A review and preview all in one!
County Championship Division One, Surrey 380 & 255-8 (12 points) drew with Somerset 398 (11 points)
At 11am yesterday morning I decided to document the final day’s play hour by hour with a semi-live blog. This was potentially a very big day early in the season and it felt right to go with the ebb and flow of the day, but before I had written the first section or the chance to send out the link via social media the rain came and a frustrating procession of inspections resulting in only 55 overs being left effectively ruled out a prospect of a positive result.
On a day when the BBC’s Anthony Gibson celebrated his 50th anniversary of his debut covering cricket for the Corporation the weather had the final say (Gibson’s debut day was washed out!)
Disappointing as it is to lose the opportunity to record a third straight victory there is no doubt that Somerset demonstrated over the preceding
Surrey would have left Taunton knowing that they had faced a very severe examination by a very good side and will be concerned not only at their failure to record a win in either of their opening two fixtures and their lack of form but also by the gap already between the two teams.
As for Somerset, there is much to be pleased about. Lewis Gregory has been sensational so far this season, the bowling unit has done everything we hoped for and while the batting hasn’t been what we all want, George Bartlett has also exceeded expectations and is maturing into the player we need in the middle order.
Besides the loss of the opportunity to push for the win the loss of play on Friday had another series implication. Marcus Trescothick did not get the chance to bat again and prove he is still worthy of his place at the top of the order.
As we head into a crucial phase of the C
I am going to say it now. I find it incredibly hard to write anything negative about Tres. I am deeply hurt when, as against Surrey at Taunton last September, parts of the crowd heckle the great man. I do not write for The Incider to give an objective view of Somerset cricket (although I am happy to listen to offers to do so for any other cricket around the country!) I do so from a very partisan standpoint. Marcus has been a huge part of my cricket life for the last 26 years, that is over half of my 50 years of actively supporting the county. The man is a legend not only for what he has done on the field for the county but for his bravery in the mid 2000s and for the way he has represented Somerset cricket to the wider cricket world.
I am reminded about my own experiences in club cricket, when work necessitated I move away from Taunton in the early 80s I joined a new club. There was a guy batting 4 for the first XI in a very good level of league cricket who, when I bowled at him in the nets was clearly a class above anyone else at the club even though he was into his early 40s. As the years progressed he continued to play his enthusiasm undimmed even as his abilities faded and he dropped down into the 2nds and the 3rds. I overheard a couple of colts who had the previous day played in the same team as this guy taking the proverbial out of him for his fielding, his running and the fact that he was held together by tubigrip when he played. I had to have a word with them and explain to them some of the league and club records he had broken in the past, long before they joined the club. I walked away from that conversation incredibly sad to see such a force diminished and treated with so little respect.
So here is my plea to all Somerset fans. Leave Marcus and the Tom / Andy / Jason triumvirate to make the right decision for all concerned. They all want the best for Somerset cricket as much as we do and are more aware than anyone what is required to go all the way this year. They will not shy away from making the tough decisions and can be trusted to make the right decision. And we as supporters should back both them and Tres as long as he is in the side. We have not seen his like at the County Ground since Gimblett and, without denigrating the wonderful James Hildreth, will not see his like for a long time.
There are other selection decisions to be made as well. Assuming Jack Brooks is not available the choice is between recalling Jamie Overton or restoring Josh Davey. Assuming Timmy G is fit after his pummelling by Morne Morkel I suspect Jamie will remain at Wantage Road. But I’d also like to see Tom Abell having a bit more faith in his own ability with the ball, I am sure I am not alone in my frustration that he doesn’t throw himself the ball more often.
These selection decisions and the way those not chosen are managed are very important as Somerset are heading into a crucial phase of the Championship campaign. After a very winnable home game against Warwickshire, Somerset have three big away games. The return against Surrey, and trips to Canterbury and Chelmsford. The former will provide an opportunity to both avenge the frustrations of today, the second a chance to lay the Canterbury bogey once and for all and the third will provide a test against a side likely to be in contention come September (and who visit Taunton in the last round of the Championship on 23rd September).
Warwickshire have lost both their opening games to Kent and Hampshire and currently sit bottom of the table with 7 points. With the exception of Dominic Sibley, who has scored hundreds in six consecutive first class games and carried his bat in Warwickshire’s first innings last week, are struggling to make runs. With Ian Bell still in the early stages of his rehab it would be a big call to rush him back. Beyond Sibley and his promising young opening partner Will Rhodes there are some unfamiliar names in the potential line up. Adam Hose, who might be allowed some wistful thoughts of what might have been if he had stuck it out in 2017, may feature but he has had a lean time so far this year.
Warwickshire’s bowling is weaker for the absence of Olly Stone who was sent home early from England’s tour of the West Indies earlier in the year. Henry Brookes and Oliver Hanlon-Dalby will likely take the new ball with skipper Jeetan Patel a constant threat.
I think Warwickshire are better than they have shown so far and will, when they have adjusted to the top division and when Paul Farbrace has got Bell and Stone back, see an upturn in fortunes but Somerset, who we know will not take anything for granted, should be far too strong.
After three rounds the early season shape of the competition is forming. Somerset sit top but only 4 points cover them, Yorkshire and Hampshire. Surrey and Notts sit 7th and 8th but Surrey have played only twice while Notts have lost twice and drawn one. Surrey will in the next couple of weeks improve on their two draws and 23 points but Notts could find themselves locked in a battle at the bottom with Warwickshire and Kent and glad only one of them will go down.
There are three Division One fixtures starting on Monday as well as Somerset v Warwickshire Hampshire host Notts on the Isle of Wight and Kent host Surrey at Beckenham games made more interesting by being played on out-grounds which might throw up a surprise. It would be good for Somerset in both the Championship and with an eye on the final if Notts could find some of their one-day form while anything Kent can do to further dent Surrey’s season would be gratefully received.