mid-on to the Trescothick Stand, but through it all he was building the foundations of an innings which would be crucial to Somerset retaining a foothold in this match.

“Here he is,” the comment which marked the arrival of Keshav Maharaj at the River End. After Headingley this year and Lancashire at Taunton last year ‘he’ was all that needed to be said. And immediately ‘he’ had Bartlett, to use the old phrase, in all sorts of trouble. Bartlett stretched forward and the ball flew past the outside edge. He reverse-swept his second ball but with so little connection the ball was comfortably taken on the bounce by slip. His third ball brought forth an appeal as the ball hit his pad. A full toss to Abell found its way to the Somerset Stand boundary but Bartlett’s discomfiture left Somerset supporters with a worrisome memory to carry through the lunch interval and Yorkshire ones, I imagine, with hopes of further inroads afterwards.

“At Edgbaston, against Essex, Warwickshire are 93 for 2,” brought some relief in the face of Somerset’s hard pounding to 70 for 4. A meeting with some old schoolfriends who had paid a visit from the 1950s, for what is Championship cricket if you cannot meet old friends there, passed the interval with a mixture of ‘catching’ up on the passage of time since we last met, trying to remember when we last met, and reminiscences of Somerset collapses of old. Late, of course, returning to my seat, square in the Ondaatje Stand, I managed to miss the fall of Bartlett. According to my summarizer, another attempt to reverse sweep Maharaj, telegraphed as such strokes are, resulted in Lyth at slip moving to his left in anticipation and the ball flying limply into his hands. 70 for 5. Bartlett 12.

That brought Gregory to the wicket, back in the side after the stress injury to his foot. In 2018 against Lancashire, using his feet expansively to defend as well as attack, he had played a wonderful innings against Maharaj and looked in complete control throughout. He began in the same vein here. It didn’t seem to matter where the ball pitched Gregory’s feet were there before it. A running drive to the Colin Atkinson boundary for four brought memories of that 2018 innings flooding back. It was promise unrealised though when Coad got a ball to move away off the pitch as Gregory defended and Tattersall took the catch, still standing up to the stumps. Somerset 85 for 6, Gregory 12. “A shame,” said my summarizer, “Gregory looked like he might take control.” As the applause for Coad’s over subsided a look at the sky brought further anxiety to the Somerset mind for the heavy cloud of the morning was breaking up and turning white.

Bess joined Abell and they dug deep, kept the ball out, edged harmlessly once or twice, were beaten occasionally but they gave no more to the bowlers than the bowlers gave to them. When, eventually, Abell pulled Coad for four my summarizer said, “That’s the first long hop they have bowled.” Otherwise the only Yorkshire lapse was the almost inevitable four byes when Patterson veered to leg with the keeper standing up. The 100 did not come up until the 45th over. Bowling against the grip of the pace bowlers Maharaj continued to threaten as he gathered four fielders around the batsman. Several times the ball flew past the edge of the outstretched front leg and bat but Abell and Bess stuck hard to the task.

Gradually they loosened the bowler’s grip, at least Maharaj’s grip, and began to change the mood of the day. The crowd began to applaud the singles as well as the occasional four as Somerset’s total began to rise. An off drive from Abell off Patterson looked to be four until the outfield applied the brake as the ball approached the rope and held it to three. Two cuts in an over off Maharaj both outran the fielders to the short boundary. A pull just to the right of the old Stragglers brought another four. Bess drove Maharaj square to the Caddick Pavilion boundary. Bess and Abell had added 45 when Maharaj re-imposed himself. Bess got under a drive and Bresnan, at cover, took a good catch, low down, diving forward. 135 for 7. Bess 15. Van der Merwe was lbw stretching well forward. 148 for 8, Van der Merwe 10, and there were anxious eyes all around. “Warwickshire 150 for 3,” someone said and brought some relief.

Jamie Overton, awarded a, to most Somerset minds long-overdue, cap to much applause in the lunch interval, brought more relief as Abell continued his obdurate resistance and occasional run poaching at the other end. Apart from Gregory’s brief foray Overton looked the most confident Somerset batsman of the day. The mood shift begun by Abell and Bess began to take hold as Overton began to drive Somerset forward. He clipped his first ball from Olivier off his legs to the short Temporary Stand boundary and in Olivier’s next over pulled him in front of square to the Ondaatje. An on drive off Maharaj took Somerset to tea at 173 for 8. Hardly riches and Somerset were still behind in the game but from the depths of 46 for 4 and 85 for 6 it did begin to revive the Somerset spirit. “Warwickshire 167 for 3,” gave it a further boost.

A further meeting of the 1950s school convention had been arranged in the Stragglers for the tea interval and it continued into the evening session as we watched the silent live stream. As we continued to ‘catch up’ and debate, the detail of most of what followed on the field passed me by but the impression of Jamie Overton continuing to punish the bowling, at a run a ball it transpired, is firmly fixed in my mind. The temporary departure of one of us at 195 for 8 brought looks of horror from the other two at the prospect of the spell of the Abell-Overton stand being broken.

Not one stand but two. And a bonus point into the bargain. 199 all out, Abell, finally, and Davey both lbw to Maharaj within three balls by the time the guilty party returned. “How crucial might the loss of that point prove?” the passing comment which added insult to the injury of the guilty party. Another topic for endless discussion and, of course, reminder whenever we three meet no doubt. But, breath taken, Abell’s 66, Overton’s 40 not out and 199 all out represented quite a recovery from 46 for 4 and of course there is too much cricket still to be played, too many shifts in the dynamic of the Championship table to come for that point to be blamed for anything very much when the final reckoning is made.

We watched live from next to the covers store as Davey, who has not played a first team match for four months, and Gregory, who has not bowled for two, tried to find their rhythm. The cost was two overpitched balls in Gregory’s first over driven for four and two long hops from Davey pulled mercilessly by Lyth, one onto the roof of the Caddick Pavilion and one, via something of a top edge into the lower tier of the Somerset Pavilion. Those four balls, to cheers from the hefty Yorkshire contingent present in the crowd, probably provided more largesse than did the Yorkshire bowlers in the whole of the Somerset innings. Sharp intakes of breath were almost audible around the ground.

Somerset applause and cheers though erupted when Fraine edged Gregory, and Lyth edged Davey to Davies and Yorkshire were 27 for 2, the balls seemingly bursting through the batsman’s stroke each time. That brought Ballance and Kohler-Cadmore together. They almost saw Yorkshire to the close, still an hour away. Kohler-Cadmore was virtually scoreless as he defended with all the tenacity, if not the occasional boundary, of Abell. Ballance, Overton’s assault apart, played with more precision than any batsman on either side. He was an oasis of calm in a day of batting turbulence.

I was back in the Ondaatje Stand now. The heavy grey sky of the morning had been transformed into bright blue with just a few wispy strands of cirrus intermingling with some spent contrails. Yorkshire voices were speaking encouragement to the batsmen. “Shot Garry,” rang out more than once as Ballance began to find his way through the field. “Come on boys,” the apparent but doubtless co-incidental response from Abell when Overton was driven for four. And again when Bess was driven to the boundary. On drives both, and both driven smoothly along the ground.

When, just before the close, Abell brought van der Merwe’s slow left arm on opposite Bess the scoring virtually ceased. Perhaps van der Merwe’s T20 tight line, perhaps the proximity of the close of play the reason. Just one run was scored in the final five overs as Yorkshire fought their way towards the close on 70 for 2. Just 129 behind. The talk among Somerset supporters was of struggle ahead. Of Bess bowling well but not looking as threatening as Maharaj. The thoughts were of the Championship possibly slipping away if Yorkshire took a sizeable lead and the pitch increasingly took spin.

And then, seemingly ‘out of the blue’, Ballance came forward to Bess, tried to turn the ball defensively into the on side and was struck on the pad. There was a huge appeal, the umpire’s finger was raised, Bess danced a jig, he was engulfed by the close fielders and the crowd cheered to the echo. Ballance walked off, disappointment etched in his face, to some much-merited applause from both sets of supporters. The wicket didn’t change the face of the game but it did bring hope to Somerset supporters that a door into the Yorkshire batting might have been opened for the morning. Warwickshire’s sterling efforts, 269 for 3, at Edgbaston brought a further lift. It had not been a day for putting feet up or for nerveless watching, but it had been a day of ebb and flow that showed the true worth, and grip, of Championship cricket.

Close. Somerset 199 (T.B. Abell 66, J. Overton 40*, K.A. Maharaj 5-54). Yorkshire 70 for 3. Yorkshire trail by 129 runs with seven first innings wickets standing.

Re: CC 2019 Som v Yorkshire 10-13 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Farmer White 12 September, 2019 09:25
My second day report - When the head rules the cricket] - can be found on my website home page via this link:


It is also reproduced in full here:

County Championship Division 1. Warwickshire v Somerset. 18th, 19th, 20th and 21st August 2019. Edgbaston.

Overnight. Somerset 190. Yorkshire 70 for 3. Yorkshire trail Somerset by 129 runs with seven first innings wicket standing.

Second day – When the head rules the cricket

I once had the good fortune to sit next to an ex-Somerset cricketer at a Club dinner. I asked him, once a first-class batsman is in the middle, how much of what happens is down to technique and how much is down to what is going on in his head. “90 per cent in the head,” was his instant reply. Now, obviously it isn’t as simple as that. Without the requisite level of skill, the head would count for nothing. But first-class cricketers, batsmen and bowlers, particularly first division ones, must all have reached a certain skill level to be playing at all at that level and, the really top-flight ones apart, it is what happens in the head that makes much of the difference between their performances on a given day or in a given season. At least that is the theory.

We may have seen some evidence for it in this match. Yorkshire came into the second day on 70 for 3 needing just 129 from their seven remaining wickets to top Somerset’s first innings 199. Those seven wickets realised 33 runs. Somerset’s bowling may have been ‘on the nail’, the conditions may have been perfect for bowling, the pitch may have provided some assistance to the bowlers but I wonder how many of those seven wickets were taken and lost in the head. Were Somerset, at Horsham in 2013, so bad a team technically that technique alone accounted for them being bowled out for 76 and 108 when Sussex made 300? It seems unlikely.

For my own part I was unable to watch the first session of the second day’s play, completing the proofreading and posting of my first day report the, not unusual, culprit. It always takes longer to proofread and post with only one and a half eyes on the job. The other half was on the live stream. A confession. At times it was rather more than half. The morning had started with the worry that from 70 for 3 Yorkshire might overhaul Somerset and take a lead sufficient for Maharaj to put the batsmen under pressure as he had for Lancashire in 2018 and for Yorkshire at Headingley this year.

My attempt to concentrate on the work on my report in one window on my laptop whilst occasionally flicking to the score in another fell with the first Yorkshire wicket. 86 for 4. Kohler-Cadmore had edged Gregory low but straight into the hands of Overton at third slip. Somerset had a chance. By the time I had the live stream up it was the nightwatchman too. Patterson had chopped van der Merwe onto his stumps. 88 for 5. Now, it felt, from my desk, Somerset were ahead. The thing about those two wickets though is that replays suggest the balls which took them had little to do with the pitch or conditions. Gregory’s ball did not seem to deviate at all, it may have kept a scintilla low, but basically it was a straight ball which took the edge. The ball that Patterson chopped on turned slightly away from him, perhaps not as much as he expected but neither ball was driven by demons.

The ball with which van der Merwe induced Tattersall to edge to Hildreth at slip certainly turned but not excessively and there was nothing exceptional about the bounce. Van der Merwe did though toss it up, the ball dipped in the flight and Tattersall, although forward, may not have been quite as far forward as he needed to be. 92 for 6. Do not try to tell me I cannot multi-task. At least, I can flip between screens with the best of them when Somerset are playing,

Meanwhile at the ground Davey was bowling to Brook. The ball moved in off the seam, the defensive bat was unable to take account of the movement and the ball struck the pad in front of the stumps. The movement was just enough, no more, than was needed to defeat the bat. It was not unlike one or two of the dismissals in the Somerset innings. Movement off the seam but nothing which would warrant the term ‘jagged back’. The ball from Davey which Bresnan edged to the diving Vijay at second slip looked as straight as any you will see. Neither could I detect any demons in the ball which Maharaj chipped back to van der Merwe who took an excellent catch diving to his right.

With Coad unable to bat Yorkshire were 103 all out and I could finally skate through the mechanics of posting my, now proofread, although I dread to think how well, first day report. A lead of 96. But the Somerset psyche has waited 128 years for a County Championship. Even a first innings total nearly double Yorkshire’s did not settle the nerves that such a wait generates when a Championship does come near. There have been too many second places in recent years for that and Somerset are currently, if only just behind Essex, second in the table again. And there was Maharaj’s bowling to come. Trying to forge a winning position against a two-time Somerset nemesis is not to be contemplated lightly.

Batting had seemed harder during these mornings of 10.30 starts and their autumnal air in spite of there being little evidence in the wickets that fell for that to account for the number that fell. Perhaps the autumn moisture causes the ball to grip on the pitch just enough for it to move an inch or so. Or perhaps the effects of autumn were also in the batsmen’s minds.

There was time to get to the ground before lunch but, being a smart-phone free zone that would mean missing the start of the Somerset innings. So, the live stream it was. I might have had a more restful time on the bus. Before I, or the Somerset batsmen, had properly settled, nemesis struck. Maharaj, opening the bowling from the River End, the traditional spinner’s end at Taunton, angled a ball into Vijay, Vijay swept, the ball just about straightened off the pitch, evaded the bat, struck the pad and Somerset were 4 for 1. 4 for 2 when Davies drove Patterson to the substitute fielder at cover. The ball was slightly angled in to the left-hander and swung late just enough to straighten. But the real problem for the Somerset batsman seemed to be driving across the line of a ball which pitched eighteen inches outside off stump. The result was a repeat of Davies first innings dismissal. Somerset’s Championship prospects were suffering an uncomfortable wobble.

And then Hildreth. If a batsman can change the mood in an over Hildreth changed the mood against Patterson, or at least he began the change it with successive boundaries. Not without risk. The boundaries were driven in the air, rather un-Hildreth like, through midwicket. It was as if he had decided the spell the bowlers had held over the batsmen on the first two mornings had to be broken. The boundaries didn’t unleash a volley of runs but suddenly Hildreth was dancing decisively down the pitch to Maharaj, smothering any turn there might have been and judging well when to play back. With Abell back in his first innings role of ‘they shall not pass’ at the other end Somerset negotiated their way to lunch at 49 for 2. A lead of 145. Suddenly the world felt a whole lot better than it had when Davies drove that ball to cover.

I met my expert summarizer from the first day in the Temporary Stand, square of the River End crease. I was immediately struck by two things. The size of the crowd and an autumnal gale blowing along the Temporary Stand as the wind and the weather came from over the Quantocks. The crowd was not very far short of that on the first day. Perhaps swelled by a free-entry token in the local paper and by this being Somerset’s annual ‘Farmers Day’ but the prospect of a Championship is beginning to bite.

Hildreth got us under way with a paddle sweep for four off Maharaj who had bowled continuously from the River End since the start of Somerset’s innings. And then the benefits from that shift in mood. The careworn defence or desperate attack which had characterised Somerset’s attempts to play Maharaj, admittedly on a turning pitch in the match against Lancashire, in the past had gone. Now there was quiet but determined intent. Pushed singles were gently adding to the score. And not just against Maharaj. Against Patterson too. So quiet was the intent at times at times it even wrong-footed my expert summarizer. “Did we get anything from that over?” he once asked of a Patterson over. “Five singles according to my notes,” I replied. In a low-scoring match five singles in an over count.

And with such determination and intent did Hildreth and Abell work Somerset forward. Doubtless aided by a 96 run first innings lead they not so much changed the mood of the match as turn it on its head. When Olivier’s pace was tried the batsmen, Abell in particular, used it to advantage. A cut flew to the long boundary leaving the point fielder trailing in its wake. A cover drive went the same way. A hook landed on the terrace of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion and another drive went to the old Stragglers area. Hildreth drove through the off side. The ball hugged the ground all the way until it crossed the boundary into the midst of the ghosts which inhabit where the old Stragglers was. They might have drooled over such a strokes at such a time. And they would have given anything to watch Somerset where they are now.

It was not just the consummate technique of the batting which lifted the spirit. It was the manner of it. The assurance. The intent to take control of the game. It lifted the crowd. The Taunton buzz began to move up the volume scale. The chatter reflected the rising sense of optimism, if guarded optimism for cricket can be a fickle bedfellow. When Hildreth struck a six off Maharaj it hit the top of the Sir Ian Botham Stand sight screen. “You can’t hit much straighter than that,” said my summarizer as parts of the crowd began to cheer rather than just applaud. The single which brought up Hildreth’s fifty and his response to it seemed symbolic of what was happening. It came off Maharaj, still only conceding two runs an over but not seeming to present the threat he once had. And Hildreth’s response. He raised his bat to the dressing room and to the crowd but did it in such away that the gesture seemed to say, “Thank you, but there is work to be done. There will be time for celebration when it is done.”

The work though would have to be continued by others. On 58 Hildreth came down the pitch to Lyth and turned him square but in a brilliant piece of anticipation, Brook, at short leg, followed him down the pitch and took the catch. No doctor could have prescribed a better solution to the need to further shift the mood and the match Somerset’s way than Banton. While Abell continued to resist, and occasionally repel, all comers at the other end, Banton sallied forth and drove them back. 38 of his 43 runs came in boundaries. He faced 48 balls. Picking the right ball to hit to that extent after the batting alarums of the first four sessions, even if conditions are easing, is more than about technique. It is about an attitude focused on taking control of the match.

Banton is a special talent we are often told by the Club. He looked like one. His driving was as powerful as it was correct and it didn’t much matter who bowled. Olivier was driven through the covers. Bresnan straight to the Somerset Pavilion. Lyth was reversed-swept. The Banton reverse sweep is a spectacular affair. It is hit furiously, into the ground and flies, as if powered by rockets, to the boundary. A pull towards the Somerset Stand off Lyth span so much off the ground it flew behind the fielder running to stop it. Banton did have some of the fortune that favours the brave. A sweep ballooned over the keeper’s head for four but a ‘lofted’ reverse sweep off Maharaj, with no assistance from fortune, landed in the T20 dug outs just to my left. And then he was out. Maharaj pitched the last ball before tea 18 inches outside off stump, perhaps with the intention of tempting Banton, from where it turned quite sharply beyond banton’s drive, and Lyth took the catch at slip.

Somerset were 191 for 4, 287 ahead with Abell 62 not out. It had been an afternoon of rising Somerset dominance wrought by some scintillating stroke play built on a base of careful accumulation. Both had been driven by that apparent intent to take control of the match. Technique for sure. Some luck. But batsmen with heads confident and determined to deliver. At least that is how it looked to your correspondent.

I looked around me. It was a sight to behold. Tea is a time when many leave a day of Championship cricket. I have no doubt some did, by way of habit or necessity. But not many. The crowd was as large as it had been all day. If anything, it was growing. The Temporary Stand was as well-populated as I have ever seen it for a Championship match. Any who left were replaced rather as Somerset’s batsmen had replaced one another as they took Somerset inexorably forward. People, I am sure, were coming in from a shift at work, or as in days gone by, having heard the score. And not just the Somerset score. At Edgbaston Warwickshire were 469 for 7 against Essex. In twos and threes people stood by the boundary talking, not with the usual relaxed air but with a quiet intensity as the reality of what might be happening took hold. And the chatter. It had an intensity about it that spoke of minds hoping, wondering. Could this really be the year?

A swift teatime circumnavigation of the ground took me as far as Gimblett’s Hill by the time the players re-emerged. Too late to pass behind the Somerset Pavilion before the first ball, I sat on one of the benches. And there Abell’s vigil ended, lbw trying to drive Bresnan and suddenly Somerset had two batsmen at the wicket, Bartlett and Gregory, both without a run to their name. That took me back to the Temporary Stand and my expert summarizer, still at the cricket in spite of an original avowed intent to leave at lunch. Such was the grip this match had on people. “Abell walked off not out at lunch and tea on both days of the match,” he pointed out. Now that is determination, not to mention two ‘captain’s innings’.

The evening session began under gathering gloom and the lights were soon on. It wasn’t only the lights that lightened the darkness. A coruscating partnership at five runs an over between Bartlett and Gregory lit Somerset hearts more than any floodlight could, no matter how many led lights it contained. Gregory’s playing of Maharaj, just as it had been a year ago, was a delight. He takes ‘using’ his feet to the extreme as he dances, almost runs, three or four steps down the pitch to smother or dispatch the ball. From there the ball was clipped behind square, crashed into the perspex in front of the Long Room Terrace, or driven to long on as if he were striking a golf ball. A lofted cover drive was caught in the sixth row of the Temporary Stand. In the end Maharaj was taken out of the attack. What a difference a year makes.

Gregory was just as severe on Patterson, twice driving him through the on side to the boundary, once over it into the Ondaatje Stand. Bartlett’s strokes are less demonstrative than Gregory’s and so he scores more quickly, and more powerfully, than appearance would suggest. He cut Maharaj, switched away from the River End, to the Caddick Pavilion boundary, drove him, back at the River End, into the Sir Ian Botham Stand boundary board, forcing mid-off back. He turned him fine to the Somerset Pavilion boundary causing Yorkshire to place a leg slip. He drove Bresnan square and clipped Patterson to fine leg, both for four. The crowd had long since added cheers to their applause for such strokes, for this was not just wonderful stroke play, it was stroke play that had arisen from a match which for four sessions had witnessed rampant bowling and careworn batting. It was a transformation to rouse the Somerset heart.

Somerset were 269 for 5, 365 ahead, when the umpires finally sent for a light meter and succumbed to the gloom, no longer gathering but full in the face. Bartlett was on 39, Gregory on 38. It was, in all conscience, too dark for cricket with a red ball, even under lights. Gregory and Bartlett walked off to a resounding round of applause, shouts of, “Well played boys!” and applause form the Yorkshire players closest to them. That was indicative of the spirit in which this match, as far as you can tell from beyond the boundary, has thus far been played. There has been no sign of any ill-feeling among the players, quite the opposite, and, as far as I can tell, no hints of dissention over decisions.

Where this year’s Championship will end up is anyone’s guess. The balance by the end of the second day had swung a little towards Somerset, a little away from Essex and a lot away from Yorkshire. But cricket is a game riddled with uncertainties. Sides have on occasion, Somerset once did it against Worcestershire, won matches from the position Essex are in. Somerset once won a match against Sussex from a position not so very different from the one Yorkshire are in, although Yorkshire’s injuries will mitigate against them. The Taunton pitch too has a habit of flattening rapidly from the middle of the third day, although not always in recent times. Any rational prediction would have Somerset winning this match, Essex drawing at Edgbaston, Somerset moving to the top of the table and Yorkshire out of contention. But cricket is not a rational game and if the ex-Somerset cricketer was right and it is played more in the head than with the hands nothing is certain in cricket, or in this match, until it is certain.

Close. Somerset 199 and 269 for 5. Yorkshire 103 (R.E. van der Merwe 3-14, J.H. Davey 3-30). Somerset lead by 365 with five first innings wickets standing.

Re: CC 2019 Som v Yorkshire 10-13 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Farmer White 13 September, 2019 20:48
My report on the final day of the Yorkshire match entitled - "Yorkshire are already one down" - is now on my website home page via this link:


It is also reproduced in full here:

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Yorkshire. 10th, 11th and 12th September 2019. Edgbaston.

Overnight. Somerset 199 and 269 for 5. Yorkshire 103. Somerset lead by 365 runs with five first innings wickets standing.

Final day – “Yorkshire are already one down”

“Yorkshire are already one down. 8 for 1,” said the urgent voice from over my shoulder. The comment came from someone who I overtook as I scurried along St James Street, perennially late for the cricket. It’s the hat. Whenever there is a crucial score to be reported or sought the maroon wyvern on the front of my white broad-rimmed sunhat attracts Somerset supporters the country over. The confirmation of that score came from a snatched glance over the perimeter wall as I approached the J.C. White gates. It takes about 30 seconds to get from there to the boundary but the need of the supporter to know the score on days such as this cannot wait 30 seconds. 30 seconds is an eternity. There is the quandary too. You don’t want to miss a wicket so when you look over the wall you hope for 8 for 1. Then you reprimand yourself and hope for 8 for 2 and 8 for 1 becomes a disappointment. What it is to be a Somerset supporter at times such as this.

And when you can’t get to the cricket on time, what it is to have the live stream. How does anyone get anything done when Somerset are on the live stream? Not every 21st century technological development has passed me by. Somerset’s intent was clear as soon as I switched it on. Gregory danced down the pitch to Maharaj, tried to hit him into the Sir Ian Botham Stand, played around an arm ball and was bowled for 39. In the next over a ball from Bresnan moved in off the seam and hit Bess’s off stump. You get a perfect view of movement on the live stream. The movement was marked, more than had been seen on the first two days. When Bartlett came down the wicket to Maharaj to target the Sir Ian Botham Stand the ball turned neatly past his bat and he was stumped so comprehensively he didn’t try to get back. Somerset were 291 for 8. A lead of 387, Bartlett 47 and the onset of the Yorkshire innings rushing towards me.

If you live within reach of the ground there are times when you just have to get there. The Yorkshire second innings was one of these. The rest of this match would not really start until the Somerset bowlers got at the Yorkshire batsmen and that time was nigh. Not being able to find your door key slows you up. I always leave my door key in one of two places. A lesson learned from spending most of my childhood watching my father search for his door keys. My key wasn’t in either place. I know because I spent the next few minutes, knowing the Yorkshire innings was racing towards me, running up and back between the two. Searching both places and every other conceivable place where I might possibly have left my key but knew I hadn’t. And before anyone asks, that includes my trouser pockets where it normally resides when I am on the move. And all the time, my laptop now packed away, not knowing just how close the start of the Yorkshire innings was. I can report that it takes five increasingly frantic searches of every possible place a key might have been put but wasn’t, including racing up and down the stairs like Roelof van der Merwe on a quick single, before sense sinks in and you decide to take the spare key.

And then the three-minute, or one over, wait for the bus seemed to take at least half an hour. And a lost door key is a worry. Nearly as much as not knowing the score. A text to my expert summarizer who gave me a lift home after the second day reveals it had not fallen out of my pocket into his car. A bus journey to the cricket is always shorter with a book. My current one is about the seismic changes in world politics in 1946-47, nothing new there then, but somehow, in comparison with not knowing the score upon which the Championship might depend, 1946-47 failed to hold my attention.

And then that urgent, “Yorkshire are already one down,” came over my shoulder. For a third, possibly last, day the crowd was huge. To the eye it rivalled the first two. I took station in the Ondaatje Stand from where the scoreboards told me Lyth had gone for 1. Caught Overton bowled Davey. Edged to slip then, and one of the two Yorkshire batsmen I feared might play a long innings had gone. The chances of a Yorkshire victory were remote. Yorkshire needed 425 but that 128-year wait for the title demanded certainty, and of all the sports cricket is the least capable of providing certainty.

The other Yorkshire batsman who was capable of stretching the strain on Somerset hearts was Ballance. He had done it ruthlessly, and seemingly endlessly, at Headingley and he might do it again here. He certainly looked comfortable enough even beneath overcast skies. Bess was on early, as soon as I sat down. Ballance drove him smoothly through the off side to the Somerset Stand for four ahead of a fielder engaged in an unavailing chase all the way to that long boundary. Davey was pulled to the same place to cheers from the Yorkshire dressing room just over my left shoulder. Tattersall, who had opened in place of the injured Fraine, added to my unease about the ease with which runs were starting to come when he turned Davey to the Colin Atkinson boundary. By the time Ballance cut Bess to the Somerset Stand there was more than a hint of tension in the air. It was totally irrational of course; Yorkshire still needed a monumental 390 to win and Somerset still had more than five sessions to bowl them out. But the Taunton buzz was subdued as, at times, as they say, a hush descended. People were watching. Not missing a ball. Waiting. Waiting. Waiting for a wicket. Waiting, if any dared breath the thought, for the win that would keep in sight an end to that 128-year long wait.

As the relief of the lunch break approached Abell turned to Overton, unleashed Somerset’s spear-thrower from the Somerset Pavilion End. Ballance faced the final over. “C’mon Jamie O!” the silence shattering call from Abell. The fourth ball was a full toss. Ballance drove through point to the Caddick Pavilion to applause from the crowd. A good stroke, even off a full toss, getting acknowledgement from among the cauldron of emotion that had enveloped the Cooper Associates County Ground.

“C’mon Jamie O” the thought in every Somerset mind as Overton ran in to deliver his fifth ball. When Overton is getting it righ he runs in with a smoothness and mounting momentum that exudes pent-up power. When his arm comes over the motion is as smooth as his run up but the ball is propelled like a rocket. He angled that fifth ball in at Ballance’s off stump. Ballance moved across to defend. The ball perhaps moved a trace away, the snick was audible from sixty yards and Davies’ gloves, as smooth in their movement as Overton’s action, did the rest. The cauldron of emotion erupted. Applause. Cheers. Relief. Intense relief. Ballance was gone. The match was within Somerset’s grasp. It might take time but it would, surely, surely now, come.

Lunch was a blur. Except for the door key. No-one had handed a door key in at the Club office. Its loss was beyond understanding. I have never lost a door key in my life but this one refused to deliver itself up. I paraded out to the middle but what the pitch looked like I cannot remember. I spoke to several people but what was said floated away on the wave of anticipation that you could see in every Somerset face. Could hear in every conversation whether you could hear the words or not. And what news of Essex? 160 for 3 someone had heard. They were hardly going to lose on that Edgbaston featherbed but there seemed no way they could win either even if a doubt always nags where cricket is concerned.

I had not yet been to the top of the Somerset Pavilion in this match. A few overs watched from the roof terrace could do no harm I thought, so I climbed that ever-growing number of stairs. At least half a dozen more every year according to my legs. What a view you get from there on a sunny day and now, as if they had awaited the departure of Ballance, the grey clouds exited the scene to be replaced by high white ones attending on blue sky and the Quantocks. And what would Somerset cricket be without the Quantocks? The ever-present picture of the Somerset patchwork landscape. Lifting hearts or signalling rain. On this day there was no prospect of rain, so the lifted hearts it was.

And then as the players got back to business and the Quantocks looked on, I fell into conversation with someone who knows a bit about cricket and would see Somerset win the Championship as much as I would. What better could be wished for on a sunny afternoon? From there my notebook is empty but my memory is vivid of a Somerset performance beyond notes. For the detail of notes would diminish the sense of the all-consuming oneness of spirit which the Somerset team demonstrated after lunch. It was as if someone had made a dream-like swirling kaleidoscopic film of bowlers bowling, wickets falling, fielders diving and team mates celebrating. Runs no longer seemed to matter for as the performance unfolded the sense of inevitability about the result, that had in truth perhaps always been there, drove anxiety to flight.

First Overton ran in, away from us watching from on high. That smooth run, that smooth action, that spearing ball, Tattersall’s bat rising to avoid it, too slow, the ball flew off the face and straight into the hands of Hildreth at second slip. The cheers were of expectation of more to come. And as the bowlers continued to run in more did come. Van der Merwe, running towards us from the River End, left Brook’s off stump askew as the arm ball broke through the gap left by Brook as he stepped away to cut or drive. The shriek from van der Merwe cut through everything else, the shouts of the players, the cheers of the crowd and the emotion of the moment. It was a shriek of sheer joy.

The talk, as the two of us watching leaned on a drinks pedestal, was of Southampton and of what type of pitch might be prepared. Either pitches from which the ball seams viciously or pitches where the ball does nothing at all seem to have been the order of the day there. Back Somerset’s bowlers against their bowlers whatever the pitch was the concluding thought. And what if … There are so many ‘ifs’ in cricket. What if Somerset were ahead of Essex for the final match of the season. A result pitch or a ‘road’? Not a ‘road’, my thought. What prospect of Essex winning the toss on a ‘road’, of Sir Alistair Cook scoring 200, of Essex scoring 550 and Somerset having to bat out two days to win the Championship? Now, that would be pressure beyond endurance and cricket is played mainly in the head. A result pitch and back our bowlers against theirs for me. But such decisions are easy to make when you do not carry the responsibility for making them. Spare a thought for those who do. Who would want to be in their shoes?

And speaking of bowlers, apparently Overton had hit a pair of sixes while I was on the bus. One straight, and one over long on to the right of where we were standing. It might still have been going up when it crossed the boundary and might possibly have crossed the car park and bounced out of the ground.

But that, Overton’s sixes apart, was all conjecture and all premature. There was a match in front of us to be won yet as the Somerset bowlers continued to run in and the Quantocks continued to look down. A huge six pulled over long leg somewhere in the region of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion by Bresnan off Gregory barely seemed to make an impact as burgeoning expectation filled the mind. When, in the next over Bresnan hesitated and then set off from the non-striker’s end Bess, at point, was lightning-quick on the pick-up from Kohler-Cadmore’s stroke and hit the single stump he could see at the striker’s end. Yorkshire were 94 for 5. Bresnan run out by feet rather than inches. That piece of fielding seemed to encapsulate Somerset in the field. Sharp as a razor, predatory, ruthless.

And now the forgotten man among Somerset’s bowlers. Not seen in the Championship for four months. Josh Davey took up the mantle from the Somerset Pavilion End. His run up is as smooth, if of the speed of the inside lane rather than the outside lane acceleration of Overton’s powering approach. But it was a beautiful piece of bowling, all the rust of his first spell of the match gone. The oil had worked around the system and the system delivered. Perfectly shaped deliveries homed in on the spot ball after ball. Testing the batsmen. Keeping them honest. In the end all that were left succumbed. Kohler-Cadmore came forward to a ball that might just have missed off stump and edged it straight into the waiting hands of Hildreth at first slip. For Maharaj the ball homed in on leg stump, he tried to turn it to leg, missed and only his pad stopped it from hitting the stumps.

That was the signal for me to leave the commanding heights of the Somerset Pavilion, the Quantocks and the cricket chat for the unwell Coad would not bat and my bag was waiting for me on my seat in the Ondaatje Stand. I had just reached the aisle which separates the two halves of the Stand when Fraine, batting with a runner, repeated Maharaj’s stroke. This time there was a leading edge and Davey took the return catch head high. With one wicket to fall Patterson laid about him to the tune of four boundaries and Olivier one. When Patterson tried to drive Davey for a fifth the ball steepled beyond cover, Bess hurtled after it as it must have swirled in the stiff breeze and, in his second piece of brilliant fielding since lunch, caught it, full on the run, over his right shoulder.

Yorkshire, 127 all out had lost by 298 runs and Somerset were back on top of the Championship. With there appearing to be no route to victory at Edgbaston for Essex it was a position they would hold going into the penultimate round of matches. Amongst the joyous buzz that ran around the ground now, Davey walked off, looking flushed, as well he might, holding the match ball to applause from all around for his career-best figures of five for 21, not least from his smiling team mates

Departure from the ground was slow as people stopped to talk or just sat in their seats contemplating who knows what as they stared into the middle distance. Perhaps needing to let the overwhelming dominance of their team in this match sink in. Perhaps needing to contemplate the enormity of what remained possible. Perhaps trying not to dream too hard for the dream had been dashed at the line twice before. Perhaps just needing to recharge their emotions after such a day, after such a match. And then for those of us near the Caddick Pavilion Blackbird blasted out from the dressing room.

In the end of course you have to leave. There was a bus to be caught and a home to go to. And yet such had been the emotion of the day it was only when I reached my front door that I remembered the key. The one I had lost and the spare I had taken with me. Where was that? I hadn’t put it in my trouser pocket because it had no fob. Soon remembered I was inside the house. And when I bent double to undo my shoe laces the one I had lost fell out of my top pocket. Now, who on earth would put their door key in their top pocket …

Result. Somerset 199 (T.B. Abell 66, J. Overton 40*, K.A. Maharaj 5-54). and 329 (T.B. Abell 62, J.C. Hildreth 68, G.A. Bartlett 47, K.A. Maharaj 5-122). Yorkshire 103 (R.E. van der Merwe 3-14, J.H. Davey 3-30) and 127 (J.H. Davey 5-21). Somerset won by 298 runs. Somerset 19 pts. Yorkshire 3 pts.

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