On a somewhat overcast morning in the East Midlands, former Leicestershire all-rounder Jim Allenby won the toss and elected to field first, presumably influenced by Monday’s successful run chase against Surrey as well as the overhead conditions.
To keep his bowlers fresh for the County Championship, Director of Cricket Matt Maynard left Jack Leach and both Jamie and Craig Overton out of the playing XI, with Tim Groenewald, Josh Davey and Max Waller coming into the side. For Leicestershire, Rob Sayer was dropped and Clint McKay was ill, meaning Wayne White and Dan Redfern came into the side in the two changes from yesterday’s defeat at Worcester.
Right from the outset, Somerset’s seamers were on the front foot. After Angus Robson was dropped at point during Groenewald’s first over, Davey, who despite having briefly been the leading wicket-taker at this year’s Cricket World Cup has had limited first-team opportunities for the county, removed Robson (1) and Lewis Hill (0) in his own first over to leave the hosts 6/2. 31-year-old Groenewald dismissed Irish wicket-keeper Niall O’Brien (4) soon after without Leicestershire adding to their total.
Runs were hard to come by during the opening powerplay, and after Lewis Gregory’s first over – a wicket maiden in which Aadil Ali nicked off to Allenby at slip – the hosts were 19/4 after nine overs.
Dan Redfern showed some application at the start of his innings, but Somerset’s bowlers were again too strong; three balls after he was bowled by Gregory, Andrea Aganthangelou was caught behind by Alex Barrow to leave Leicestershire six down with only 38 runs on the board.
Rob Taylor and skipper Ned Eckersley began to rebuild for the Foxes, and at the half-way stage of the innings, there was a glimmer of hope for the home side; medium-pacers Allenby and Peter Trego were operating in tandem, and although runs were still by no means flowing freely, a partnership of 40 was helping to add some respectability.
However, two overs and just two runs later, Trego struck, dismissing Taylor for 25 and bringing all-rounder Wayne White to the crease in his first appearance for the county since 2012, after two ill-fated seasons at Lancashire and an injury earlier this season.
The 29-year-old started with attacking intent that had been lacking throughout the innings, hitting Allenby and Trego (twice) to the fence in his first ten balls. Allenby recovered strongly, putting a string of dot balls together, and after a tight couple of overs from Max Waller, Eckersley lost concentration, offering a straightforward caught-and-bowled chance to Somerset’s captain.
His 61-ball 29 was the top score in the hosts’ innings, as White was trapped lbw by Waller in the next over for just one run fewer. Their partnership of 37 was a useful face-saving contribution, but when Atif Sheikh was bowled by Waller in the 40th over, the hosts’ total of 120 all out looked well below par.
After the interval, Somerset’s inexperienced opening partnership of Adam Hose and Tom Abell got off to a slower start than usual; Sheikh’s raw pace and the nibblers of Zak Chappell – making his home debut after a decent all-round performance on Monday at Worcester – caused a few problems. In the third over of the innings, Sheikh’s second consecutive maiden, Taunton-born Abell had to retire hurt after a nasty blow to the box, having only made one, and the left-armer then dismissed Hose (2) eight balls later to leave the visitors effectively 14/2.
Rather than being fazed by the situation, the experienced pair of Trego and Tom Cooper, with thirteen List A hundreds between them, went after Leicestershire’s youthful attack, with Cooper slamming two of his first seven balls to the fence.
Trego then took advantage of Sheikh’s increased confidence. The 24-year-old, who signed a new two-year contract earlier in the season, had figures of 3-2-4-1 at one stage, but struggled when the Weston-super-Mare warrior went on the attack, as he was hit for 24 runs, including two fours and two sixes, in his next twelve deliveries. This also took Trego, in his benefit year at Taunton, to 3500 one-day runs.
White and Taylor were both given a chance to stem the flow of runs, but Cooper was in no mood to knock the ball into gaps for singles; he moved onto 28 from 22 balls at the end of the powerplay.
Having hit just fourteen boundaries in 39.4 overs themselves, Leicestershire were being taught a lesson in how to find – and clear – the ropes, as Trego bludgeoned two fours and three sixes in the space of seven balls to bring up his fifty from just 23 deliveries.
Suddenly, the Cidermen required 29 runs from 38 overs. However, they got there in seventeen deliveries, with Trego hitting White for four and Sheikh for a four and a six, before Cooper finished the job with ten runs in three balls off Chappell.
Trego ended on a remarkable 71 not out from 31 balls, and Cooper with an unbeaten 35-ball 43. Their partnership of 112 from just 10.3 overs made batting look exceptionally easy, in stark contrast to Leicestershire’s batsmen had earlier in the day.
Eckersley, to his credit, faced up to his side’s horror show, telling the press: “It was a pretty abject display with the bat and with the ball and in the field; the whole display just wasn’t good enough. It’s a changing room that’s hurting because that was not a representation of where we want to be or what we are as a club.”
After a strong all-round performance from the side, Allenby tweeted “Lots of positives to take from this comp. We are starting to play like the Somerset I hated playing against!”
Man-of-the-match Trego said winning the toss and bowling first on a green-tinged wicket in cloudy conditions had been “huge”.
“As soon as we walked in this morning it was obviously a bowl first wicket, and then the sun started to come out when we batted but you have to make the most of the conditions, and the bowlers did that – Tim Groenewald, Josh Davey and Lewis Gregory were flawless in their opening spells, they put Leicestershire under the pump and they were unable to recover,” said the all-rounder.
“It’s been one of the frustrations of the season that as a team we’ve really clicked when we’ve been able to concentrate on white ball cricket, but when you throw some pretty gritty four day games in amongst it, the team has found it difficult to transition from red ball to white ball cricket,” said Trego.
“It’s disappointing because in the last few games we’ve really shown what we can do. Hopefully the wheels are turning at the top and next season the structure will change.”
Despite their exit from the competition, Somerset can be happy with several of their performances this year; wins against Yorkshire, Surrey and Worcestershire as well as this one should give the squad confidence heading into the County Championship run-in.
Also encouraging for the last few rounds of fixtures will be Marcus Trescothick’s unbeaten century for the 2nds against Hampshire yesterday, and with chairman Andy Nash confirming on Twitter than an overseas signing to replace Abdur Rehman would be announced soon, things are looking up at Taunton on 140th anniversary of the club’s formation in 1875.