Welcome to the third and final part of our 2016 Specsavers County Championship review.
With just five games to go Somerset were well and truly still in the hunt for the title and at the end of August we welcomed Hampshire to the Cooper Associates County Ground.
The visitors won the toss, elected to bat and made 338 all out. Jack Leach was the pick of the Somerset bowlers ending with six for 108 from a mammoth spell of 40.5 overs.
Somerset in reply posted 587 for eight declared of which opener Tom Abell made 79 and Jim Allenby 56. Lewis Gregory (61) added 70 for the seventh wicket with Roelof van der Merwe before the latter was joined by Craig Overton who had received his Somerset cap on the morning of day one. The eighth wicket pair made the most of their opportunity and both scored their maiden centuries for Somerset setting a new eighth wicket record for the Club of 217. Overton was eventually out for 138 which came off 133 balls and included 13 fours and eight sixes, while van der Merwe remained unbeaten on 102 off 139 deliveries with seven fours and two sixes.
Needing 250 to make Somerset bat again opener Jimmy Adams (96) and Ervine (106) shared a second wicket partnership of 159 as Hampshire reached 254 for five to hang on for a draw.
After the match Somerset captain Chris Rogers said: “I think we played pretty well throughout the game. I certainly can’t fault the guys in any way.”
A trip to the North-West to face Lancashire at Emirates Old Trafford was next up where the hosts won the toss and asked Somerset to bat first. Openers Tom Abell and Marcus Trescothick added 134 for the first wicket before the latter was out for 60. Abell, who went onto score a career beat 135, then shared a second wicket partnership of 93 with Chris Rogers who made 47. Lower down the order Peter Trego also hit a career best 154 not out adding 236 for the eighth wicket with Ryan Davies who became the third Somerset batsman to establish a career best as he helped himself to 86 before Somerset declared on 553 for eight. This was a new eighth wicket record for Somerset beating the previous best that was set by Craig Overton and Roelof van der Merwe in the game against Hampshire at Taunton a week before.
Lancashire in reply reached 422 for nine with former Somerset batsman Alviro Petersen making 155 whilst Lewis Gregory ended with three for 74 off 23 overs. Unfortunately there was no play at all on the final day as the game ended in a draw.
Following his record breaking exploits Peter Trego said: “It was remarkable to break the record on the back of a 20-year-old eighth-wicket record being broken against Hampshire only four or five days ago. It’s also great to see how Ryan’s developed. He played a really mature innings and was a good foil for myself. We had a really good time out there. If you could bottle the way I felt on Wednesday evening, you’d get a lot of runs.”
Somerset returned to the Cooper Associates County Ground at the beginning of September to host Warwickshire.
After opting to bat first the hosts were quickly in trouble at 36 for six and were eventually all out for 95 in 30.1 overs. When the visitors replied they were bowled out for 123 in 49.2 overs with 19 year old off spinner Bess taking six for 28 off 16 overs.
Batting for a second time Somerset made 211 all out thanks mainly to 58 from Chris Rogers who added 55 for the fourth wicket with Peter Trego who made 31 whilst Bess hit 25.
Needing 184 for victory Warwickshire slumped to 61 for eight before Rikki Clarke and Chris Wright came together and by the close of the second day the visitors had moved onto 131 still needing 53 for victory with two wickets remaining.
On day three Somerset needed only an hour to claim the last two wickets and secure victory by 31 runs with over five sessions to spare. Jack Leach finished with six for 42 as Somerset claimed an important 19 points.
Discussing his impressive County Championship debut after the game Dom Bess said: “It all went pretty well for me almost from the start when I took that catch off Tim Groenewald at square leg. I saw it and went for it and luckily it stuck for me, which was a good start. You want to be impressing in front of your home crowd so to grab that catch was massive to get them one down, so I was very happy.” Talking about his first two wickets, Dom said: “To get Jonathan Trott as my first wicket and then to get Ian Bell the ball straight after was remarkable. To see him run down and prod one back to me I knew that I had to hold onto it- just keep hold of it. That was a very special moment for me.”
A trip to face reigning champions Yorkshire at Headingley awaited Somerset in their penultimate fixture with both teams still in contention for the title.
Choosing to bat first Yorkshire were bowled out for 145 in 61.2 oversas Somerset staked a claim for the Division One trophy. Jim Allenby bowled a miserly spell of 15 overs, eight of which were maidens and ended with three for 16, while Craig Overton took three for 32 off 15.
Somerset responded by posting 390 all out of which Marcus Trescothick made 73, adding 123 for the second wicket with Chris Rogers who hit 63. Jim Allenby (50) and Peter Trego (46) and Lewis Gregory (73 not out) were also in the runs.
Batting for a second time Yorkshire were all out for 286 with Jack Leach once again showing his class as he claimed six for 64 off 24.3 overs. Needing just 42 to win Somerset reached the required total without loss in 10.3 overs to win by 10 wickets. Somerset claimed 23 points to Yorkshire’s three and blew the title race wide open.
After another fine performance Jack Leach said: “Obviously, this was a great result and I am very proud of the boys. I have been here at Headingley three times before and it has always been tough but we played them off the park in this game to get a good win. I was really pleased with my own performance and it was nice to have done so well. I have taken wickets at Taunton, where it is nice to bowl, but it was really pleasing to get wickets here and to help the boys out.”
For the final match of the season Somerset welcomed Nottinghamshire knowing that a win and as many bonus points as possible were required if the County Championship title was to become a reality.
Opting to bat first Chris Rogers made his first century at Taunton and along with James Hildreth, who amazingly batted for nearly all of his innings with a runner after sustaining a fractured ankle, added 269 for the third wicket before both were out in quick succession. Rogers made 132 and Hildreth 135. Somerset then collapsed to 322 for nine before Dom Bess with 43 helped to see the total on to 365 all out.
Notts in reply were bowled out for 138 thanks to Bess who, in only his second Specsavers County Championship game, took five for 43 in 22.5 overs while Jack Leach at the other end claimed three for 42 off 21. Choosing not to enforce the follow-on Somerset made 313 for five declared in their second innings, which included a second century in the game for Rogers who was unbeaten on 100 whilst Ryan Davies made 59. Peter Trego also played well and his 55 saw him pass 1000 County Championship runs in a season for the first time.
Chasing an unlikely target of 541 for victory Notts were bowled out for 215 to give Somerset victory by 325 runs with more than a day to spare. Leach ended with four for 49, while van der Merwe took three for 59.
Somerset claimed 23 points from the game to the visitors three but after the jubilation of this emphatic victory all the hosts could do was wait to see what would happen at Lord’s between Middlesex and Yorkshire. As the painful wait began Chris Rogers said: “We have done everything we can and we have had a really enjoyable season. My overriding feeling is one of immense pride in my team. We were favourites to go down at the start of the season and look where we are now! The title race is out of our hands and it’s going to be interesting at Lord’s.
Unfortunately for Somerset things did not go our way at Lord’s and Middlesex were crowned Specsavers County Champions 2016. However, Somerset can be incredibly proud of what was achieved this season.
It is only fitting to let Chris Rogers have the final say on what was a memorable campaign. “We have played some fantastic cricket,” he said. “To go up and thump Yorkshire at their place was a very special moment, but naturally we are disappointed that it didn’t go our way. In the end we can say we did a lot of good things.”
“I’m very proud of the way that we have played and I think the guys can be happy with that. We had a lot of incredible moments along the way and I have had a lot of fun. There will be a lot of fond memories to look back on. My season with Somerset has been right up there. To get the momentum like we did in the back half of the season was very special.”
Everyone from Somerset County Cricket Club would like to thank all of our Members, fans and supporters for all of your support throughout 2016!