Somerset 389 (Abell 111, Bartlett 62, Keogh 4-99) and 337 for 4 dec (Abell 115, Lammonby 110) beat Northamptonshire 265 (Young 85, Overton 5-38) and 109 (Davey 3-25) by 352 runs
Players like Abell, still ambitious to represent England for sure, but also part of the fabric of their county, are to be more treasured than ever at a time of great uncertainty for the game. Abell leads from the front; with every contribution with bat and ball, with every barked media pronouncement, his pride in the county could not be more apparent. He communicates the message from Wookey Hole to Wellington that England’s professional game has as much of a place in the rural counties as the big cities.
After his sterling efforts with the bat, Abell then enjoyed one of his most blissful days in the field in his six years as Somerset captain. He had chosen to bat on for another seven overs at the start of the final day, ensuring a draw at least as Northamptonshire were set a notional 462 to win. Win-points felt like a bonus, but Somerset whipped out Northants in only 30.4 overs for a resounding 352-run win. Everything wrapped up, fine and dandy, on the sunniest of afternoons by ten past two.
Peter Trego, the former Somerset allrounder, and now one of county cricket’s most entertaining in-house commentators, called the win “one of the most important wins we have had in recent seasons at Taunton” and he was not exaggerating. In early season, many felt in the West Country that Gloucestershire might finish above Somerset in the table, so brittle were their performances. Instead, Gloucestershire will go down with either Warwickshire, Kent, who take a 14-point buffer into the final week, or Yorkshire, who are a point further ahead.
When the entrails of Northants’ innings were examined, Overton had bagged only two wickets, but he set the tone. He began with the run-out of Emilio Gay, who responded quickly enough as Will Young pushed a single a few metres into the offside, whereupon Overton sprinted voraciously to collect off his own bowling and break the wicket with a diving underarm throw.
Mid-September has brought a rush of new-ball wickets and the sense was that the run-out would be enough to get Overton onto a roll. So it proved as Luke Procter fell third ball for nought, emerging warily from his Chanderpaul-like stance to find the ball thudding into his front pad; and Luke Young edged one that left him to Abell at second slip. With Josh Davey, as serviceable as Overton is inspirational, having Josh Cobb caught at the wicket, Northants were 15 for 4. Cobb has taken on the role of No.4 because of the limitations of others, but his meagre returns suggest his natural place is lower down the order, or in the shorter formats.
Abell then dutifully filled the role of emergency third seamer with Lewis Gregory off the field, injured. He had Ricardo Vasconcelos lbw before lunch; Josh Davey, who bowled an exemplary line, on a pitch that nibbled just enough, soon added Rob Keogh and Tom Taylor, and the air of celebration became ever more apparent as Kasey Aldridge nipped in for two tail-end catches at the wicket.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps