The 2016 Specsavers County Championship is one that will live long in the memory of Somerset supporters and this week we will be looking back on the competition from the chilly beginning at Durham to the nailbiting conclusion.
Somerset started with a trip to Emirates Durham ICG in April with Chris Rogers winning the toss and electing to field. The decision seemed to have paid off when the hosts were bowled out for 256. The pick of the bowlers for Somerset was Lewis Gregory who claimed four for 58 whilst Tim Groenewald took three for 54. Unfortunately Somerset were bowled out for 179 in 48.1 overs, which included a ninth wicket partnership of 66 between Peter Trego who made 45 and Gregory who hit 27.
Batting for a second time Durham had reached 223 for four off 57 overs when the rain prevented any play on the final day and the match ended in a draw. After the match Somerset Captain Chris Rogers said: “There are a few things to work on, but there are a lot of really good signs and I thought that our attitude was excellent. We kept fighting and fielded really well. We bowled well at times and also showed that we bat deep, so there are a lot of good positives but equally there are some areas we do need to improve.”
Next up came a trip to the Oval to face newly promoted Surrey where Somerset also had to cope with a delay due to snow! The home side elected to bat first and made 463 all out. The highlight of the innings was 171 from Kumar Sangakkara whilst Tim Groenewald took five for 94 from his 23.5 overs.
In reply Somerset made 353 all out which included 127 from Marcus Trescothick, who added 75 for the fifth wicket with Pete Trego, who made 41. Lower in the order Craig Overton, who made 44 and Lewis Gregory (47 not out) shared an eighth wicket partnership of 78.
Batting for a second time Surrey declared on 181 for eight setting Somerset 292 off 42 overs for victory. In pursuit of their target Somerset slipped to 62 for four in the 26th over before James Hildreth (40*) and Trego (34 not out) saw them to 122 without further loss and the game ended in another draw.
Following the match Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard said: “I’m happy with some of the qualities that we have shown during the course of this game. The batting in the first innings was led by Marcus but well supported by Tregs and then lower down by Lewis and Craig. Then in the second innings Hildy has come to the party in a pressure situation. It just goes to show that whatever surface you play on, if you give yourself an opportunity and you are proactive in the way that you go about things, it eliminates those opportunities for the them to get into the game.”
Lancashire were the first visitors to the Cooper Associates County Ground in 2016 and after winning the toss and batting first they posted 493 for nine. When they replied Somerset had reached 102 for two, of which Chris Rogers had made 55, when James Anderson claimed three wickets in one over without addition to the total.
Somerset slipped to 150 for seven before James Hildreth and Jamie Overton, who made 51, added 139 for the eighth wicket. Hildreth was eventually dismissed for 130 as Somerset were all out for 313. Following on Marcus Trescothick (129 not out) and Chris Rogers (75 not out) added 168 in an unbroken third wicket partnership to see Somerset reach 229 for two before declaring as the game ended in a draw.
After the match Marcus reflected on his partnership with Chris Rogers. “It was a good partnership,” he said. “We managed to work well together and fed off each other a little bit so hopefully we can get a few more of these as the season goes on.”
A trip up the M5 to face Warwickshire at Edgbaston was next up for Somerset where after winning the toss the team made 295 all out. Tom Abell top scored with 104 and along with Pete Trego (94) the pair added 110 runs for the fifth wicket. In reply Warwickshire were dismissed for 152 in 49.4 overs. The pick of the Somerset bowlers were Jamie Overton who took three for 24 and Lewis Gregory with three for 50.
Batting a second time Somerset were all out for 178 in 46.5 overs, Trego top scoring with 51. Chasing a target of 321 for victory, Warwickshire had reached four without loss before the final two days of the game were washed out and the game ended in yet another draw.
After the game Tom Abell said: “It’s an incredible feeling to score my second hundred for Somerset and having Tregs at the other end was a very special moment for me. Last year when I got my first hundred I was with Tres and this time it was Tregs to help me. To have guys like these at the other end is a great help and he was awesome. I can’t speak highly enough of the likes of Hildy and Tregs who took a fair bit of pressure off me. When the going was tough they put it back on the bowlers and allowed me to go about my business.”
For our next encounter Somerset returned to the Cooper Associates County Ground to face reigning champions Yorkshire, who won the toss and asked the hosts to bat first. They may well have rued their decision when Somerset posted 562 for seven declared. Marcus Trescothick (97) and Chris Rogers (91) added 148 together for the third wicket and James Hildreth went onto make 166. Hildreth then shared a fourth wicket partnership of 85 with Jim Allenby (51), following which he added 199 for the fifth with Peter Trego who made 94.
When Yorkshire replied they were bowled out for 311 thanks in no small part to Tim Greonewald who took three for 54. Following on 251 in arrears, Yorkshire slipped to 99 for six before Jack Leaning and Liam Plunkett shared an unbroken partnership of 42 for the seventh wicket to see their side to 141 without further loss as the game ended in a draw. Jamie Overton ended with three for 26 off his 17 overs, seven of which were maidens.
After the match Chris Rogers said: “Without doubt that’s the best game that we have played so far. We batted very well and then on a pretty tough wicket to bowl on we did fantastically well. We nearly stole a win and if we hadn’t lost so much time to rain then there is a very good chance that we would have won that game against the twice reigning champions, so we can be very proud of that effort. If we can play like that for the rest of the season then we will be in a pretty good position come September.”
A trip to Lord’s to face Middlesex was next in store for Somerset who after deciding to bat first made 376 all out. Chris Rogers scored his maiden century for Somerset, adding 136 for the third wicket with James Hildreth (68) before he was out for 109. Later in the order Peter Trego hit 65 and Lewis Gregory made 49 as they shared a sixth wicket partnership of 113. When they replied the hosts made 423 all out with Jack Leach ending with figures of five for 77 off his 30 overs.
Batting for a second time Somerset found themselves 57 for four before Hildreth and Trego added 99 for the fifth wicket. Spinner Ollie Rayner then took three quick wickets and Somerset found themselves 158 for seven. However Hildreth, who ended unbeaten on 85 and Craig Overton remained together to see Somerset to 202 for seven by the end of the match which ended in a draw.
Chris Rogers was optimistic after this latest draw. “We are only one win away from being right up there,” he said. “We just have to keep on playing well and putting four days of cricket together and that’s the key for me.”
Somerset’s next opponents in the Specsavers County Championship were Surrey and no one who was present at the Cooper Associates County Ground for that match will ever forget what happened.
We will continue are Championship round up with that match tomorrow!