Specsavers County Championship Division One, Trent Bridge, Nottingham, Day 2 – Notts 263 all out (Gregory 6-68) and 25-2 Somerset 403 all out (Bartlett 133, Abell 101) – Somerset lead by 115 runs.
I know quoting yourself is considered bad form but who cares. Last evening I wrote, “If Abell and Bartlett can get through the first hour there is every prospect that Somerset will be able to eke out a first innings lead, if one of them can go on to make a telling contribution and the rest can bat around that the prospects are bright for a match winning lead.”
It is not exaggerating to say that Somerset’s performance went way beyond my hopes let alone expectations on day two at Trent Bridge with the overnight pair adding 223 before they were separated midway through the afternoon.
Needing a good first hour to build on the stabilisation they started on Thursday evening, Tom Abell and George Bartlett batted with few alarms to move the score on to 130-3 off 44 overs by noon with Abell on 45, and Bartlett on 38. Stuart Broad’s initial 5 over spell was dealt with comfortably with the pair appearing to grow in confidence over by over.
It seemed that batting was an easier proposition on the second morning, perhaps an indication that some of the pace and life had left the surface? Perhaps a sign that Somerset’s young pair were growing into their task and the Notts bowlers beginning to lose belief?
Mullaney rang the changes but the second hour proved equally fruitless for the home bowlers as Tom and George, perhaps a little more watchfully added another 44 to round the session off neatly at 100-0 and leave Somerset on 174-3. Both Abell (59) and Bartlett (66) had passed the game’s highest score, Chris Nash’s 58, in the process.
It was interesting to note that Notts, in perhaps a sign of their frustration, resorted to Stuart Broad first seeking rather desperately and clearly in breach of the new regulations to change the ball and then bowling a version of leg theory (round the wicket to a 3-6 field with three on the boundary). Neither proved successful and to further deepen Broad’s despair he appeared to pick up a warning from umpire Gough for running on the wicket.
The afternoon session began with Somerset within 26 runs of their first batting point of the season. I mention this because Hampshire who had been in the field in Southampton for the first four sessions and taken only 5 wickets were just three ahead at the top of the table. Not only were Somerset batting for a first innings lead but also to reach 300 or 350 in the next 51 overs to join or pass Hampshire, albeit temporarily.
The scoring pace notably quickened after lunch, and the landmarks followed, the 200 partnership in the 71stover with a four from Tom Abell, three balls later Bartlett’s hundred off 156 balls and 12 fours. Two overs later the skipper went to his three figures off 194 balls with 10 fours.
The next landmark was the lead but the fourth wicket pair were unable to achieve that one, Abell going caught behind for 101 with the total on 259-4 and the new ball 5 overs away. Bartlett and Abell had added 223 to take Somerset from a position of some peril to one of parity with their hosts with 6 wickets in hand.
The lead was achieved by virtue of another boundary from Bartlett which also took him to his highest score for Somerset, eclipsing the 110 against Lancashire at Old Trafford last May in the game probably best remembered for Marcus Trescothick’s foot injury.
The second new ball, coming five overs after Abell’s departure could have been a pivotal phase of the game but Davies, who had joined Bartlett saw Somerset comfortably through that spell, bringing up the 87thover 300-4 and by registering Somerset’s 25thpoint of the season, moved them joint top of the nascent Division One table.
At tea Somerset were 309-4, Bartlett 128, Davies 22 having added exactly 50 for the fifth wicket, 135 in the session and 235-1 in the day. From a place of some concern at the start of the day Somerset were in the position of considering the options available to them. Would they choose to bat for the rest of the day and perhaps into the third morning both to build an unassailable lead or would they seek a declaration to give themselves a few overs to bowl on the second evening?
As it turned out the option of a declaration was taken out of Tom’s hands. Davies went to the first ball he faced after tea caught behind off Jake Ball and inexplicably in the following over Bartlett was bowled playing no stroke by Luke Fletcher for 133 off 223 balls with 17 fours in just over 300 minutes. Somerset were reduced to 316-6. An extremely disappointing end for George who had not given a chance since arriving at the crease midway through the final session of day 1 with Somerset 36-3.
Craig Overton perished quickly but Lewis Gregory was starting to do Lewis Gregory things, in tandem with Josh Davey he set about maximising Somerset’s bonus points. Needing 68 off 13 overs when Overton departed and with Stuart Broad back in the attack Gregory first brought up the 350 just before 5pm and in doing so sent Somerset above Hampshire.
Gregory was now flowing going from 31 to 47 in one over from the England pace man including sixes off consecutive balls. The 400 was reached with 3 overs to spare before both Gregory, for a run a ball 50 and Davey, an equally valuable 25 off 28 both perished to Broad who wrapped up the Somerset innings by bowling Leach.
Somerset’s lead was 140.
If Stuart Broad is subject to an overs limit by England, he used up 25 of them in this innings taking 5-73, figures that were substantially better before Gregory’s onslaught. The admirable Luke Fletcher finished with 3-66 off 26 overs.
Somerset were left with 11 overs to bowl in gathering gloom and made an almost immediate break though when Duckett was superbly caught by Abell in the covers for 4. It could have been worse for the former Northants opener who was badly dropped by Bartlett off Brooks two overs earlier, a dismissal which would have registered a pair. Brooks then followed up by getting Nash caught behind for a duck to leave Notts on 16-2. Like the Somerset top order on the first day their Notts counterparts were struggling against the new ball.
When bad light (I still don’t understand the floodlights / bad light regulations) halted play early night watchman Luke Wood had accompanied Ben Slater to 25-2, still 115 in arrears.
After a day that could not have gone any better Somerset must be hoping that a second victory of the season can be achieved on the third day. Notts who were dispirited enough by the Abell / Bartlett partnership were further demoralised by Lewis and Josh’s 8thwicket stand before those two late wickets left them with a mountain to climb. Their character as much as their technical skills will undergo a thorough examination on day 3.
Somerset’s bowlers will be full of confidence, Brooks’ two wickets will do him a world of good after some indifferent performances so far for Somerset and, Leach, who has yet to bowl a ball may have a vital role to play on Saturday. There is still plenty of hard work to be done but Somerset are in a position of strength they would only have dreamed about last evening.
After a day like today there is no was that I am going to dwell on the negatives, but I was surprised reading the comments on social media this morning criticising the top 3 and the dropping of Byrom for Leach. Let’s be clear, a total of exactly 100 runs from the top three after the first three innings of the season isn’t what we hope or expect from three players of such quality and experience. But the fact that Somerset have accrued maximum batting points and put themselves in a very strong position without the top three contributing should be seen as a huge positive.
It seems harsh on Tom Abell after a wonderful hundred, but George Bartlett is my man of the day. He has in his last two innings made hugely significant runs at times when his side really needed them, a fact that increases their value hugely.