How Did That Happen?

County Championship Division One, Somerset v Notts, Taunton, Day One – Somerset 326 All Out (Davies 74, Bess 51, Wood 4-85) and 7-1 lead Notts 241 (Libby 77, Nash 50 ret hurt, Bess 5-59) by 92 runs 

To repeat my opening sentence from yesterday’s report, “Champion teams put in performances like this so do bottom of the table teams.” Half an hour after tea Nottinghamshire had passed 200 for the loss of only two wickets and were contemplating a significant and potentially decisive first innings lead. Jake Libby was set, Steven Mullaney was settling in and the Somerset bowlers were getting virtually no assistance from the second day pitch.

From that point Somerset’s spin twins took 7-44 in a space of 21 overs which, with the concussed Chris Nash unable to bat left Somerset with a lead of 85, a cushion that they would never have dreamed of a tea.

How do you sum up such a period of play? As BBC’s Rob Scanlon said in the interval between innings, “Dom Bess is an outstanding cricketer.” Following on from his 50 in the first innings Bess, who had endured a calculated assault by Ben Duckett before getting the Notts left-hander caught behind, was every bit the match for the Indian test spinner Ravi Ashwin.

Jack Leach, while perhaps not at his best at first, played a valuable supporting role picking up 3-79 off 31 overs including Plymouth born Jake Libby making only his second appearance of the season in the Championship.

This was not a day for the Somerset seamers. Lewis Gregory and Jamie Overton bowled 10 overs a piece but, after a testing opening spell they found nothing in the pitch for them. But as we all know Somerset’s bowling attack is able to bowl sides out on all manner of surfaces. 

Bess is to polite and unassuming a young man to say anything untoward but inside he will be feeling a huge degree of satisfaction at his contribution in this game. With Jack Leach heading to Canterbury next week Somerset fans can rest assured that the spin bowling will be in high quality hands at Headingley next week.

But before then he and Leach are likely to have a good few more overs to bowl in the final innings of this game.

The only tarnish on Somerset’s final session achievements was the loss of night watchman Tim Groenewald as Somerset added 7 runs in the 5 overs they had to face. 

The shape of this game seems almost certain to be in the hands of the spinners and here Somerset’s advantage of last use of the surface and having two international spinners to Notts one has been significantly reduced by the news that Chris Nash will be replaced by Samit Patel under the new regulations that allow a substitution in the instance of a player concussion (remember Max Waller replacing Jack Leach at Guilford last year). 

Notts had looked vulnerable in that department with their other spinning option being debutant left arm spinner Liam Patterson-White, who has had a miserable game so far, going down with tonsillitis on Sunday and making a four-ball duck on Monday. 

The question all Somerset supporters will be asking is what sort of a lead removes the fourth innings nerves? A lead of 250 would be very nice, 300 a dream, but that will require Somerset to make 168 / 218 in their second innings. Something which, on this surface will not be easy. 

Essex, who matched Somerset’s bonus points haul look nailed on to win at Chelmsford tomorrow. Yorkshire have obligingly subsided to 38-3 at the close, still trailing by 82 runs. A result which will seriously damage the White Rose’s title aspirations in addition to damaging confidence ahead of Somerset’s visit on Saturday.

But Notts know that a win in this game could be precious in their bid for survival in division one. Warwickshire, currently in 7thare in a similarly precarious position to Yorkshire at 31-3, with crucially the run hungry opening pair of Sibley and Rhodes both out, need another 373 to win.

Strap yourselves in, Day 3 is going to be interesting!