Warwickshire 367 all out (IJ Westwood 129, R Clarke 42, RA Jones 35, C Overton 3-59, OJ Hannon-Dalby 40, C Overton 3-76, L Gregory 3-97, PD Trego 2-68, AC Thomas 2-73) and 1-0 lead Somerset 286 (TB Abell 95, L Gregory 47, JG Myburgh 25, RA Jones 4-81, JS Patel 4-81, OJ Hannon-Dalby 2-38) by 82 runs.
Somerset 7 points, Warwickshire 5 points
Few cricketers can have made their first-class debuts with more goodwill and support behind them than 20-year-old Tom Abell who walked out to bat with Somerset in trouble against Warwickshire at the County Ground on Saturday.
Well-liked and widely respected for his temperament and technique – and for the sheer amount of runs he’s accumulated this season – the whole county was willing him to do well.
The stage was perfectly set. Playing in the town of his birth for the club he supported as a boy, the match situation demanded someone to demonstrate the kind of application and concentration that has been much in evidence throughout Abell’s prolific season with the Second XI and Taunton Cricket Club this year.
It was an ideal opportunity for the former Young Wisden Schools Cricketer of the Year to show what he can do in front of a much bigger audience. Craig Kieswetter is just one of many tipping him as a future England Test player.
If the weight of expectation weighed on his young shoulders, it didn’t show. Despite losing his partner Nick Compton to the first ball after Abell arrived at the crease – and wickets continued to fall regularly at the other end throughout the remainder of the day – the former Taunton School boy calmly made his way to a maiden first-class fifty.
By late evening, he was in sight of becoming the first man since Harold Gimblett in 1935 to make a century on debut when he chipped Patel to William Porterfield at short midwicket, an agonising five runs short.
It had been a superb knock under real pressure as no other batsman, with the exception of Lewis Gregory, had been able to apply themselves and make a score of any size.
In all Abell batted for four hours 40 minutes, facing 188 balls and gave some of his more experienced team mates a lesson in how to occupy the crease and build a score.
It was important that someone did just that as Warwickshire had extended their first innings by a further 33 runs in the morning. Oliver Hannon-Dalby (40) and Recordo Gordon (14*) had both been allowed to record their highest first class scores in a frustrating last-wicket partnership worth 62 in exactly 16 overs. Eventually Alfonso Thomas had Hannon-Dalby caught by Abell and it was Somerset’s turn to bat.
The home side had the worst start to their innings when, after striking two boundaries, Trescothick nicked Hannon-Dalby to Varun Chopra in the slips for 9 – nine runs short of 1,000 first-class runs for the season.
Nick Compton joined Johann Myburgh and the pair took Somerset past 50, with two fours off the 12th over from Hannon-Dalby.
But both men then fell in the space of two balls with the score on 55. First Myburgh, off the final ball of a Richard Jones over, nicked behind to Chopra in the slips. Then, off the first ball of the next over from Hannon-Dalby, Compton was bowled off an inside edge for 17.
Abell was joined by James Hildreth and the pair eased Somerset nerves by taking Somerset to lunch on 73-3 without any further mishaps.
After lunch, it was all about Tom Abell. Receiving some short-pitched stuff early on, he took his time to settle, calmly playing out a number of maiden overs before unfurling the first of what are sure to be many boundaries in first-class cricket. It was a lovely cut off the back foot on his toes through cover off Jones to take him to 24* and Somerset 97-3.
One run later, Hildreth departed, hooking Jones to Hannon-Dalby on the fine-leg boundary for 15.
It didn’t seem to phase Abell who soon afterwards played a beautiful cover drive for four off the first ball of the 34th over from Patel. The rest of the over was testament to Abell’s maturity as he played textbook defence to the New Zealand Test spinner, showing keen awareness of which balls to attack and which to defend.
Hildreth’s wicket was the start of a 10 over spell which saw Somerset lose three wickets for 30 runs. Next Alex Barrow edged Patel to Ian Westwood at short leg for 11 and then Peter Trego was caught behind by Ambrose off Jones for 6.
Amidst the chaos at the other end, Abell patiently continued his innings at his own pace, and had reached 32 off 92 balls when Craig Overton strode out to join him with the score on 128-6. The pair put on 25 before Overton was caught by Trott at midwicket for 16, taking the attack to Patel.
Somerset badly needed someone to stay with Abell and build a sizeable partnership.
Lewis Gregory was the man for the job and played yet another valuable innings for his county this season. The pair complimented each other perfectly, Gregory playing the attacking role while Abell kept things rock solid at the other end.
Gregory hit two straight sixes off Patel and a further one off Rikki Clarke on his way to a near run a ball 47.
In contrast, Abell reached his maiden first-class 50 in the 56th over, hitting Patel for his third boundary and then running three to bring up his milestone off 134 balls.
Abell then upped the pace of his innings, hitting three further boundaries before his partnership with Gregory was ended when the all-rounder was caught hooking a delivery from Jones. The pair had put on 84 runs in exactly 15 overs.
By then Abell was on 73* and fast running out of partners. Alfonso Thomas joined him and stayed with the youngster for seven overs to try to see him to his century and get Somerset to as close to Warwickshire’s first innings total as possible.
When Thomas eventually perished, bowled by Patel for 12, Somerset were 263-9, leaving the prospect of Abell – who was 86* – being stranded short of his century.
A rapt crowd – which had thinned out a little after an earlier stoppage for bad light – was willing the youngster on with every ball to reach his milestone. It would have been a fairytale start to what is sure to be a long first-class career.
Sadly it wasn’t to be. But it was an extremely valuable innings in the circumstances, which almost certainly saved his side from the follow-on and which his team will be extremely grateful for. And one which Abell can feel very proud of.
I’m sure there will many, many more opportunities to reach three figures in the months and years ahead.
There was time for four overs of Warwickshire’s second innings at the end of the day, by which time they had reached 1 without loss, leaving them 82 runs ahead.
(Somerset first innings figures to date: AC Thomas 25.2-9-73-2, L Gregory 22-6-97-3, PD Trego 17-2-68-2, C Overton 24-1-76-3, GH Dockrell 9-1-29-0).
Afterwards Tom told the club website: ““I am absolutely chuffed to bits and obviously it’s a day I have dreamt about and I’m over the moon to have taken my opportunity.
“When I heard that I was actually playing I was pretty ecstatic and so glad I have had the opportunity to play for Somerset which is something I have dreamt about for a long time. I have come into the side having got a lot of runs in the Seconds so to get the nod and the backing of the team was something really special.
“My family were here to watch which made it something really special for me and I’m glad they were here to see me.
“I felt very nervous when I went out and just tried to play the situation as well as I could. I tried to stabilize things when I went out and not try to give my wicket away cheaply. The people I batted with helped me through and kept me ticking along and the partnerships I had along the way were a massive help.
“I thought Lewis Gregory played really well and took the pressure off me and took the attack back to them. He played really well and soaked up a lot of pressure for me, which worked well.”
BBC Radio Bristol’s Stephen Lamb told the BBC website: “Although Warwickshire are halfway favourites with an 81-run first-innings lead, the batting of Somerset debutant Tom Abell was the eye-catching performance of day two at Taunton.
“The 20-year-old locally-born batsman had been selected for his first senior appearance in any format because Alviro Petersen was unable to return from South Africa in time to take his place in the team.
“Coming in at 55-2, Abell showed patience and maturity as wickets fell successively at the other end, although the pressure on him was lessened during an entertaining knock from Lewis Gregory, whose 47 included three sixes, two struck straight off Jeetan Patel.
“But Patel had the final say when Abell was last out, caught at mid-wicket after an innings which he will undoubtedly remember for the rest of his life.”
Somerset: ME Trescothick*, JG Myburgh, NRD Compton, TB Abell, JC Hildreth, AWR Barrow†, PD Trego, L Gregory, C Overton, AC Thomas, GH Dockrell
Warwickshire: V Chopra*, IJ Westwood, WTS Porterfield, IJL Trott, SR Hain, TR Ambrose†, R Clarke, RA Jones, JS Patel, OJ Hannon-Dalby , RO Gordon
Just some of the many tweets of congratulations for Tom’s innings: