Records Tumble as Somerset Fine-Tuning Continues

Somerset 387-4d and 345-9d beat Cardiff MCCU 118 and 46 by 568 runs.

“The biggest ever winning margin in an English First Class game and the 8th largest all time” Dan Kingdom @DanKingdom96

Leave aside for a moment that this was an MCC Universities side, that this was a pre-season friendly and indulge in the completeness of the performance. Somerset’s tuning up for a tilt at that elusive first-ever county championship couldn’t have gone much better.

The sun shone for three days, God clearly didn’t want to miss any of the action (or my Dad had a word with the big man and the Queen was in Taunton on the third morning – I know she was heading to Paul Nicholls yard – but I’m clutching at omens like mad at the moment!)

A measure of the completeness of the performance can be gauged by listing the things that didn’t go right:

  • Marcus only reduced the gap to Harold Gimblett by 59 runs;
  • George Bartlett got starts in both innings but didn’t go on to get the big score;
  • The bowlers took 33 overs to take Cardiff’s last four first innings wickets after having them 39-6;
  • Somerset were 109-5 in their second innings;

Harsh? Yes, but there really was little else to cause concern.

The tale of the final day was initially Eddie Byrom. The newly re-oriented No5 resumed on 59* and completed his first first-class hundred for the county before Somerset declared with him 119*. He had a sticky patch in the 60s but knuckled down and got his richly deserved reward.

Byroms’ 178 undefeated runs in the innings must have confirmed his place in the XI for Kent next Friday and taking Jason Kerr’s post-match comments it is clear that the order for that game is almost certainly now set with Abell coming into this side to replace George Bartlett. The only question in my mind is if the skipper will go in at 4 (my preference) or leave that to Byrom. Steven Davies must bat at 6 not 5.

The only other question about the batting order seems to be the friendly rivalry between the Jacks to see which one of them, will avoid batting at Jack. Advantage Brooks after his 11*.

Somerset declared to give themselves 20 minutes to bowl before lunch and opened with Craig Overton and Josh Davey. After three overs each they had reduced the visitors to 16-2 and within 3 overs of the resumption 23-4.

The inevitable victory was completed with two wickets in the 13th over, another in the 14th, two in the 15th and one in the 16th as 35-4 became 46 all out. I set out this chronology as I think it tells us something important about this bowling attack, they have learnt to capitalise on strong positions in much the same way as the champions did last year but importantly this Somerset side has numerous combinations of attack to perform the execution. Lewis Gregory and Jack Brooks, who opened the bowling in the first innings, didn’t even get a bowl as Craig finished with 6-24 from his 8 overs and Josh 4-21.

Quietly Josh Davey has become a vital cog in this Somerset wheel, he rarely bowls a bad spell, is prepared to do the hard work to support the Overtons, Lewis and Jack who most opponents will perceive to be the greater threat. Somerset’s opponents would do well not to underestimate Davey, this could be a big year for him and if it is all bodes well for Somerset’s fortunes.

Josh Davey, underrated ?

A week away from the season opener Somerset must quietly be delighted on how their preparations have gone. The three-day friendly against Middlesex starting tomorrow (Saturday) can almost be seen as a free-hit, giving the fringe players a chance and allowing Abell and Bess some middle time in English conditions after their Dubai sojourn with MCC.

Finally credit to Somerset and especially Ben Warren and Charlie Taylor for their coverage of all three days. The 100,000 plus views on the live stream is phenomenal, and Charlie’s effort in doing the whole game virtually solo deserves great credit.

Roll on Friday 5th April!