We all love a trip to the seaside, don’t we? This past week Somerset’s players took a little jaunt up north to delightful Scarborough by the sea and had a wonderful time. But this was no holiday – far from it – the west countrymen were seeking a first win in the Specsavers County Championship after seven games that had yielded four defeats and three draws. Second from bottom, the gap to safety was wide, and simply couldn’t be allowed to get any wider if Somerset are to climb out of the relegation places and preserve the longest current run in the top tier of the four-day game.
Somerset needed to win. It really was that simple.
Waiting for them was Yorkshire. Yes Yorkshire. Champions in 2014 and 2015 and part of that total mockery at the end of 2016 when the County Championship was decided by a conversation between two captains in the toilets at Lords. Throughout history Somerset had enjoyed some fabulous victories against the Tykes, who are 32 times the County Champions plus one shared campaign. They have arguably the strongest squad in the land with quality players aplenty and able to put competitive sides out each week, despite being handicapped by constantly funding the national Test team.
Forget about the disruptions before the game with news that Tom Abell would be rested after his poor form. Lewis Gregory took charge of the team hoping to instil some good fortune. But it all looked like Somerset’s woeful form would continue as we slumped to 141-6. Adam Hose continued his good form with 62 helping us to limp to 200-8. Hardly inspiring for those Somerset fans at the ground or those of us following via the Beeb commentary or Twitter.
But Craig Overton decided that the best way to respond to his obvious disappointment at being overlooked by the national T20 side in recent weeks – despite the players in the squad being told all would make their debuts in the series – was to do what he does best. Cove scored 35 invaluable runs including 1×6 and 2×4 playing second fiddle to number 11 Tim Groenewald who was unbeaten on 41. Their 61 run partnership for the last wicket absolutely crucial in keeping Yorkshire at arm’s length.
With the ball Cove was something else. Fast, accurate and hostile his fivefer reduced the home team to 180-8 before Rashid and Plunkett drew some respectability but only one batting point as their team were shot out for 213.
Somerset had a lead. It was only 55 runs but it was a lead.
But if Yorkshire have some depth in their ranks Somerset are beginning to show some in ours too. Faith in Byrom and Rouse paid off with runs helped by the very welcome return to form of James Hildreth, who struck a marvellous century in what has been a wretched season by his standards. Somerset declared on 281-4 so Yorkshire needed 337 to win.
And back to the fore came Cove. Skipper Gregory got Lees in the first over before Cove gave the Tykes a mountain to climb when he had Brook, Handscomb and Kohler-Cadmore all back in the hutch. When Gregory struck again to dismiss Lyth Yorkshire were 67-5.
They huffed and puffed but really had no chance! Cove followed his 5 for 87 with 4 for 47 in the second bowling well with Jack Leach who took four. Yorkshire were all out for 157 handing Somerset a win by a whopping 179 runs.
It was a fabulous win for Somerset with Craig Overton the man of the match by far. It was the perfect v-sign to the England selectors who had the inclination to pick him for the T20 series, tell him he would play then cruelly change their mind.
Not that I expect Cove to dwell nor feel sorry for himself. With him in this form I would expect he will be banging on the door louder than ever. His inclusion in the full team is definitely “when” not “if”.
For Somerset the gap remains at 30 points between them and the London duo of Surrey and Middlesex. There will be one month’s break from four-day cricket with the next game against third bottom Surrey at the Cooper Associates County Ground on Monday 7th August. In footballing terms this is very much a six-pointer.
If Somerset can enjoy a run akin to 2016 then survival is possible. And who better to start that run against than Surrey.