After all Jack Leach had done to bowl Somerset to the brink of victory it was the cruellest irony that he was the final wicket to fall as two teams fighting for their lives at opposite ends of the table ended up tied.
It is likely that the final say in terms of points accrued from this most gripping, nerve-wracking, gut-wrenching game of championship cricket will rest with the umpires, pitch inspectors, the two clubs and the cricket authorities. But whatever the authorities decide this is a game that will stay long in the memory for all Somerset supporters.
The fact remains that with Essex following on against Surrey at Chelmsford the gap between Somerset and the leaders is likely to be in excess of 50 points with three games to go before any penalties are imposed.
There is a theory knocking around in my head in the immediate aftermath of the game that Somerset’s failure to chase 78 to win is punishment enough, should the authorities so decide.
But whatever the outcome of these machinations nothing can take away the fact that this was one of the most intense two days of championship cricket any of us will have experienced. A game played, from the beginning of the second hour of the first day on seeming fast forward eventually concluded when Somerset’s bowling hero, Jack Leach, was bowled by his Lancashire counterpart. The cricketing Gods must have a sense of humour to have decided on such an outcome.
Discussions went on late into the evening after day one concerning the pitch with the usual suspects in the media rushing to make judgement, in almost every case without having seen any of the day’s play or bothered to find out from those who were there.
Last evening was an instance of where social media is such a good thing. Ignore the Vaughans and the Legside Lizzies and you have a bunch of people who wanted to discuss, and in the case of the estimable Daniel Norcross, take time to find out what had happened from those who were there or were watching the live stream.
Great credit too to BBC Somerset’s Anthony Gibson who took time to tweet, reply, retweet and comment. An example of the ignorance that really riled me was the numerous comments to the effect that the fact that Somerset opened the bowling for the last 6 overs of the day with their spinners showed how bad the pitch was. Clearly none of those people making such comments had “tuned in”. If they had they would have known that the light was appalling and the merest whiff of an Overton would have seen the umpires head for the pavilion.
But, facts need to be faced. This is a game that was over inside two days with an aggregate of 538 runs being scored. The batting was poor, the overhead conditions encourage seam and swing and Jack Leach ended up with 12 wickets in the match. There was turn from the first time Leach bowled well before lunch on day one. The pitch inspectors’ judgement call has to be whether that turn (and the variable bounce) was excessive.
Somerset have, regrettably, perhaps unfairly, previous in the last two seasons so while I hear all the arguments to the contrary we are an easy sitting target when judgement is passed. I fear the worst.
This is not the time or place to ask questions of the club. That requires a few days to allow events to unfold and the raw emotion of the last two days to subside.
But going back to the social media interaction of the last few days here are a few concluding points gleaned from Twitter last evening and my own data extraction from the scores around the country.
This was the 6th time in 12 attempts that Lancashire have failed to get past 200 in their first innings this season.
As Dan Norcross pointed out why would a team that is 32 points behind in the championship deliberately produce a pitch that would render the securing of any batting bonus points impossible?
Paul Edwards’ report on day one concluded that, ‘Those who actually attended the game may testify that any official enquiry might centre just as valuably on the techniques and temperaments of the certain top-order batsmen than on the eccentricities of the wicket.’
The Lancashire Action Group on Twitter were vociferously bemoaning Lancashire’s performance and openly attributed Lancashire’s two totals in a large part to two abject batting performances.
Across the country at various times over the last two days we had the following scores:
- Leicestershire 44-8
- Northants 44-8
- Hampshire 25-4
- Worcestershire 120 all out
- Essex 126 all out
- Kent 137 all out
Perhaps, as we’ve been debating on here all season the ECB and the cricket media need to have a think about when they are asking our players to play in the blue riband competition. This marginalisation of the championship is set to continue and we can only expect more of the same.