The beauty and the torture of championship cricket is that your perspective as a very biased bystander is constantly being twisted and turned. The third and fourth days of Somerset’s championship game against Yorkshire epitomised this in ample proportions. To try to reflect my feelings over the two days I’ve attempted to put a confidence rating CR ™️ as the two days progressed to reflect how highly I rated our chances of a win.
Somerset began the third day in a strong but not dominant position knowing that there was still a lot of work to do but not displeased with the advantage they had gained with two late wickets on day 2. Moreover they knew that nothing short of victory would keep the gap with leaders Surrey under control. CR 8
The first objective had to be to wrap up the Yorkshire innings quickly (and deal with the moral dilemma of Andy Hodd’s potential century). This they duly achieved in under an hour for the addition of only 28 runs and without Hodd garnering the necessary 16 he required. 12 Noon – CR 8.5
By lunch Somerset had lurched to 41-3 with both openers and Azhar Ali dismissed. One school of thought was that Somerset’s best chance of getting the win is to be bowled all out. If that is your mood and it is mine then the SR is likely to be higher than those who wanted a dominant third innings, a declaration and a good chance of getting a couple of quick wickets before the close. Subjective this one but I was definitely down to a CR 5. I’m hoping this isn’t a repeat of the 3rd day against Essex last week when a strong position was frittered away by poor 2nd innings batting from Somerset.
The first hour of the afternoon saw the pendulum swing back the other way so significantly that Yorkshire skipper David Willey’s exasperation saw him treading close to, if not across, a line that the umpires may revisit later. Hildreth 47, Abell 27, Somerset 113-3 off 30 overs. Putting Somerset back into a position where they might be able to declare and control their own destiny. The confidence rating is now up to SR 7 to reflect both the scoring rate (84 runs have come off the 17 overs these two have been together) and the fact that the lead is now 192.
Hildreth and Abell continued their progress for the next hour, inching my patented CR up as they did but on the stroke of the second hour of the afternoon session James Hildreth was caught behind for 72 off Adam Lyth. A partnership of 135, the total 164-4 a lead of 243. The fact that the wicket seems to be taking spin and the bounce is becoming slightly more erratic gives me reason to be more encouraged than at any point since the start of the innings – CR 8
Tea 183-4 lead by 262 runs with Tom Abell picking up his scoring rate since Hildy’s departure. Now here’s the other thing us cricket fans do in this situation. 32 overs left today. Assuming Somerset want 10 overs at Yorkshire this evening (which would also give them 20 overs with a second new ball tomorrow) and that the light holds they have 20 overs to bat after tea. Which if they can score at 4 an over would set Yorkshire 343 to win – CR 8
The immediate post tea session was a thing of wonder for all Somerset fans. Despite losing Steven Davies immediately after the break for 3 the captain and Lewis Gregory not only took the game away from Yorkshire but dealt them out a large portion of punishment which meant even I began to feel sorry for the Yorkshiremen. That first hour saw Somerset add 116 in 16 overs for the loss of Lewis, not before he had added to his first innings 65 off 46 balls with 57 off 41 balls (including 3 sixes). The skipper went serenely on, being the first batsman to escape the 80s before reaching his first hundred of the season.
By the declaration Abell was unbeaten on 132 as Somerset closed their innings on 339-7 setting Yorkshire 419 to win. The closure left Yorkshire 9 overs to survive, giving Somerset a reasonably new ball for a second assault on the fourth morning but more than that the total dominance in that session was clearly having a psychological impact. I don’t think there has been a better session for Somerset in the Championship this season.
The strategy, perfectly executed was to bat Yorkshire out of the game to such an extent that they were utterly demoralised. But to capitalise was a different matter. How often have we been in this position and then wasted the opportunity and the new ball. Last week against Essex was a case in point. But this was a different matter. Somerset made two crucial breakthroughs removing both openers in the 9 overs remaining. Lewis Gregory took both wickets but Josh Davey also contributed by keeping it tight and threatening from his end.
If Somerset had a game plan at the start of the day it is hard to imagine they could have executed it any better. Great credit to the middle order who, despite the early loss of three wickets just kept going at the Yorkshire bowlers and, very quickly not only wrested the initiative back but took the game away decisively in a short period of time CR 9
Another glorious morning in Leeds, made all the better for the fact that the M62 had been kind and I was in the ground well before play started The mood among the Somerset boys was evident from the warm ups, confident but focussed.
But the first hour was worrying, Lewis bowled beautifully but without luck and the pitch appeared to have gone to sleep (shades of Hampshire at Taunton in May). Add in that Yorkshire had one of the world’s very best looking to make a statement in his last game for the club – Kane Williamson looked like he was there for the duration. At the other end Josh Shaw was also playing with complete confidence, remember he is a rookie, night-watchman. confidence rating CR 7.
The second hour of the morning was little better. Jack Leach’s introduction did not make the contribution we hoped. Williamson struck two sixes back into the building site that will be the new football stand in a clear strategy of taking what Yorkshire perceive to be Somerset’s biggest threat out of the attack.
The introduction of first Craig and then Jamie gave me hope but still no breakthrough and even when it came just before lunch it was Shaw. So at lunch only 1 wicket in 2 hours on a pitch that seemed to be offering little assistance, and all the luck running with the batsmen Yorkshire 95-3 Williamson 47 CR 5
The first hour of the afternoon may, I hope, be one of those we look back on that was crucial to our championship success. Williamson, having completed his 50 was caught behind off Craig Overton – 99-3, Kohler-Cadmore went LBW for 0 Craig again the successful bowler and Garry Ballance was not just beaten for pace but annihilated by Jamie for 4, 103-6, two new batsmen both looking slightly intimidated by the pace from the Kirkstall Lane End. Still four wickets needed but now half a day’s play left to get them. CR 5
Hodd and Leaning dug in with guts but with the rotation of the seamers and Jack exerting a little more control and threat it was a matter of time and before tea both were comprehensively bowled to leave Yorkshire 163-8. But, there always has to be a but doesn’t there, the 9th wicket stand of David Willey and Matthew Fisher had added 20 and looked comfortable. Surely they couldn’t could they? There was a new ball due within the hour. But the victory charge had been halted. The paranoia of a lifelong Somerset fan is the only negative factor here, but it’s a big one CR 8.5
And then it was done, gloriously 10 overs into the last session Jamie Overton induced two edges to the slips and the safe hands of Lewis and Marcus did the rest. Another win, our 7th, 23 points and the gap is 32 points.
Why was I ever worried?