Somerset 408 (Hildreth 187, Trescothick 140; Harris 5-83) and 310 (Hildreth 86, Trescothick 76, Cooper 42; Harris 3-64, Finn 3-66, Rayner 3-90); Middlesex 317 (Voges 98, Gubbins 92, Franklin 46; Gregory 6-101, Overton 3-45) and 405-5 (Voges 132, Franklin 115*, Gubbins 78). Middlesex won by five wickets with seven balls to spare.
Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard admitted the club were gutted tonight after they lost their second successive opening County Championship match as Middlesex successfully chased the third highest total ever to win at the County Ground.
Set 402 to win in 103 overs, Middlesex reached their target for the loss of five wickets with just seven balls to spare. The visitors’ Australian captain Adam Voges warmed up for the Ashes with his first century in Middlesex colours, while James Franklin saw the north London club over the line with an unbeaten hundred of his own.
This was ultimately a highly entertaining game for the neutrals, but a bitter blow for Somerset having been in command at 377-3 on day one before losing their last seven wickets for 31 runs.
While Maynard insisted there were positives to be taken from the game, notably the bowling of Lewis Gregory and the batting of Marcus Trescothick and James Hildreth, serious questions remain after two significant batting collapses in two games and an inability to bowl Middlesex today or at least contain them.
Afterwards Trescothick said: “Any loss is painful but every now again this game gives you a good kick. We played some good cricket for four days and put ourselves in a position to win a game.
“They came along and played as well as they did and to chase down 400 on the final day was a good effort.
“The pitch has been good here for two games, but if we can get a bit more spin and a bit more life out of it on day four to assist our bowlers then great that’s something we can take into our next game.”
Maynard tweeted: “Tough defeat to take. Some outstanding individual performances but need to improve for sure. We will.”
Somerset began the day, knowing that their key strike bowler Jamie Overton would be unable to play any further part in the game, having picked up an injury which was causing him acute pain in his left ankle.
Despite that, things began positively with Lewis Gregory removing both Middlesex’s former England openers Sam Robson and Nick Compton for the second time in the match, to leave Middlesex 45-2 after 11 overs.
Robson was again caught by Trescothick at second slip for 15, while in Gregory’s next over, Compton offered no shot and found himself bowled, his middle and off stumps sent cartwheeling out of the ground.
However that dismissal simply reunited Nick Gubbins with Voges, fresh from their 139-run stand in the first innings, in which they both made nineties.
The pair again looked comfortable and were on the verge of a second century partnership, when after putting on 92 for the third wicket, Gubbins was bowled by Abdur Rehman for 78 off 105 balls with 10 fours and two sixes.
By lunch Middlesex had reached 148-3 off 37 overs, still needing 254 runs for victory off 66 overs. Victory still seemed a long way off, especially if Somerset could remove Voges or the new batsman James Franklin shortly after the break.
Those hopes were soon extinguished though as the home side went wicketless throughout the afternoon session. By tea Middlesex had moved onto 280-3 off 71 overs, Voges reaching three figures in the final over before the interval, his runs coming from 163 balls with 10 fours.
The final session ultimately became a one-day chase for Middlesex as they set out to score the remaining 122 they needed for victory.
Somerset had a glimmer of hope when Voges went to drive Tim Groenewald and was caught by wicket-keeper Alex Barrow for a fine 132 off 210 balls with 13 fours.
Groenewald and Gregory kept things extremely tight for a while, only conceding nine runs in 5.4 overs before Franklin and Neil Dexter went on the offensive again.
While Somerset had picked up Franklin in the first innings before he had the chance to do any major damage, the New Zealander went onto reach his century second time around in the 98th over when he drove Rehman to the cover boundary, his runs coming off 210 balls with 13 fours.
Halfway through the 100th over, Rehman bowled Dexter for 11 with the score 381-5, leaving Middlesex requiring need 21 from the remaining 3.3 overs.
John Simpson came out to join Franklin and in the next over from Trego the pair struck a boundary and a single each to leave Middlesex requiring nine from the final two overs.
Simspson wasted no time, hitting three of the penultimate over from Rehman to the boundary, to see Middlesex to victory with seven balls to spare.
Franklin ended unbeaten on 115 from 221 balls with 15 fours and Simpson 18 not out.
Afterwards Maynard said: “We have performed a lot better in this game but not well enough to get over the line. Going into the afternoon session I thought that we were in front but we didn’t get a wicket and that turned out to be a big session and they had a big partnership between Voges and Franklin.
“That was probably the clincher and had we managed to separate them it could have been a different result.
Regarding the loss of Jamie Overton the Director of Cricket said: “Losing Jamie Overton didn’t help because he would have been able to come in with those spells he showed in both this game and the first match that can change the course of the match.
“Unfortunately he picked up an injury that didn’t allow him to participate today. Jamie will need an MRI scan and we will get more details of that.
“Having said that it’s great to see Marcus playing so freely and positively and showing so much skill.”
“We are gutted to have lost this match but our performance was better than in the previous game and as a coach I can pick up more positives than the players can. Middlesex won the last two sessions and won the game.”
Matt added: “We couldn’t have asked for anymore from the lads today. They were asked to give 100% and they certainly did that. They gave their best today and that is all they can do.”Somerset will be buoyed by news that while Lewis Gregory has been called up for the England one-day international against Ireland next week, he will be available for this Sunday’s game against Worcestershire at New Road. They will however be mindful not to overbowl him after he was forced to bowl more overs than any other bowler on either side in this match, following Overton’s injury.
The loss of Overton was a huge blow as he had been genuinely threatening on Monday evening and close to his best. Without him in the side and Rehman not able to extract as much spin as Somerset were hoping from the surface, the attack lacked much-needed variety today.
Alfonso Thomas could return on Sunday. The Somerset one-day captain was originally named in the squad for this game following his recovery from his ankle injury, but it was decided not to risk him. He was however fielding as 12th man today. Craig Overton has also been playing in the Second XI and could come back into contention if the medics decide he is fully recovered from his injury.
Johann Myburgh, who has been in excellent form with the bat so far this season, missed this game due to the birth of his child and Somerset will welcome him back in due course to bolster the batting.
Any wider changes are unlikely at this stage. The New Zealand tour game however offers an excellent opportunity to try out other members of the squad such as James Regan, Josh Davey and Adam Dibble in a first-class match environment ahead of the next Championship match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge in mid May.
It is however early days and Maynard clearly recognises there is work to be done to turn the team around after what he referred to in an interview for the Sunday Independent recently as “psychological barriers”, “scars” and “fear of failure” after “two seasons of underachievement”.