Warwickshire v Somerset LVCC day 3: Abell stands firm while all around him fall

Warks LVCC ASomerset 265 from 83.1 overs (C Overton 51, Trescothick 48, Allenby 37, Groenewald 34, Thomas 32*; Patel 5-89, Woakes 3-48) and 170 from 51.4 overs (Abell 88; Clarke 4-43, Patel 4-47); Warwickshire 365 from 115.5 overs (Hain 103, Trott 87, Westwood 67, Patel 41, Chopra 33; C Overton 6-74, Thomas 3-106) and 6-0. Warwickshire require a further 65 runs to win with 10 wickets remaining. Warwickshire 6 points, Somerset 4 points.

Few young cricketers better epitomise the stoicism advocated in Rudyard Kipling’s celebrated poem If quite as much as Somerset’s Tom Abell.

For almost four hours today Abell kept his head when all about him were losing theirs. Yet again Somerset’s hapless batting line-up lost wickets at regular intervals as Abell stood firm at the other end.

For the second time this season he carried his bat and was left agonisingly short of a maiden first-class hundred as Somerset were all out for 170 in 51.4 overs. His unbeaten 88 from 142 balls was the sole reason that Warwickshire needed their second innings this evening; only bad light and drizzle delaying an inevitable defeat until the fourth morning.

Abell again looked a class apart as his more experienced colleagues showed an increasingly characteristic lack of judgement against a disciplined Warwickshire attack, missing two key bowlers.

Day 3 of Somerset  CCC vs Nottinghamshire CCC
Tom Abell was again a beacon of hope for Somerset, carrying his bat for 88 as Somerset collapsed to 170 all out from 51.4 overs. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

Under the watchful eye of England selector James Whittaker, he batted in his usual phlegmatic style, avoiding risk and stroking 13 boundaries in his fifth half-century of the summer. It’s a measure of his temperament and character that he bats this way in good times and bad. As Kipling advised, he calmly meets triumph and disaster and treats the ‘two imposters’ just the same. Although it’s fair to say he has seen little of the former and plenty of the latter while batting for Somerset this season.

Somerset started their second innings exactly 100 runs behind after Warwickshire’s final two wickets added a further 46 to their overnight 319-8 this morning.

Sam Hain and Jeetan Patel took their partnership to 83 before the latter (41) was bowled by Craig Overton who then removed Oliver Hannon-Dalby first ball to finish with a career-best 6-74. The all-rounder, who also hit a run-a-ball half-century in Somerset’s first innings, was the only other bright spot in an otherwise forgettable few days away from home for the visitors. Overton now has 37 first-class wickets this season at an impressive average of 18.18 – 35 of them in the LV=County Championship at an even better rate of 17.22.

Hain finished unbeaten on 103 from 169 balls, a fine innings, which helped Warwickshire to recover from a middle order collapse of their own on day two. Incredibly it was the sixth century in only a season and a half of Championship cricket for the 20-year-old.

In reply, Abell and captain Marcus Trescothick moved with relative ease to 32 without loss, before losing three wickets in 14 balls without adding a run.

Trescothick fell lbw, attempting to sweep Patel, before an inspired spell of pace bowling from Rikki Clarke accounted for Michael Bates lbw, again promoted up the order, and James Hildreth, who left a ball which came back and bowled him.

Abell
Abell stroked 13 boundaries during almost four hours at the crease. Photograph by Alexander Davidson.

With Abell digging in at the other end, the middle order all got starts but no-one else passed 21. Tom Cooper will want to forget a match in which, recalled from the Seconds, he added just 17 in the second innings to his three-ball duck in the first, before he was lbw to Hannon-Dalby. Jim Allenby just made it into double figures after 48 minutes at the crease before he edged Chris Woakes to slip. Half of the Somerset side were all out for 114, giving them a lead of just 14.

Any remaining hopes rested on Abell and the broad shoulders of the experienced Pete Trego whose heroic rearguard against Sussex on day four two weeks ago ensured Somerset secured a draw.

During the course of nine overs, the pair added a further 41 runs, Trego striking five boundaries in his 21 as they started to give away fans a glimmer of hope.

Craig Overton played an attacking knock of 41. Photograph by Alexander Davidson
Craig Overton recorded career best bowling figures in front of England selector James Whittaker. Photograph by Alexander Davidson

But then in worsening light Clarke trapped Trego lbw. That brought Overton to the crease who carried on in the same attacking vein which had brought him 51 in the first innings. He drove a full-pitched ball from Clarke for four before edging another over the slips. Attempting a third boundary, he went for the hook shot, only to top edge to Jonathan Trott and give Clarke his fourth wicket of the innings.

Patel removed Abdur Rehman, who hit him on the up to Woakes at extra cover, before having Alfonso Thomas and Tim Groenewald caught behind off consecutive deliveries in his next over to finish with match-figures of 9-136.

Somerset had lost their last five wickets for just 15 runs in 32 balls.

Abell, who scored 95 on debut against this opposition last summer, was left cruelly stranded, wondering what he has to do to score a century.

Victory within three days seemed a formality when Warwickshire set off in pursuit of 71 in the 20 overs remaining in the day, before the weather forced the players off after 26 balls.

After tomorrow, Somerset will need to heed Kipling’s words as they dust themselves off and temporarily put the County Championship behind them in order to embrace a month of 50 over competition:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

  And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

  And never breathe a word about your loss;

But the club know there are serious problems with the batting order which they cannot afford to ignore.

They return to red ball cricket at the end of August with a match against Worcestershire at Taunton. Basement club Hampshire are also due to play at the County Ground in early September. Victory in either one of those games should guarantee Somerset’s top flight survival for another year. But their signing of Adam Hose today is a sign that they are already starting to plan for the future.

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After the close Abell said: “I was happy with the way that I batted, however I want to do it in a successful cause and it has been a disappointing day for us here.”

The 21 year old went on: “It wasn’t easy out there and they bowled pretty well and kept us under pressure all day but we couldn’t get a rhythm going when we were batting. It has been a stop start day but these are the things you have got to contend with.”

During his innings Abell shared in three partnerships of 40 plus about which he said: “That’s the disappointing thing for us because we had the beginnings of partnerships but none of them went on.”