Yorkshire v Somerset, County Championship Division One, Headingley, Leeds, July 13thto 16th
Cricket is mad isn’t it. What other sport could conjure a situation where your team announces that one of your players, heading into a crucial game which will have a significant bearing on the title race, will, after this game, be going on loan for a month to the team you are playing.
The lines between Somerset and Yorkshire were already blurred with Jack Brooks having arrived in Taunton over the winter straight from the Broad Acres and with Somerset’s highly talented international off-spinning all-rounder having spent a month on loan in the opposite direction.
But now Bess will in all probability not be on the bus back to Somerset at the end of this game but will be settling into his temporary home for the first ten T20 Blast games. Yorkshire fans won’t know whether to cheer or not for Jack and Dom at the weekend!
I won’t go into any detail here on what I see as the merits of this move as we have already covered it on The Incider today. Suffice to say I see only benefits for Both Dom and Somerset.
But before we get into the T20 Blast there is a crucial round of Championship games. One week on, another round of championship matches completed and Somerset and Essex continue to go blow for blow at the top of the Division One table.
While Somerset’s victory over bottom of the table Nottinghamshire was a case of having to turn the tables in the form of a fine bowling display in the last session of day 2 at Taunton to assert their superiority, Essex led from the front against Yorkshire. At the end of the ninth round of games Somerset’s lead over Essex remained at 15 points.
Somerset will be forced to make two changes with Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach heading to Canterbury to captain / represent England Lions. I suspect both would much rather be 250 odd miles north in the north Leeds suburbs. Let’s not going to dwell on the rights or wrongs of such a meaningless game at such a crucial stage of the championship season or ask why neither Gary Balance or Ben Coad are required in Kent!
Somerset will, as they have all season, to just get on with it. I think that there will be three changes to the bowling department for Saturday with Craig Overton and Jack Brooks coming back in to the side in place of the two “Lions” but I also anticipate Josh Davey, who bowled well in Leeds last season returning for Timmy G.
Brooks has had a relatively light workload recently but don’t be deceived. I suspect Jason Kerr and Andy Hurry are keeping as much of the Headband Warrior in the tank as they can, conscious that his title winning experience will be a huge asset on the field as we get into the final five games. Expect Brooks, fitness permitting, to play the bulk of the remaining games.
For the second week running I am delighted to say that I have had the chance to chat to the BBC’s local commentator. Following hot on the heels of Dave Bracegirdle BBC Yorkshire’s Jonathan Doidge was kind enough to give me some time to talk Bess, Brooks and many other things cricket ahead of this game.
Doidge confirmed my suspicion that Brooks will be welcomed back with open arms by the Yorkshire faithful. His contribution to Yorkshire’s two title winning seasons is widely acknowledged as is his wonderful off-field persona. It will be bittersweet for Yorkshire fans to see Jack again as his departure was greeted with much sadness.
It didn’t take us long to get on to the subject of Jack Brooks’ landlord. Jonathan was not surprised to hear how much the Somerset faithful love Dom and how highly we value him. Doidge says that Bess fitted in really well in the Yorkshire dressing making a really good impression on and off the field. He will be welcomed back with open arms after this game.
Bess as we all know is desperate to play first team cricket and to get back to international consideration. He used his time at Yorkshire to show that he can contribute with both bat and ball and left nobody at the White Rose in any doubt of his abilities. He, like Brooks, will be relishing his return to Leeds and keen to do well with Bess having the added incentive of a month’s worth of bragging rights in the Vikings dressing room if Somerset can come out on top of this one.
Yorkshire come home after a chastening defeat to Essex. Having won the toss and batted first they passed up the opportunity of taking control of the game making only 208 first time around. From there, and despite a lower order fightback on the third afternoon, Essex were not going to relinquish control of the game and went on to by 8 wickets.
Doidge is happy to admit that Yorkshire were outplayed over the three days at Chelmsford but feels that they did not perform anywhere near their best in that game. In fact Doidge goes on to say that he feels there is only one championship game so far this season where Yorkshire have been at their best, the early season thrashing of Hampshire.
Combine this with rain frustrating them in the home games with both Essex and Hampshire last month and it is easy to imagine a world where Yorkshire, not Essex are Somerset’s closest challengers.
Yorkshire aren’t the only team who under-performed at Chelmsford recently. Gratifyingly Somerset have bounced back from that big setback with the two wins at home over Hampshire and Nottinghamshire in the last fortnight.
Make no mistake this is a very good Yorkshire side and one that is more than capable of giving Somerset a severe examination. When you look at the youthful talent they have in Ben Coad, Harry Brook and Will Fraine among others and add in the experience of Adam Lyth and Gary Ballance you know Somerset will have to be at their very best in Leeds. Lyth and Balance are far and away the top run scorers for Yorkshire this season with 622 and 739 runs respectively although Balance has been in a bit of a rut recently. Dismissing these two cheaply is likely to reap huge rewards for Somerset as the rest have been much of a muchness so far this season.
Ben Coad leads the way with 33 wickets at a shade under 26 each, Patterson and Olivier follow close behind with 26 and 27 respectively. A measure of the difference between the sides, apart from the gap of 55 points is that Somerset have 6 bowlers with a better average than Coad.
A performance akin to last season would do very nicely. A fine all round performance with runs from Azhar, James Hildreth, Tom Abell (132*), Steven Davies and Lewis Gregory (twice) was topped off by a superb bowling display on the last day to bowl the Yorkies out for 194 with Lewis and a very very quick Jamie Overton both taking four wickets.
Jack Brooks, by the way, took five wickets in both Somerset’s first innings.
Would a draw be a good result? Absolutely. Even though there is the possibility that this will allow Essex, who “Welcome” improving but still fragile Warwickshire to Chelmsford, the chance to close the gap even further. Doidge certainly believes Yorkshire will give a good account of themselves over the four days and is looking forward with anticipation to the contest.
Those of you like me who have listened extensively to the BBC cricket commentaries since they began covering “every ball of every game” and who like me jump over to another commentary when Somerset’s game has finished will know that Jonathan’s predecessor, the much loved and much missed Dave Callaghan was in addition to being a massive Yorkshire fan a huge cricket fan.
How Dave would have loved the four days Yorkshire recently spent at Scarborough when they beat Surrey with 10 balls to spare. I was fortunate enough to listen to the closing stages and was on the edge of my seat as the final overs played out. Doidge points to that result as evidence of the typical Yorkshire grit possessed by this side. A characteristic he hopes will be in evidence this weekend.
Doidge does have one potential disappointment going into this game. It seems unlikely he will get the chance to commentate on Marcus Trescothick. Hopefully there is a world where Jonathan gets his wish in early September at Taunton.
Somerset of course have shown equally great powers of determination this season. You only have to look at the Nottinghamshire first innings on Monday to demonstrate that Somerset just keep coming at you. Peter Moores described Somerset after that game as “relentless”. I’ll settle for that thank you!
Jonathan Doidge will be heading up the BBC’s commentary team at Headingley over the four days starting Saturday and is on Twitter @JonathanDoidge