Northamptonshire may yet be grateful to Somerset’s demanding schedule of 11 consecutive days of Cricket as Marcus Trescothick opted to give his bowlers a rest rather than enforce the follow on at the end of day 2 after the home team fell five runs short of the target to make Somerset bat again. Somerset remain in control of this game but, instead of taking quick wickets in the final session of day 2 to put a stranglehold on the game, the visitors found themselves losing vital wickets to give Northants slight hope of a positive result for themselves. If nothing else it removes the threat of a seventh innings defeat for the Wantage Road side in their first season back in the top flight of the County Championship.
Day 1 started with Somerset winning the toss and electing to bat. They started badly and once again relied on skipper Trescothick to guide them to respectability and ultimately a handsome total. His fellow opener Chris Jones (8) perished early with the score on 14 quickly followed by Nick Compton, who had scored 94 and 83 not out at Uxbridge a few days earlier, who this time could only muster 7 before being bowled by Willey. Somerset were now 21 for 2.
In stepped Colin Ingram for a Championship debut and he looked good striking three 4’s before he was the victim of a brilliant catch by Spriegel off Stone for 14 and the score was 72 for 3.
James Hildreth (26) helped his captain take the total past 100 but he was 4th man out, plumb LBW to Willey, when the score was 117. Things were not going to plan for the cider county against the basement team. But things were going to get worse before they got better.
Craig Kieswetter stepped out to join his captain and moved himself nicely to 14 when he faced up to a short one from Willey in the 15th over. Attacking the delivery, he missed and the ball slipped through the grill on his helmet and struck him of the face prompting the batsman to fall to his knees and there followed much concern among both sets of players and medical teams. Kiessy was eventually led from the field and rushed to hospital amid concerns for his wellbeing. By close of play it was confirmed he had a fractured cheekbone and broken nose and will not play any further part in this match and will be absent for several weeks now. A big blow for Somerset.
At 143 for 4 after 40.2 overs, Peter Trego joined his captain and they batted beautifully together to take the score to 296 when the skipper was out. Tres had scored his fourth Championship ton of the season off 201 balls in 265 minutes striking 17×4’s in the process. He finished on 124. Tregs helped himself to 77 runs including 13×4’s and was out soon after Tres and the score was 300 for 6 (or 7 if you consider the absence of Kieswetter).
Craig Overton (20) and Lewis Gregory (10) had starts and hit crunching boundaries but flattered to deceive and day 1 ended with Somerset’s 1st innings 366 for 8 with Thommo 10* and Docks 24* after 96 overs.
So to an action packed day 2.
Somerset’s innings only lasted 4.1 overs and generated just 9 more runs before Dockrell fell caught behind off Hall for 27, with Alfonso not out 16 at the other end. Somerset were 375 for 9 but all out in light of Kiessy’s injury.
Somerset needed only 60 overs to dismiss Northamptonshire with Lewis Gregory taking a career-best 6 for 47.
He took the first three wickets to fall – Middlesbrook (5), former Somerset man Levi (4) and Newton (10) as Northants fell to 45 for 3. Trego came into the attack and got Spriegel soon after for 11 and the home team went into lunch at 65 for 4.
Kettleborough had seen his four team-mates come and go but he was 5th man out after scoring a dogged 29 and the score was 71 for 5 and Northants were staring down the barrel.
This brought together Adam Rossington, on loan from Middlesex and playing his first Championship match of the season, and Scotland international Kyle Coetzer. Both had played against Somerset in a 2nd XI fixture the previous week and they brought respectability to the home team’s total. Rossington grabbed a quick 48, including 6×4’s and 2×6’s, before Thomas bowled him. Coetzer (37) then became Gregory’s 4th victim as the scoreboard showed a score of 159 for 6. One run later Hall was out to Gregory to hand the youngster his second ‘fivefer’ of the season and it was 160 for 7 with Northampton needing 66 to make Somerset bat again.
David Willey decided attack was the best form of defence as he took the initiative to Somerset. Northants outstanding player in their T20 trophy win in 2013 smashed 5×4’s and 4×6’s as he bludgeoned 53 runs and took Northants to the brink of making Somerset bat again. But Stone had previously become Gregory’s 6th victim for only 47 runs and Willey was ultimately last man out at tea with the home team score of 221.
Somerset could make Northants bat again but would Tres enforce the follow on? We were put out of our misery when the Northants team took to the field first followed shortly by Tres and Jonesy. What followed next could not have been to plan.
The wickets started to fall! Tres for 4 (4-1), Compo for 1 (5-1) and the panic set in among Somerset supporters. Ingram joined Jones, who took 27 balls to get off the mark, and looked good again. He struck 5×4’s to get to 37 but he was nailed lbw Middlebrook with what proved to be the last ball of the day and the players headed off with Somerset 72 for 3, leading by 226, but with only ten batsmen to their disposal.
Somerset are in control but Tres’s decision to bat again will take up most of the post-match discussion. It certainly seemed a strange call. If Tres wanted to give his bowlers a rest what better incentive than to get Northants all out sometime on Monday and enjoy most, if not all, of Tuesday off before playing Surrey in a T20 fixture on Wednesday evening? The game is likely to last all four days now with little to no respite before the Surrey game. Aside from that they had only bowled two sessions in lukewarm conditions, hardly two full days in Barbados or somewhere.
But Tres is paid to captain the side not me so in the skipper we trust.
With Somerset 8 days into a run of 11 consecutive days of cricket Trescothick decided his bowlers needed a break and time to recover from their first-innings exertions. Dave Nosworthy, Somerset’s director of cricket, told the club’s official website: “We are in a period of 11 days in a row so it’s important for our bowlers to be looked after during this period and it could have been a tough little session for them.
“There were a few things we had to consider. It’s always a difficult decision, we made the call, we are living with it and we are still in a good position.”
Looking to Monday he added: “We are in a good position with a 200 plus lead and now we will want to kick on a little bit tomorrow morning and give ourselves every opportunity.”
BBC Radio Northampton’s Chris Egerton:
“A day which began with concluding their first innings, ended with the visitors beginning their second innings and in control of this game.
“In the intervening period, Northants struggled against an accurate and potent seam attack and their top order – devoid of confidence after their horror run in the Championship – failed once again. Rossington – on loan from Middlesex – and Coetzer briefly challenged but it was only Willey’s forceful knock that got Northants close to avoiding the follow-on.
“In the event, Trescothick’s decision not to enforce it means that Somerset should make the game safe on Monday but quick wickets early on may keep Northants in with an outside chance.”