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CC 2019 Som v Essex 23-26 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Discussion started by Farmer White , 24 September, 2019 10:13
CC 2019 Som v Essex 23-26 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Farmer White 24 September, 2019 10:13
My report on the first day can be hound on the homepage of my website via this link:


It is also reproduced in full here:

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th September 2019. Taunton.

Essex travelled to Taunton for the last match of the season 12 points ahead of second-placed Somerset. To win the Championship Somerset would need to win the match. For Essex a draw would be sufficient. The forecast for all four days was poor as the remnants of the latest tropical storm swept in from the Atlantic.

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

Essex. N.L.J Browne, Sir A.N. Cook, T. Westley, D.W. Lawrence, B.S. Bopara, T.N. ten Doeschate (c), A.J.A. Wheater (w), S.R. Harmer, A. Nijjar, J.A. Porter, S.J. Cook.

Toss. Somerset. Elected to bat.

First day. 23rd September – Five spinners and a deluge

As we left the house the high white cloud, blue sky and sun recalled the summer warmth of the days before the weekend just gone. The chill on the air hinted, but no more, of autumn. The forecast might have had Noah worried. And so, the final round of County Championship matches of 2019 began on the day of the Autumn Equinox. The Quantocks had cast off their bright summer colours and were dressed in drab winter dowds. The Atlantic storms, which end their days passing through these parts in autumn and winter have begun their annual pilgrimage. They shroud the Quantocks from the view of those of us in the valley as they push by.

The forecast, foreseeing no play after lunch took its toll. The crowd was no more than the normal first day crowd at Taunton although it grew as the morning wore on. The outfield though was a hive of activity when my cricket-playing companion and I arrived about 45 minutes before the start of play. It was so full of apparently disconnected sets of random colours, activities and disjointed noise the goings on might have been mistaken for a school playground rather than the preparation of highly professional sportsmen for what might become the most important match of the season for both teams. The crowd looked more organised as it gradually made its way to, or occupied, its seats, or stood in intent groups discussing, no doubt, that for which the players were preparing, and the weather forecast. Always the ever-changing weather forecast.

Seats secured in the relative security from the prospect of rain in the top of the Somerset Pavilion I set off, anti-clockwise, on my customary pre-match circumnavigation of the ground. I detected no great tension in the air although it was no doubt there in the heart of every Somerset supporter in the ground, and beyond; and, I imagine, in Essex hearts too. There will be time for tension, and thoughts and hopes of history too, if the weather, and the course of the match, allow Somerset a glimpse of victory.

I had reached the Garner Gates when someone pointed out that the captains were about to toss. There would be no automatic insertion. The fast-spinning coin caught the sun as Abell flipped it vertically half a dozen feet into the air. The match is being televised and so the announcement of the outcome of the toss came quickly. Silence fell as people strained their ears. That Somerset had won the toss, would bat and were playing three spinners, and Essex two, left no doubt as to what was expected of the pitch.

I was back at the top of the Somerset Pavilion in time to see Vijay begin Somerset’s quest with a neat drive through the off side for four off Porter. And to push defensively at Cook and edge to Wheater, diving low to his right behind the stumps. Somerset 7 for 1. Batting did not look easy as the bowlers, Cook in particular, beat the defensive bat more often than was comfortable. A check drive from Abell off Porter, square of cover, skimmed the ground to the Caddick Pavilion boundary to settle the Somerset heart a little. Only for Cook to unsettle it with a ball angled into Davies from around the wicket which hit the pad as it homed in on the stumps. The umpire took an eternity, long enough for me think about asking my cricket-playing companion, “Why was that not out?” before raising his finger. Somerset were 14 for 2,

Hildreth, short of runs this season, was at the wicket and Somerset were at risk of beginning this, oh, so important, match with a crisis. Hildreth tends to take the same approach whatever the state of the game. He attacks the bowling. If you are watching in the Somerset interest the beginning of a Hildreth innings both lifts the heart and sets the nerves jangling. In successive balls he drove Porter square through the on side to the Somerset Stand boundary and through the covers to the Caddick Pavilion. “Hildreth attacking makes sense,” said the cricket player. “There has been quite a bit of playing and missing and balls passing near the stumps when they have been left.” As if to emphasise the point Abell came forward to Cook and edged the ball a foot or two short of third slip. “Defending again,” said the cricket player. The cricket player, I should say, in his own game, is inclined to take bat to ball rather more than is good for the nerves although it can be spectacularly successful. Those of a more defensive disposition might have as strongly favoured Abell’s approach. And so, can our differing views of cricket reveal as much of our inner selves as they do of the cricket.

As to the cricket, the floodlights were on, half an hour into the day. I wondered, even with Somerset’s ‘state-of-the-art’ lights, how often, this side of the equinox, we might reach the end of a day’s play even if the rain stayed away. Putting that together with the forecast and two wickets already gone the advantage which Essex brought into this match seemed to be growing by the over. And then Hildreth cast a ray of light beneath the darkening skies. “Harmer has a strong leg side field,” said the cricket-player. It included a short leg, a backward short leg, backward square leg and a deep square leg. Hildreth took them and Harmer on. He swept twice to the boundary. The first just fine of the backward short leg and the backward square leg. The second bisected the two backward short legs. It was vintage Hildreth. Repeatedly, Hildreth played Harmer into the on side, always it seemed safely into the ground. With Abell surviving, mainly defensively, at the other end the Somerset score, and hopes, began to grow. When Abell played Harmer through midwicket for two to take the score to 50 for 2 it brought forth applause with some force in it. “I would have taken that at the start,” said the text from a Somerset supporter from afar.

A glance to the west though brought views of thickening grey cloud across the width of the sky as it spread its shroud towards the point of the Quantocks. Hildreth and Abell were now taking some quick singles which provoked the, perhaps escapist, thought that one-day cricket has improved running as well as fielding, for I doubt the cricketers of my youth would have thought some of the singles taken on the first morning here possible. Essex turned to Aron Nijjar’s slow left arm. In an unsteady first over a long hop was pulled unceremoniously through midwicket for four by Hildreth. Batting against Harmer was a different proposition. He bowled from the River End throughout and the view past the keeper and batsman from the Somerset Pavilion was not of the best. It was difficult to see if he was turning the ball but the intensity of the batting and the effort which seemed to go into playing the ball just a few feet into the leg side whilst keeping it down suggest it was. Once, Hildreth was forced to jab hard down on a ball which kept low.

With the score at 64 for 2 on a wicket clearly providing help to both pace and spin it felt as if Hildreth and Abell might be edging Somerset ahead. There was something of a buzz in the crowd and the hope that Somerset might build a base from which to compete, if only the Quantocks would just stay visible, was beginning to take shape. And then. And then Harmer. Bowling very wide of the crease from around the wicket he angled the ball in towards Hildreth. Hildreth tried to turn it again to leg, the ball, a replay shows, pitched on middle stump, straightened perfectly, evaded Hildreth’s suddenly jabbing bat and hit the pad full in front of middle stump. 64 for 3. Two balls later Harmer, now from over the wicket, bowled straight, pitched outside off, Banton went back onto his stumps, tried to play the turning ball to leg and was also lbw. 64 for 4. Two wickets in three balls from the bowler every Somerset supporter knew was a major threat to their hopes instantly turned the Somerset chatter into an anxious murmur.

Then, when Harmer lobbed a full toss to Abell, Abell’s emphatic response, a ball cracked through the off side to the Colin Atkinson Pavilion boundary, lifted spirits. When Bartlett played an uncontrolled shot past leg slip, Bopara got a good hand to it but could not hold on. As the ball ran away for two runs there was an audible sigh of relief from those of us perfectly positioned to see just how close to a catch it had been. “They are big spots,” said the man looking at the Somerset Pavilion roof terrace. And with that, 15 minutes before the scheduled lunch interval, the promised rains came, the umpires removed the bails and the players headed for the Pavilion. It took another four and a half hours of rain, the disappearance of the Quantocks behind their shroud and occasional periods of hope as they reappeared, before play was called off for the day. A 12-point lead at the start of the start of play, four wickets and two lost sessions made it Essex’s day. Although the four wickets and the help which the pitch offered the bowlers in taking them gave Somerset supporters hope that there might yet be time for their team to find a way to 16 points.

And, as the players left the field after that truncated session, an interlude for attention to turn to a great Somerset player. After 27 seasons as a Somerset first team player Marcus Trescothick formally retires at the end of this match. A presentation was made to him at the start of the lunch interval. Trescothick emerged from the Caddick Pavilion, into the rain, with the Somerset team, coaching staff and other Club staff. The Essex team gathered on their balcony and spectators in the Ondaatje Stand shuffled to the end next to the T20 dugouts where the presentation took place. Others gathered around on the other side of the exit from the Caddick Pavilion. Around the ground those who had not been driven from the stands by the rain stood and listened as Trescothick’s record was read out. It amounted to more centuries for Somerset than anyone else, including Gimblett; more outfield catches for Somerset than anyone else, including J.C. ‘Farmer’ White; and more runs for Somerset than anyone but Gimblett, and second to Gimblett in runs only because of the swathes of time Trescothick spent with England. The crowd rose to him in an extended standing ovation. We may nor see his like again.

Close. Somerset 75 for 4.

Re: CC 2019 Som v Essex 23-26 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Farmer White 25 September, 2019 09:01
My second day report - "I want Roelof in the side" can now be found on the home page of my website via this link:


It is also reproduced in full here:

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th September 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 75 for 4.

Second day. 24th September – “I want Roelof in the side”

“I want Roelof in the side. He makes thing happen.” So said my cricket-watching companion before the teams had been announced on the first morning. My protestations that Somerset would not need three spinners, for only two can bowl at once, and that van der Merwe seemed to have ‘lost’ his red ball batting were swept aside. Well, Roelof was in the side, along with Bess and Leach, and on the second day he indeed did make things happen. In a glorious three-quarters of an hour in the afternoon sun he swept the all-conquering Harmer aside. Whether he did enough, and whether the weather will hold long enough, to give Somerset a chance of turning the top of the Championship table upside down remains to be seen. The odds against Somerset succeeding remain horribly long for Essex still hold all the cards, the time remaining in the game is desperately short and the weather stubbornly autumnal. But van der Merwe has kept the flame of Somerset’s hopes alight and, it seems, he does “make things happen”.

It had looked very different first thing in the morning when curtains all over Somerset were being pulled open. Hills had disappeared from view; puddles were alive with splashes from falling raindrops and the glow of street lights was reflected from shining wet tarmac. Then slowly, as the rain stopped and news filtered from the ground that there would be an inspection at 11 o’ clock, people started to gather their things together, leave their houses and make their way to the ground. “We have a confirmed 12 o’ clock start,” said the voice emerging from the gate steward’s walkie talkie. The start would have been later a few years ago but the new drainage system at Taunton, the grid of which is clearly evident on the outfield in this match after weeks of dry weather, has transformed the ground’s drying capability.

The crowd was down on the first day, almost certainly due to the constantly mutating graphics of the online weather forecast and to the actual weather. It grew quickly once noon approached and was soon in good voice. 75 for 4 overnight was hardly a score to shout about but given the fast-decreasing amount of time left in the game it had its attractions. The Somerset innings took up where it had left off in the rains of the previous day. A battle between the Somerset batsmen and Harmer and Cook, for none of the other Essex bowlers really made an impact. Cook, determined, accurate, and lively, bowled nearly a third of Essex’s overs. His eventual figures of 19-9-26-4 perfectly demonstrate the rock against which Harmer might have been expected to crush the Somerset batsmen. The strategy, if that is what it was, almost worked to perfection. Almost.

Before the first over was out the excited chatter which had filled the air before the start had turned to anxiety as Bartlett, for the third time in succession, played Harmer uncomfortably to leg. The ball looped to Bopara at backward short leg and Somerset were 75 for 5. Somerset’s, mainly back foot, defence against Harmer was foundering. The online watcher was in no doubt, “They absolutely have to get forward to Harmer or he will go through them,” was his repeated plea. For two years now Gregory has played spin positively, using his feet, often dancing down the wicket to attack and to defend. There is risk in leaving the crease against top-flight spinners such as Maharaj or Harmer but the painful fall of wickets to persistent back foot play does raise the question of where the greater risk lies.

In one over Gregory changed the face of the Somerset innings. Four times he danced. Four times the ball went to the boundary. It was not quite as conclusive as that. Two of the fours came off fine edges, one either side of the wicket and both just defeating Wheater. Of such slender margins might Championships be made, or lost. A pull and a cover drive completed the quartet and the applause and the cheers grew with each boundary however they left the bat. Having set the scene for a Somerset breakout and got the crowd bubbling, Gregory was out-thought by Cook, Essex’s bowler of the innings. Gregory started to run down the pitch, Cook perhaps changed his length, Gregory stopped, played no stroke and was as lbw as a batsman can be. 96 for 6. “We need at least 150, preferably 200” said the cricket-player. 150 seemed a long way off but Gregory had changed the mood, at least in the crowd which was remarkably buoyant in spite of the score.

The fall of Gregory brought Bess to the wicket and he was immediately on the front foot to Harmer. Not in Gregory’s aggressive style, his only boundary was another inside edge, but he used his feet several times to step down the pitch and drive to long on for a single. “Sensible batting,” someone might have said in the old days when patience with the bat was an unquestioned virtue. Meanwhile Abell, who is becoming the epitome of the patience and style which makes a number three batsman, continued the vigil that had started at 7 for 1. When Gregory was out at 96, Abell had made 28. Gradually he and Bess took Somerset forward. They never looked comfortable against Harmer and runs against Cook had to be hewn out of rock, although one drive inside mid-on to Gimblett’s Hill from Abell had all the hallmarks of the classic drives on which his innings are normally built. Bess and Abell took Somerset to lunch at 126 for 6. Still in heart-in-the mouth land but the Gregory-inspired mood still held sway.

My customary lunchtime circumnavigation ended with me deep in conversation in the tunnel under the Sir Ian Botham Stand. The fragility of some of Somerset’s back foot play, the continuing solidity of Abell in the top order, the brilliance of Harmer, that he gives the batsman no respite, and can vary his pace devastatingly all topics for discussion. The conversation ended abruptly when we heard a ripple of applause which to us signified the return of the players to the field. When we emerged from the tunnel between the Sir Ian Botham and Trescothick Stands we realised the applause had in fact signified the departure of Abell, lbw to Harmer for 45. “Forward. Forward.” The message of the incoming text left no doubt as to how Abell had attempted to play the ball. And then Overton, back again to Harmer, lbw and Somerset were 130 for 8. I had but reached the Garner Gates.

And then van der Merwe. I was half way along the Somerset Stand, perfectly square of the wicket when he took his guard and so took a seat there ‘to watch an over or two.’ Van der Merwe’s first ball was from Harmer. Van der Merwe does not stand on ceremony at the crease. He dropped to one knee, unfurled the slog sweep, the ball flew backward of square and cleared the boundary markers to my right by a foot. ‘Six’ signalled the square leg fielder. “I am behind you,” said the pantomime text from my cricket-playing companion. I am not sure which role van der Merwe would play in a pantomime but you can be sure he would wreak havoc. In Harmer’s next over it was the reverse sweep. Over backward point it flew, and straight over the fast back-pedalling boundary fielder trying to reverse the steps he had taken in from the boundary as Harmer delivered the ball. Anticipating what van der Merwe might do is for the soothsayers.

And all the while, it seemed, Cook was powering in from the other end. His was a gargantuan effort of accurate, testing pace bowling. He did not let up for a single ball. That he bowled so many overs was due, I imagine, to Porter looking a shadow of the bowler he had been at Chelmsford on Somerset’s last two visits. But Porter is the only pace bowler on either side who has played in all 14 Championship matches this season. Pace bowlers rarely ‘coast’ these days. There are no ‘short’ run ups. No ‘dead’ matches until the last game or two, and none for title chasing-sides. He may just be tired as Somerset’s pace attack was at Chester-le Street in 2010 having, between them, played in 47 of the 48 matches that season. It was Cook who finally ended Bess’s sterling defence with a beautifully directed ball which cut in off the pitch to beat the inside edge of Bess’s bat and hit the stumps. Shades of the of the endlessly seaming deliveries at Southampton the week before. Cook’s celebration looked tired, as well it might have done. Essex supporters will hope he has some energy left for the second innings although I imagine the prospect of the Championship will see to that.

I wonder how many sides have a number ten with a first-class double century and a number 11 with 92 in a Test match and a reputation for sticking like glue. At 144 for 9 Somerset had need of such a combination. And, as someone in the Somerset team so often does when the need is at its greatest, van der Merwe and Leach delivered in a last wicket partnership of 69. I had joined the cricket-player in the heights of the Somerset Stand. And there we remained throughout that mesmeric, pulsating partnership, not daring to move lest we provoke Somerset’s final wicket into falling. Van der Merwe’s assault on Harmer had already cleared two of the four close fielders and Leach had not been long at the wicket before Essex had between seven and nine fielders on the boundary for the first four balls of any over faced by van der Merwe. The same tactic Somerset had used against Vince at Southampton with the same result. Runs.

The Somerset crowd were now in overdrive. Every run was applauded, cheered where they had to be hard-run, from the moment the batsmen left the crease until they were safely back in their ground. Van der Merwe still managed to clear the crowded boundary, once hitting Harmer over the Trescothick Stand and into the traditional resting place of balls so struck at Taunton, the Tone. Another, straight off Nijjar, landed in a box on the second tier of the Somerset Pavilion. The sixes, and three boundaries besides, brought cheers but it was the running between the wickets which kept the mood, lifted into the stratosphere by the audacity of the sixes, floating on high. Leach, defensive for the most part, had set the mood for the partnership by steering his first two balls from Cook wide of gully and fine of third man to the Sir Ian Botham Stand boundary. Somerset had just topped 200 when van der Merwe finally lost his off stump to a reverse sweep against Nijjar who looked more settled than he had in his first spell. The stand of 69 had taken 48 minutes. 203 was above the television pundit’s ‘par’ of 180 according to the text from another far-off Somerset supporter. I would rather judge par when Essex and a certain Sir Alistair Cook have had their say with the bat.

A visit to the ‘gents’ told a story. Large though they are under the Somerset Stand, they were absolutely packed, just as they might be at the start of a mid-innings break in a cup semi-final. It was only then that it dawned on me. During that partnership no-one had moved. I cast my mind back over that electrifying 48 minutes. I had watched the crowd’s growing exhilaration as the partnership grew. I could remember no-one moving, it had been as if I were looking at a tableau. No-one wanting to be the one that provoked the fall of Somerset’s final wicket. Superstition, I well know, has no basis in fact, not moving during a partnership makes not a jot of difference, but you will have to travel a long way to find a hardened cricket supporter who will willingly risk being the one who moved the ball before a wicket falls.

And then the match really began, for in all probability, if the weather does not define this match, the Essex first innings will. Any sort of lead for Essex will, in all probability, take the title back to Chelmsford. Anything else, weather permitting, will leave the outcome open although somewhere near parity for Essex would enable Harmer to put Somerset under enormous pressure in their second innings, and if the title remains a possibility it will be pressure the like of which they have never faced before.

And so with terminal cloud moving in from the west Cook and Browne emerged to face Gregory and Overton who bowled testing opening bursts in darkening light as the floodlights burst into life with the flash of a lightning strike. There followed half an hour of “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” from fielders and crowd alike. Somerset hopes raised to the heights and immediately dashed, Essex ones driven to the depths and immediately raised. Three times in succession Gregory seemed to beat Browne’s defensive stroke and, so it looked, Overton twice went past Cook’s. Once, Cook was rushed into edging a ball in a loop into the empty space between gully and backward point. “We could have had two or three,” said a Somerset supporter after the players had been driven from the field by the rain. “We were very fortunate,” said the Essex supporter I spoke to just after the players went off but, as I said to him, these things average out over a season. And no doubt some of those apparent near misses, for all the furious intensity of the bowling, had been finely judged ‘leaves’.

And so the match moves into its third day with Somerset having an apparently ‘useful’ score and with Essex already 25 runs to the good and still ten wickets in hand. It might be an intriguing match if the weather were settled and the result were not so devilishly important to both sides and to both sets of supporters. If it gets close ‘intriguing’ will not cut it. Tension enveloped the stands in that crucial van der Merwe-Leach partnership. The emotions felt then will be as nothing to those that will be felt if Somerset, or Essex, or both, get close to winning this match.

Close. Somerset 203 (R.E. van der Merwe 60, T.B. Abell 45, S.R. Harmer 5-105, S.J. Cook 4-26). Essex 25 for 0. Essex trail Somerset by 177 runs with ten first innings wickets standing.

Re: CC 2019 Som v Essex 23-26 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Bagpuss 26 September, 2019 08:08
My immediate thought was Roelof would be Buttons, but on reflection I think he is more dynamic than that, an obvious Jiminy Cricket.

Re: CC 2019 Som v Essex 23-26 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Farmer White 26 September, 2019 09:16
For anyone interested in a report on a day on which there was no play here is the link direct to my take on the third day:


It is also reproduced here in full:

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th September 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. Somerset 203. Essex 25 for 0. Essex trail Somerset by 178 runs.

Third day. 25th September. No Play. Rain and wet outfield.

Championship hopes cloud over

It was a day of checking weather Apps, low fast-moving grey cloud, pulses of rain, covers coming off and going back on, umpires inspecting, ground staff mopping up just in time for another blast of mizzle or spate of heavier rain and, in the end, waiting endlessly for wet ground to dry out. The sky dropped repeated visitations of the sort of mizzle against which an umbrella acts as a trap to hold it around your face, and heavier bursts of rain. The sky brought no hope at all to Somerset supporters, just a conveyor belt of low grey cloud. Seeing no immediate prospect of play I took a more leisurely stroll around the ground than is usually possible at the start of a day’s play. The conversations were as much about the weather as they were about the cricket, for the weather was taking an increasingly strong grip on the match and in so doing tightening Essex’s grip on the Championship.

Rain delays at cricket matches work to differing parallel timescales. The delay itself seemed interminable and people had different ways of coping with it. A few read, some looked at their phones, some retreated to a bar, some meandered around the ground and in the dryer spells many sat, talked and watched the elements. Whatever the method of coping with the delay the hands on the Colin Atkinson Pavilion clock seemed at times to barely move, for at a cricket ground without cricket time can drag its feet unmercifully. And then there are the other timescales. For Essex supporters I imagine, although I don’t know, time may have travelled even more slowly as they waited for a Championship which, as the day crawled on, moved inexorably, if glacially, even further in their direction. For Somerset supporters, needing an early start to play, every look at the clock revealed it had taken another sizeable chunk out of the match.

I tend to walk, and as I come across people I know, talk in rain breaks. As I meandered under those persistent fast-moving clouds it was the faces that took my attention. Somerset faces mainly, but Essex ones too. The Essex faces were more relaxed, engaged in conversation without the anxiety of desperately needed time slipping away. In some the growing hope, even anticipation, of winning the Championship was beginning to break through. It is where Somerset faces were, briefly, in 2010 and 2016. It is a look I recognise.

For Somerset supporters the slow passage of the delay was frequently interrupted by looks at the clock which brought the realisation that more chunks, however slowly, were being taken out of the match. The faces told the tale. Distant looks, anxious looks, but still hoping looks. They were everywhere. Still hoping, against the growing reality, that there would be enough time for Somerset to work the miracle they would now need. As long as there is even the remotest prospect of a Somerset victory the heart will cling on to it, for the cricketing heart will cling on to possibility against the harsh face of probability wherever it can.

The heart may hope but the mind is not a fool. It knew the prospects of a miracle were shrinking exponentially by the hour. I spoke to several Somerset supporters. It was possible to construct a route to a Somerset victory if there were a full day’s play on the last day. Bowl Essex out quickly, a 15 over thrash by the Somerset batsmen, although Harmer and Cook might have something to say about that, and then bowl Essex out again. But just the saying of it revealed the near impossibility of it. And the still mutating weather forecast for the final day hardly built confidence.

I returned to my seat as the umpires took their final look at the conditions. The rains of the previous two nights and the first part of the day had been too much. The damp area on the Somerset Pavilion side of the square was still too damp for the umpires to feel confident enough to order a restart and play was abandoned for the day. An Essex supporter and I fell into a brief friendly conversation of the sort you can have between opposition supporters at any county ground in the country however tight the situation in the match, however much is riding on it. I know too, from talking to other Somerset supporters, it was not the only such discussion of the day. The Essex supporter acknowledged the frustration I must be feeling at the vagaries of the weather but the match was not over for certain, he thought. There was still just a chance for Somerset. I thought far too much time had been lost. “Do not underestimate our ability to collapse,” he said with feeling. “Twice?” my reply as we exchanged wry smiles.

There is no doubt, if there is play on the final day, the Somerset team will walk out of the Pavilion with fire in their eyes. They will test Essex to the limit of their powers in any short time left in this match. If there is a collapse, the Somerset bowlers will exploit it. But for Essex, who have not lost since the first match of the season, to collapse to the tune of ten wickets twice in a day, even under the pressure of the Championship trophy bearing down on them, even on a pitch helpful to bowlers would, indeed, need a miracle. That, I suspect, will not stop Essex supporters fearing one or Somerset supporters hoping for one.

Close. Somerset 203. Essex 25 for 0. Essex trail Somerset by 178 runs.

Re: CC 2019 Som v Essex 23-26 Sept - Farmer White Match Reports
Farmer White 28 September, 2019 13:14
And here is my report on an astonishing final day. Via this link which will take you straight to the report on my website:


Or, it is reproduced in full here:

County Championship Division 1. Somerset v Essex. 23rd, 24th, 25th and 26th September 2019. Taunton.

Overnight. No play on Day 3. Somerset 203. Essex 25 for 0. Essex trail Somerset by 178 runs.

Final day. 26th September – The County Championship goes east

The final day of this match left a montage of memories crashing around in the mind. Marcus Trescothick walking out to a tremendous ovation just before the end to field at slip for the last time is one to be treasured. The eerie emotion-pummelling silence every time a bowler left his mark during that, at last, sunlit hour when Somerset supporters hoped, and Essex ones feared, a Somerset miracle might happen. The tumultuous cheers of Somerset supporters and chants of “Somerset La La La” every time an Essex wicket fell or a batsman was beaten and the applause of Essex supporters and chants of “Essex, Essex” whenever a boundary was struck. The pulsating atmosphere surged, roared, throbbed, ebbed and flowed in every corner of the ground. It was as if it were some physical entity you could reach out and touch. You couldn’t of course, but you could feel it in every sinew in your body.

There was too the virtually unique sight of seven Somerset fielders around the bat, motionless, watching, waiting. Of Leach, Bess, van der Merwe, back to their mark and into the crease again and again, ripping the ball, trying to find the spot that would defeat the batsmen. The sight of the Essex batsmen, heads steady, eyes watching; then as the ball fizzed, dipped and turned, stretching every sinew in their legs, backs and arms, as they fought to get to the pitch of the spinning, bouncing ball to keep it out, or perhaps find a precious run. Around the ring were the supporters of both sides stretching the concept of the edge of the seat to the very limit. There was Sir Alistair Cook with his front foot repeatedly stretched far down the pitch to play the spinners with apparent ease, rarely looking in trouble; although you knew he must be demanding the utmost of every one of his batting skills and dipping deep into an apparently bottomless well of determination and concentration. This was cricket at its toughest; at its skill-challenging and character-testing best.

And, in the end, two more very different sights. The first, of Somerset supporters, buoyed up by another tremendous team effort. They were in groups dotted around the stands, sitting, chatting, smiling and staring into the future with hope in their eyes that this could just be the team which might go on to win that long dreamed of County Championship. There was disappointment too of course, and that may grow deeper as the spirit-raising effects of that coruscating afternoon wear off, but, at least around me, the mood and contemplation of the future was upbeat and positive. The second sight was of that future in the here-and-now. Not for Somerset but for Essex. There were two or three hundred Essex supporters gathered tightly around the Caddick Pavilion and in the Ondaatje Stand to watch and cheer their team as they were presented with the Championship trophy on the outfield. The applause was long and heartfelt. It was all watched, from their balcony, by the Somerset team. Thoughts, perhaps of what might have been. And as for what was, many Essex supporters stood together for some time, savouring the moment for as long as they could.

It felt like an eternity since the day had begun with the running leitmotif for this match, a rain delay. Less than 63 overs had been possible on the first three days and, by the fourth, Essex had barely begun their first innings. When the day finally began a minimum of 72 overs remained of the daily allocation of 96. In those 72 overs Somerset would have to take 20 Essex wickets and keep Essex to under another 178 runs to win the match. Essex’s need was simply not to lose, if anything is simple when the ball is turning, the opposition have international spinners and the Championship is on the line.

After two overs, another rain delay. For two overs. 68 overs remained. Still 20 wickets and less than 178 runs the equation. In the two overs that had been played the television ball tracking had apparently shown Leach having Cook plumb lbw. The umpire had not raised his finger. News of Cook’s escape travelled fast. Nothing escapes the know-everything smart phone. Regretful frowns, but no more, the reaction of most Somerset supporters I spoke to. Spilt milk.

On went the game. A paddle sweep to the Somerset Pavilion boundary off Bess from Cook brought applause, enthusiastic from Essex supporters, appreciative of the stroke from Somerset ones. And all the while those long front legs of Cook and Browne stretched down the wicket. “Browne is getting so far forward,” commented my cricket playing companion. And there was the quiet. Not quite silence yet, for there was the occasional piece of chatter, and a periodic cry of “Come on Leachy,” from under the Gimblett’s Hill scoreboard. It was one of those quiets you can hear when a match is tight. An objective assessment would not have had this match tight at all, there was no time for a result. But the Championship was on the line. The importance of every ball, of every run, and above all of every wicket was magnified beyond measure by the importance of that title in the hearts of every player and of every supporter in the stands, on both sides.

And so it continued. The looping, spinning, flighted ball and occasionally the one fired in flat as Leach and Bess strove to find an opening. Down the pitch came those long legs, bat alongside, or occasionally back on the stumps, in contrast to Somerset, so often, trying to play Harmer from the crease. Back down the pitch would be sent the ball, or, once or twice, spin off a thick edge in an arc the shape of a new moon as it bit into the adjacent pitch. Several times the ball came off the edge but although hearts sometimes missed a beat the ball always went safely to one of the slip fielders. Sometimes the bat would be beaten to “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” from the close field and gasps from the Somerset crowd. Just occasionally it would be steered through the close fielders, at first four then five, for a precious run, to applause from Essex supporters.

And all the time the overs ticked by, all too quickly for Somerset supporters, all too slowly I imagine for Essex ones, as Cook and Browne resisted. Just 59 overs were left when Browne, who if anything had looked safer than Cook, went forward to Bess and pushed the ball straight to Hildreth fielding at what can only be described as ‘silly cover’. The cheer that went up from Somerset supporters might have been a little less triumphant had they realised what the seemingly ever-right smartphone revealed. Hildreth had caught the ball between his knees. When the weather leitmotif intervened again lunch was taken 15 minutes early. Just 11 overs had passed during the morning and just ten runs been added but it had been absolutely gripping to watch and had seemed interminable. Worryingly for Somerset only the wicket of Browne had been taken. “We need someone to make something happen,” said the cricket player.

My lunchtime circumnavigation, anti-clockwise as it must be, from my seat, high in the Somerset Stand, next to the square-of-the-wicket television camera, took me as far as the gap between the Sir Ian Botham and Trescothick Stands before the intense tussle of the morning continued. Bess, running away from me, had two loud lbw appeals but neither looked quite out to me although I was standing more or less at long on. Twice Leach beat Westley to gasps from the close field. Each ball was now being bowled in silence so deafening you might have heard the sound of a pin dropping into a bucket on the other side of the ground.

Back to the Somerset Stand. The cricket player, who had intended to leave at lunch to be in good time for work later in the day in another county, was still there. Even work might have to wait for this match. Still there was no sign of a Somerset breakthrough, in spite of all the beaten bats, balls thudding into pads, edges along the ground and gasps of frustration, but somehow, in spite of the inexorable passing of overs, the match still gripped. No-one was leaving the ground that I could see and more people seemed to be coming in. Such is the hold of the County Championship on the committed supporter. Eight more overs had slipped, or for Essex supporters, dragged by. Just ten runs had been added. Essex were 46 for 1 from 30 interminable overs. 51 overs remained according to the number on the scoreboard but with Essex still 157 runs adrift runs were ceasing to be an issue. Wickets were all, for if Somerset could not take 19 more wickets runs were irrelevant. Essex would win the Championship.

As another batch of overs went by, Cook and Westley battled on. The intensity and tension that had wracked every face in the ground since the start of play did not slacken. The two groups of supporters were bound together in that purgatory that is a great sporting tussle in the process of being decided. Supporters of both persuasions were leaning forward in their seats, not moving, hoping, or fearing, that ‘something would happen’. And still, on went the match, over after over, as if suspended in one of those nightmares from which you cannot wake and in which you are engaged in a fearful attempt to make progress but get nowhere at all.

But gradually, imperceptibly at first and then noticeably the day began to ease towards Essex. Cook and Westley began to look a little more at ease. Cook in particular began to find the boundary. He tested the shackles Somerset were trying to apply with a cover drive off Bess and then twice in an over cut him to the Somerset Stand for four. Somerset hopes were raised momentarily when Cook cut at Bess and missed. But when van der Merwe replaced Leach, Westley drove him through the covers for four. Cheers from Essex supporters, and applause of acknowledgement for the stroke followed from Somerset ones. Runs of any description were now being applauded by Essex supporters with the occasional rendition of “Essex, Essex” from a group on the Colin Atkinson Pavilion terrace. “Somerset La La La, Somerset La La La,” often the defiant response. But a cold look at the scoreboard revealed Essex were 74 for 1. Somerset had bowled 40 overs for that one wicket and the day was, if you were a Somerset supporter, fast moving on. There were just 41 overs left on the scoreboard, although a calculation revealed the spinners would get through a few more than that.

I went to watch a while from Legends Square near where the old Stragglers bar used to be. I wondered how the ghosts that reside there were faring, for this was a situation of which, in their time, they could only have dreamt. Now there were seven around the bat as Somerset gave not an inch. Every inch the batsmen wanted they had to take. And every inch they could, they stretched their front foot down the pitch. And less than an inch their back foot stayed behind the crease. Then a rare full toss from Leach. Cook drove it through midwicket for four and he had reached 53. Essex cheers erupted as virtually every person in the ground gave Cook an extended round of applause for an outstanding effort. And then ‘something happened’. Cook edged the next ball to short leg and Essex were 102 for 2. Two balls later Lawrence, on the crease, edged to Overton, diving low, at gully. 102 for 3. The ground erupted. Somerset supporters looked at each other over their applauding hands. Could it? Could it still be on? Realistically not, the head told the heart but the heart still hoped, if faintly. I can only imagine the pangs of anxiety Essex supporters must have been feeling in spite of the 17 wickets still untouched.

109 for 3 is a score etched on my mind for it seemed to have been chiselled into the scoreboard, unable to move on, as Leach and van der Merwe began to take hold of the match. Somerset’s seven close fielders seemed incongruous against such a score. And yet against such a field Westley and Bopara, beaten time and again, were unable to score. “Ooohs” and “Aaahs” proliferated from the middle, gasps from the Somerset supporters rent the air. Essex supporters, I imagined, had heads telling them it was too late for Somerset but hearts pumping with the anxiety that overrules the head when so much is at stake. Somerset supporters, still applauding and cheering every near miss, knew, if you asked them, it could not be done. It was the refusal of their team to give in to the inevitable, to continue to strain for wickets, to believe they could still do it as the odds remorselessly stacked up against them that lifted the spirit. Eventually Bopara succumbed to van der Merwe and pushed the ball to Abell at silly mid-off. Tea was taken at 118 for 4. With only an hour and three-quarters to be played afterwards 16 wickets seemed a mountain beyond climbing.

“I must go,” said the cricket player, “I’ll only be just in time for work,” the wrench obvious from his voice. For the rest, people held their seats as after tea the match continued its hold. And the hold tightened, for the Somerset spinners and close fielders finally made the pressure tell. Ten Doeschate edged Leach to Abell at backward silly point, if there is such a position, but with seven around the bat new positions had to be invented. An over later Westley, after two hours of dogged defence and 32 runs, edged to Gregory at slip. 126 for 6. “Come on Somerset,” the urgent cry from under the Gimblett’s Hill scoreboard where the beating heart of the Somerset crowd resides. Tumultuous cheers from everyone else. And more and louder still when three balls later Harmer went back to van der Merwe and edged to Vijay, one of three fielders crowding the slips. 126 for 7. “Somerset La La La” the chant. “Essex, Essex,” now the defiant cry. “Here we go, here we go,” and, “No rain in the air,” the response.

And on this incredible day of cricket went as the floodlights came on to rachet up the tension further, although soon the sun held sway and, with Somerset well ahead of the over rate, it was the clock on the Colin Atkinson Pavilion, not the fast diminishing ‘overs remaining’ on the scoreboard, which was Essex’s chief ally. Twice in an over from van der Merwe, Wheater, who battled at the end for Essex against Kent at Canterbury in an innings that saw his team over the line and which now held huge significance for determining the balance of power in this match, twice squeezed the ball through the net of close fielders to fine leg for four. “Essex, Essex” the response. “Somerset La La La ,” the reply. And then, in the space of seven balls, the innings was over as Leach, two in two, and van der Merwe tossed that spinning, dipping, turning ball into the Essex tail. Nijjar lbw, Cook bowled by a yorker from Leach, and Wheater, at the last, cutting van der Merwe into Davies’ gloves. Essex 141. The Somerset crowd were on their feet all around the ground, cheering, applauding, shouting encouragement. “Somerset La La La,” from a hospitality box in the Sir Ian Botham Stand. “Essex, Essex, Essex,” from the group in the Colin Atkinson Pavilion. Animated chatter everywhere, from both sets of supporters as far as I could see. Hope, perhaps a dream, just, for Somerset supporters and a final jab of anxiety for Essex ones.

An hour plus an over or two remained. Somerset walked slowly from the pitch. There was no dash for the Pavilion from the Somerset openers. The Somerset second innings had been forfeited. Essex would need 63 to win. Somerset ten wickets. It was, after the half hour that had just gone, still possible for Somerset supporters to believe – just – but the head still said otherwise. An hour and a few minutes to take ten wickets but ten wickets would take out the best part of 20 minutes. Once the final hour had started, if wickets fell, Somerset would get no more than 16 overs, however fast their spinners bowled their overs. Time in cricket can be as hard a taskmaster as the opposition’s bowling, batting or fielding.

“Come on Somerset!” “Come on Jack!” “Essex, Essex,” as the players walked to the middle. A gasp of anguish from every Somerset mouth and a sigh of relief from every Essex one as Vijay’s hands at leg slip followed an edge from Browne, touched the ball, but could not hold it. And from there it was déjà vu. Déjà vu of the battling batting of Cook, Browne and Westley, and the endlessly persevering bowling of Leach, Bess and van der Merwe, from just two hours before; but now, it seemed, from an age ago. So many things had happened, so many hopes had been raised, so intense was the tension, so gripping the cricket that the memory needed to elongate the timescale to fit it all in. But now, gradually, the time in the mind and the time on the Colin Atkinson clock began to run in tandem. Even Essex supporters, I imagine, began to relax a little as anxiety turned to anticipation. “Essex, Essex,” rang out again and a, now valedictory, “Somerset La La La.”

For Somerset supporters it had been a white-knuckle afternoon, the edges of seats long since worn out. Then came the rousing farewell applause as Marcus Trescothick walked out to field at slip and, finally, a draw agreed, though Essex might have won at the last. The Championship remained a ghostly dream for Somerset supporters, still just out of reach, but that Herculean effort to wrest it from Essex on the final afternoon had lifted the Somerset spirit beyond measure.

In 2019 Somerset came closer than they ever had. They had twice been closer in points before this year but this was the first time they had gone into the final round of matches with their destiny in their own hands. In the end the weather took things out of their hands. But it was Somerset’s three defeats to Essex’s one that made the weather Essex’s ally. Over a season the table rarely lies and it did not this year. Essex, particularly away from home, had edged Somerset, and that is what the table shows. But this Somerset team is still young, still maturing, still learning and it is a ‘team’. Greater than the sum of its parts and in Tom Abell they have a captain capable of matching, perhaps surpassing, the great Somerset captains.

And finally, after the reflections of the Somerset supporters and the celebrations of the Essex ones it was time to say, “Winter well,” and move on towards next year.

Result. Somerset 203 (R.E. van der Merwe 60, T.B. Abell 45, S.R. Harmer 5-105, S.J. Cook 4-26) and innings forfeited. Essex 141 (Sir A.N. Cook 53, M.J. Leach 5-32, R.E van der Merwe 4-41) and 45 for 1. Match drawn. Somerset 9 points. Essex 8 points.

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