Somerset skipper Lewis Gregory put in a man of the match performance to lead his side to a comfortable win against Middlesex on a soggy Sunday afternoon, which helped in some way to brush away the disappointment of a thrashing at the hands of Surrey the previous Friday evening.
It has been a black & white season for Somerset so far in this competition but this win places them third in the south group with 8 points from seven games played.
And it was very much a captain’s performance from Lewis, who struck a brilliant 62 that included 8x4s and 4x6s in just 26 deliveries to help his team reach 229 for 6 in their 20 overs. He followed that up with 4 for 28 as the visitors fell 38 runs short of their revised target of 213 in 18 overs.
And Lewis was the only Somerset player to walk away from the defeat at The Oval on Friday with any credit. His undefeated 50 accounted for just over half of Somerset’s total score, and included 3x4s and 4x6s. The game had been reduced to a 10-over per side ‘slogathon’ with Surrey winning the toss and putting Somerset in, but the away team never really got into their stride and it was only the captain’s knock – his first ever t20 half-century – that gave the final score any credibility.
And you only had to take one look at the Surrey batting line-up to realise that 99 was going to be hard to defend against the likes of Finch, Roy and Foakes. And so it proved to be. The last thing Somerset needed was Jerome Taylor’s first over in Somerset colours to be so poor going for 20. Eventually his 10 deliveries cost 29 runs as the home team cantered home in just 6.4 overs. But it wasn’t just the West Indian who disappointed as the whole bowling unit could have performed so much better.
Somerset fans took to social media to bemoan losing the toss to be a key factor but there is no guarantee that Somerset would have fared any better with the bat had they batted first. It was a comprehensive win for Surrey.
And so it was back to home comforts for Somerset for the visit of a team they had beaten by four wickets in London ten days previously. Despite having Eoin Morgan in the side Middlesex underperform in this format, but they had beaten Hampshire last Thursday.
There were some scares for Somerset supporters early on as Tom Barber took three wickets in one over to reduce the home side to 29 for 3. He had been on trial at Taunton during the Maynard years and he bowled with a bit of pace but, it has to be said, benefitted from an appalling umpire’s decision to remove the very unfortunate James Hildreth.
Peter Trego led the charge with a masterful 60 and then the skipper took the game to Middlesex. Somerset’s 229 is their third highest in 20-over cricket.
Max Waller removed Holden – who scored 84 against Somerset on 19th July – with the fourth delivery of the innings and Middlesex huffed and puffed but were always playing catch up. Stevie Eskinazi (55) batted well and the champagne moment was definitely Jamie Overton’s amazing catch to remove John Simpson off Gregory.
And so it was a welcome win and one very much down to the skipper. Lewis has looked like a new man since his much debated contract situation resolved itself and he is fast becoming a good captain. He is still learning of course and will make mistakes – not opening the bowling with Max at The Oval maybe one decision he will reflect back on? – but we are lucky to have him and I am delighted he has committed himself to Somerset.
The big worry for me is the batting at the top of the order. The partnership of Johan Myburgh and Steve Davies does not cut it for me. Mybs did score 46 at Lords but such innings’ are few and far between and Tregs and Hildy are often walking out to bat far too early for my liking. There is a world of difference from being a quality, big-hitting opener who can force the pace to someone who swings bat at ball. And that, for me, is all Mybs does and occasionally – very occasionally – gets away with it. Some will think this to be a harsh assessment but the facts and figures strongly suggest a change is needed
Making a good start is vital if you want to be successful in one day cricket, as we can all recall when Somerset had a side that qualified for finals’ day on an annual basis. Yes we had Kieswetter and Trescothick in his prime, but the same principles apply and we rarely dominate games from ball one.
I would stick with Davies for now but he needs a new partner. We have so many batsmen of huge potential I would consider blooding one of these. Tom Banton didn’t have a great 50-over campaign but he has enormous quality. I would prefer him playing and gaining experience playing in front of big crowds to playing someone at the back end of their career and who is unlikely to feature in professional cricket for much longer.
There are other options; Tom Abell could open to hold up one end for 10-15 overs and let’s remember Lewis opened in the past. And it concerns me that we have a sublime all-round talent in Dom Bess walking around the boundary edge on match days when we should be finding a way to accommodate him in our one day teams.
It’s Hampshire next for Somerset at the CACG on Wednesday. I don’t expect there will be many, if any, changes to the squad as we seek to gain a fifth win in 8 games and keep the pressure on Kent and Gloucestershire. And we have a few close behind too. But in Lewis Gregory we have a leader hitting form at the right time and is stepping up to the challenge.