Somerset 375 (Trescothick 124, Trego 77) and 249 for 8 dec (Jones 87, Middlebrook 4-40) beat Northamptonshire 221 (Willey 53, Gregory 6-47) and 351 (Hall 66, Rossington 62, Kettleborough 58, Willey 53, Gregory 5-75) by 52 runs
Somerset 23 points, Northamptonshire 4
Lewis Gregory produced match winning figures of 11 for 122 as Somerset beat basement side Northamptonshire to seal a crucial win and take the cider county back to the top of the County Championship, albeit for a few hours. Gregory also produced a more than useful 40 not out with the bat in Somerset’s second innings which was influential to the final outcome given his team’s victory margin was just 52 runs.
Plucky Northants were set a mammoth 404 to win this game and made a torrid start to their chase, but recovered magnificently to give their title chasing hosts a big scare. The game was eventually secured with the wickets of Willey and Hall in just six deliveries to send Somerset away from Wantage Road with 23 points in the bag. The home side can take great pride in their performance, one that will give their players, staff and supporters some satisfaction, even if they were unable to avoid defeat. They remain rooted to the bottom of the table with 48 points and only a miracle of Headingley ‘81 proportions can save them from relegation back to the second tier now.
Somerset, though, are back in the chasing pack for the title. Nottinghamshire’s equally thrilling 1-wicket victory over Lancashire in Liverpool means they take the top spot, some 11 points head of Somerset who sit in second, who themselves are one place and 5 points ahead of Yorkshire in third. The Tykes do have a game in hand on the top two and one cannot help but wonder what significance the final game of the season between Yorkshire and Somerset in Leeds in September will hold. It is still possible this will be a cup final, winner takes all encounter.
But for now Somerset can only play one game at a time!
Day 3 started with Somerset 72 for 3 after Colin Ingram had been dismissed with the final ball of the last evening’s play. Chris Jones was set on 27* and was joined by James Hildreth. These two produced a stand of 92 before Hildy was out rather lamely, c&b Middlebrook for 43. But Jones kept going, he watched Peter Trego and Craig Overton come and go cheaply before being joined by star man Gregory who dominated a stand of 33. Jones looked set for a century but fell short on 87, an innings that included 11×4’s and 1×6. It was a great innings. There is no doubting Jones’s ability but he needs to add some consistency if he is to become a fixture in the Somerset team.
After Alfonso Thomas fell without troubling the scores Tres called the team in with the Somerset score 249 for 8 and Gregory (40) and George Dockrell (15) unbeaten.
So the lead was 403 and a formality for Somerset, surely?
The Northants response started poorly and they would finish day 4 on 108 with 5 wickets down, a mere 295 behind Somerset. During the evening they lost the whole of their top five; Middlebrook (18), Levi (0), Newton (5), Spriegel (0) and Kettleborough (58), and all did point to a convincing Somerset win inside a few hours.
Day 4 also started well for Somerset with the first wicket of the day falling after only a quarter-of-an-hour. Olly Stone was caught by Tres to give Lewis his third wicket of the innings and eighth of the match. Northants were looking down the barrel at 117 for 6.
Kyle Coetzer and Adam Rossington, fresh from playing against Somerset 2nd XI the previous week, enjoyed a useful stand of 73 in the first innings and these two performed again in the second innings. This time around the stand was 76 before Coetzer was bowled by Gregory for 54 and the score became 197 for 7. Northants were still 206 behind.
Glove man Rossington, on loan from Middlesex, was enjoying himself. He followed up his first innings 48 with a fine 62 as he and Andrew Hall took the score to 251. When Craig Overton removed the wicket-keeper – the 8th wicket to fall – it did look like the rather plump lady was clearing her throat.
But Somerset’s nerve would be tested. When you have Hall batting at 9 and David Willey coming in at 10 then you can never rest on your laurels and these two dug away manfully to put on exactly 100 and put the home side on 351 for 8. 53 runs or two wickets would win this game and the initiative, for the first time, was with Northants. Both players were striking the ball and the Somerset bowlers were looking weary and tired and the supporters were becoming increasingly agitated unable to see where the next wicket was coming from. But when Overton removed Hall, caught by Ingram in the slips, the favour swung back to Somerset. A few balls later Gregory bagged his second fivefer in the game when he nailed Willey LBW for 53, exactly the same score as he mustered in the first innings. Somerset had won! Phew!
One of the most relieved men in the stadium would have been captain Tres, not just because his side had gained a vital win, but the win justified his decision not to enforce Northants to follow on at the end of day 2. Had Somerset lost then there may have been some awkward questions to answer.
But that is not the case so onwards and upwards. We would have taken second place after 11 games back in April and Somerset have a break in the LVCC now with the next game starting Friday 15th August against Warwickshire at Taunton.
Talking to the club’s official site Tres said: “It got a little bit tight in the end but we got the victory we wanted from the game. I was a little concerned when we went back out after tea because the pitch was very good, the ball was getting softer all the time and the bowlers were getting tired so it was really tricky.
“The wicket had died down by the end and they were playing quite well so I’m delighted that we won, although it was closer than we would have liked.”
BBC Somerset’s Stephen Lamb told their website: “Northants may have finished on the losing side, but showed true grit in taking Somerset beyond the tea interval and won the hearts of their supporters by coming close to a victory which required the teams highest-ever run chase.
“To come within 52 runs of a target of 404 was remarkable and owed much to Kyle Coetzer and Adam Rossington, then Andrew Hall and David Willey.
“The dismissal of Willey after the tea interval was critical and provided the excellent Lewis Gregory with career-best match figures.
“The tension in the Somerset camp was palpable in the closing stages, but they showed sterling character to finish the job and remain in the hunt for their first-ever County Championship.”