With three matches still to play, Somerset now only have the slimmest of mathematical chances of reaching the play-off stages, following successive defeats to Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire.
Any hopes of bouncing back quickly face a stern challenge in the form of a visit to Scarborough tomorrow (Wednesday) for an encounter with a dominant Yorkshire side by the seaside.
After winning against Worcestershire at Taunton on Friday, Somerset lost Sunday’s West Country derby at Gloucestershire by three wickets in the final over, before last night’s four-wicket defeat to Northamptonshire by four wickets with six balls to spare.
If the results of those matches sound close, in truth both Gloucestershire and Northamptonshire made life hard for themselves, losing wickets and creating pressure when they had been in control for much of proceedings.
Director of Cricket Matt Maynard is well aware of what his side need to do against Yorkshire: “This is a must-win game for us,” he said. “We have played some good cricket but we haven’t got the results in this competition.
“Yesterday we backed off when David Willey started going and that is something we have to address. If people come hard at us we need to go hard into them. I would like to see an improvement in this area and we need to fight fire with fire and get a bit more aggressive.”
Josh Davey has been added to the squad about which Maynard said: “Josh has done well for Scotland recently and also did well for the Seconds last week so he is a good addition to the squad I feel.”
The Somerset squad for this game is: Jim Allenby (capt), Tom Abell, Alex Barrow, Tom Cooper, Josh Davey, Lewis Gregory, Tim Groenewald, James Hildreth, Adam Hose, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Peter Trego and Max Waller
Gloucestershire v Somerset
Somerset’s batting woes resurfaced in earnest against neighbours Gloucestershire on Sunday. After posting scores in excess of 300 in their opening games, Somerset slumped to 88-6 after 24 overs against their oldest rivals, with only Adam Hose (21) passing 14.
The collapse brought together the heroes of last year’s incredible victory against Durham, James Hildreth and Lewis Gregory, who this time forged in a determined 118-run partnership for the seventh wicket in 23.1 overs.
If Hildreth was not at his fluent best, he gritted it out on a pitch where it was hard to play shots. He found a willing partner in Gregory, who curbed his natural attacking innings to help rebuild the innings. Both showed great determination and application.
As batting became easier, with the sun drying out the pitch, the pair started to go for their shots, bringing up the 100 partnership at the end of the 46th over.
Gregory smashed a full toss from Miles for his fourth boundary to bring up his 50 off 71 balls, he then drove the next ball down the ground for six to bring up Somerset’s 200 off 46.4 overs, before purposefully upper cutting the next delivery over third man for four more.
Two balls later, Gregory played one attacking shot too many as he advanced down the pitch to David Payne and top edged one back to the bowler. He had played an invaluable innings of 62 from 75 balls.
New batsman Tim Groenewald smashed a six from Payne before he and Hildreth took four boundaries off the penultimate over from Miles, Somerset eventually closing on 244-7. They had taken 67 off the last five overs. It was a significant recovery from 88-6, but the general consensus was Somerset were 30 runs short of a competitive score. Hildreth’s contribution was an excellent 85* from 95 balls with 9 fours.
In reply, Gloucestershire lost three wickets for 86 runs in 22 overs, but then went 13 overs without scoring a boundary, slipping behind the Duckworth Lewis rate in the process. They looked far from troubled however, as Gloucestershire skipper Michael Klinger compiled a superb century, sharing a 50-run partnership with Benny Howell (24) in 13.2 overs.
Klinger was then joined by Kieran Noema-Barnett in a stand of 66 for the fifth wicket and the pair brought up the Gloucestershire 200 at the end of the 44th over. Next over though Klinger was caught off Gronewald for 107 (133 balls, 5×4, 4×6) and Noema-Barnett (34) fell to the same bowler two overs later to leave Gloucestershire on 213-6, needing 32 runs from 20 balls.
Gregory bowled a tidy 48th over, but Groenewald (3-53) conceded 18 runs from the 49th to leave Gloucestershire requiring just five runs from the last six balls.
The hosts continued to make life hard for themselves to the end, losing James Fuller to the first ball of the last over, before Jack Taylor (24*) hit Gregory to the boundary to bring up the winning runs with two balls to spare.
Somerset 244-7 from 50 overs (Hildreth 85*, Gregory 62) lost to Gloucestershire 247-7 from 49.4 overs (Klinger 107, Noema-Barnett 34; Groenewald 3-53) by three wickets.
Northamptonshire v Somerset
A commanding innings of 91 from David Willey led Northamptonshire to victory despite a late flurry of wickets.
Willey, who came into the match on the back of single figure scores in his last four matches dominated in a stand of 95 with ‘keeper Ben Duckett which broke the back of a chase of 248 despite the late-innings wobble.
Willey was promoted to open the batting after a poor run of form and began circumspectly before getting into the groove – hitting five maximums in a thoroughly entertaining knock.
The England all-rounder brought up his half-century in 52 balls. Another sweep just evaded mid-on running back as the part-time off-spin of Tom Cooper was introduced – but next ball he swung his fifth six into the Lynn Wilson centre.
He said afterwards: “I like batting at the top of the innings and I’ve been in a bit of bad nick at the minute.
“I picked up a couple of things from the stats and made a couple of changes before the game and I got into better positions today.
“I wanted to give myself a bit of time with it being quite a poor wicket and me being in not great touch and I knew if I batted through with the target only five an over we should win the game.”
An imperious lofted straight drive over mid-off against Jim Allenby was perhaps the best stroke of his innings but he fell nine short of a third List A century when he was sharply caught and bowled by Max Waller.
Duckett’s own half-century, made in 59 balls, was the perfect complement to Willey’s power with two reverse sweeps and a sumptuous cover drive off Waller the pick of his strokes.
He made 61 in 59 balls but he fell trying to drive a Peter Trego slower ball and was caught at extra-cover, the Somerset all-rounder’s 150th List A wicket. Further wickets went down courtesy of some good Somerset bowling at the death, with two batsmen falling with the score on 241. But with only seven needed for victory by that stage, Northamptonshire won with an only an over to spare, despite having cruised past 200.
Earlier Somerset had won the toss and elected to bat. Graeme White’s second-best figures in List A cricket led another strong Northamptonshire fielding performance. The assistance available was evident immediately as he turned his second ball past the outside edge of Trego and into his off stump before changing ends to have Tom Abell caught behind for 35. He also lured Jim Allenby into sweeping a chance to Josh Cobb at deep midwicket – Cobb throwing the ball back into play, falling over the rope before receiving to complete the catch – and clean bowled Craig Overton to finish with 4 for 37.
Spin accounted for half of the bowling in the Somerset innings. Like White, Rob Keogh bowled his full allocation and made an important breakthrough, bowling Tom Cooper for his first List A wicket. It ended a stand of 64 between Cooper and James Hildreth for the fourth wicket.
Hildreth again made a half-century to steer his side’s innings. He swept White for four to bring the hundred up in the 23rd over and went past fifty in 57 balls with four boundaries. But trying to cut Cobb – the third spinner used by Alex Wakely – he edged behind for 55.
Craig Overton soon followed for just 3 and at 194 for 7, Somerset were in danger of falling short of a good score. However, Alex Barrow made a valuable 31 in 33 balls in his second game back in the first XI. He and Tim Groenewald, who struck Cobb into the car park during his 24 in 20 balls, added 52 for the eighth wicket to get Somerset up to 247. For the second game in succession though, it was not enough to prevent the home side from securing victory in front of their home crowd.
Somerset 247-8 from 50 overs (Hildreth 55, Cooper 48, Abell 35, Barrow 31; White 4-37) lost to Northamptonshire 249-6 from 49 overs (Willey 91, Duckett 61, Levi 34).
Yorkshire v Somerset
Jason Gillespie believes Yorkshire are hitting their straps in the Royal London One-Day Cup as the competition comes to the boil.
“I think we’re very close to our formula as to how we should be playing our one-day cricket,” the county’s Australian coach told the Yorkshire CCC website.
“In this last week, we’ve played three really good games of cricket to come out on top against Worcester, Durham and Leicestershire. We do have a good mixture of youth and experience in the side, and we’re getting there.”
Talking about the Somerset side, Gillespie said: “They’re a very good side, and we certainly won’t underestimate them in any way shape of form. They’ve got some big hitters, fast bowlers and some canny cricketers.
“We know we’re facing a big task, but hopefully we can put in another good performance and give ourselves the best chance of winning. That would be fantastic.”
Yorkshire have won the last two one-day meetings between the two sides at Scarborough, in 2004 and 2007. Gillespie took three wickets in the latter during his spell as the county’s overseas player.
Spinner Adil Rashid is unavailable tomorrow due to England commitments and Matthew Waite is unavailable for personal reasons.
The Vikings welcome back all-rounder Ryan Gibson and Andrew Gale to the squad.
Vikings from: Ballance, Bresnan, Brooks, Carver, Fisher, Gale, Gibson, Hodd (wicketkeeper), Leaning, Lees, Maxwell, Patterson, Pyrah, Rhodes.