Recent Match Report – Somerset vs Warwickshire 2022

Warwickshire197 for 9 (Hain 54) trail Somerset 458 (Renshaw 129, Abell 70, Banton 57, Lammonby 56, Hannon-Dalby 5-89) by 261 runs

No county’s home is woven more lovingly into its immediate environment than the County Ground. Even those of us who already knew this so well are surprised by the intimacy of the place and the gentle intensity with which the game is followed here. The Wickets remains the best café on the circuit and this morning Em and Barbs were providing their customers with bowls of porridge or massive bacon barms while still finding time to ask why Peter Siddle isn’t playing. The regulars joked with them and agreed that it had been a good first day for Somerset although wasn’t it about time an’ all. On the walls, signed shirts evoked Somerset’s past, present and perhaps its future, too: Marcus Trescothick, Jack Brooks, Tom Abell.

So imagine the conversations tomorrow morning when the locals reflect on a second day that Somerset dominated, first by making 458, in their own eccentric style, of course, and then by reducing Warwickshire to 197 for 9 with Craig Overton‘s dismissal of Nathan McAndrew for 47 a few overs before the close topping things off very happily. The follow-on looms for Warwickshire and Somerset’s first victory of the season late on Saturday would be something to celebrate, a triumph to be shared with cricketers that the people of Taunton know, much as they know their butcher, their grocer or their children’s teacher. How many county clubs can claim a comparable affinity?

Somerset’s players, you see, are more than names on shirts and have always been so. Before a match or on a training day you might see them strolling into town on an errand. The club’s business connections are more likely to be made with local companies than multi-national airlines. Even the ground sponsors, Cooper Associates, are based just across the way in James Street.

On the excellent live stream this morning they mentioned the 85th birthday of Terry Barwell, who played 44 first-class matches for the county, almost all of them in the sixties, when a team featuring Bill Alley, Mervyn Kitchen and other solid citizens more than held its own in an age that suddenly seems almost medieval in its remoteness. In those summers Somerset’s players had to take care not to get splinters in their feet from the old pavilion’s wooden floor.

Which is not to say that Somerset’s current cricket is in want of eccentricity. They still take the long route to most winning posts, something in evidence this morning when they lost four wickets lickety-split. Andrew Caddick, a player from a later generation than Barwell and Kitchen but whose strike rate was often impressive on this ground, arrived in the press box and watched three wickets fall in four balls, all of them bowled.

Craig Miles jagged a couple in, one to Tom Banton, who didn’t attempt a stroke, and another to Overton, who jabbed forward but left a gate open. Next over, Lewis Gregory’s loose drive gave Oliver Hannon-Dalby his fourth wicket and Somerset were eight down. Immediately, the gloom-junkies wondered whether 373 was anything like enough, but Josh Davey and Jack Leach showed good sense in adding 44 for the ninth wicket and Brooks showed a good eye in clouting 32, thereby delaying lunch.

Someday, a statistician, probably Andrew Samson, will work out the impact of last-wicket stands on openers. Somerset’s eighth wicket fell at 11.40, at which time Alex Davies and Dominic Sibley probably began their mental preparations for beginning Warwickshire’s innings. But it was another hour before the ninth wicket fell and a further 30 minutes before Brooks’ cheery assault was ended. Then we had lunch and so it was not until 1.50 that Davies and Sibley marched out with their pads on.

Too much can be made of such relatively simple analyses. “Post hoc ergo propter hoc,” some of you may be saying, and wisely, too. Warwickshire’s loss of four wickets inside the first 20 overs of their innings owed more to the bravery and excellence of Somerset’s bowlers than the top order’s mental fragility. Brooks tested Davies with a couple of short ones and was hooked; he pitched it up and had his man caught at slip by Overton. Four overs later Davey replaced Brooks and had Sibley leg before in his first over, although the batter perhaps thought the ball was tailing down leg. Rob Yates followed ten minutes later when he inside-edged Davey onto his pad and Overton swooped from third slip.

This was turning into one of those unexpectedly glorious afternoons for Somerset supporters and their delight was deepened when Will Rhodes’ ugly and barely describable aborted pull off Gregory shovelled a catch to Lammonby to mid-on. All the dismissed batsmen had hit boundaries but Abell posted at least two slips all afternoon and Matt Lamb nicked a catch to the second of them, Matt Renshaw. Michael Burgess replaced him and someone noted that the Warwickshire keeper had made 348 runs in his two innings this season. Another fair point but a bowler’s target is his opponent in pads rather than his statistics or his reputation. Burgess nicked Overton to Steve Davies and Warwickshire took tea on 92 for 6.

The evening session could barely have gone any worse than the afternoon for the champions but it still began badly when Danny Briggs was leg before wicket to Jack Leach’s fourth ball of the day. That brought McAndrew out to join Sam Hain, who had been exhibiting the self-denial which Jonathan Trott, his mentor and current coach, probably admires. The pair added 76 and the balance of the day was shifting a little when Abell brought himself on at the Marcus Trescothick Pavilion End and had the Warwickshire batsman caught behind for 54. Abell leapt high with delight and if they had been capable of such athletic larks, one or two spectators would have joined him. As it was, they joined him in spirit and Abell, who is much-loved down here, probably felt their pleasure. It is the Somerset way.

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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