Specsavers County Championship Review: Part Two

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After six draws from the opening six games of the 2016 Specsavers County Championship, Somerset recorded our first victory of the season when we welcomed Surrey to the Cooper Associates County Ground.  It was a match that will live long in the memory!

After winning the toss and batting first the visitors made 264 all out as Jack Leach took four for 34 off 19 overs.  In reply Somerset were dismissed for just 102.

Batting for a second time Surrey were bowled out for 138, Jamie Overton claiming four for 18 in 11.1 overs and Leach four for 63 off 31 overs.

Somerset therefore required 301 for victory.  Marcus Trescothick led the way with 56 after which Jim Allenby (56) and Peter Trego (44) added 80 together for the sixth wicket, but when the ninth wicket fell on 270, Somerset still needed 31 runs for victory.  As Somerset supporters held their breath, last man Tim Groenewald joined Leach in the middle and slowly but steadily the pair edged Somerset towards a dramatic victory.  The Cooper Associates County Ground erupted when Groenewald cover-drove the winning runs to give Somerset a breathtaking win by just one wicket in one of the closest finishes that Taunton has ever witnessed.  Leach batted for 88 minutes and scored 24 not out from the 73 balls he faced while Groenewald was 18 not out from 39 deliveries.

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After the match Jack Leach said: “It was the best game of cricket I have ever played in.  There were so many twists and turns.  The crowd were unbelievable when Tim and I were batting together.  As the ball was about to be bowled there would be a ‘sssshhhh’ and you could almost hear the silence.  Then when we played a shot the noise would erupt.  It was such an important result for us.  The tension was almost unbearable as we chipped away the runs, but we were not tempted to go for big shots because the way we were playing was working.”

Next up for Somerset was a trip to the Ageas Bowl to face Hampshire, who after winning the toss opted to bat first.

Jamie Overton was in stunning form and his five for 42 from 16 overs plus three for 52 from Lewis Gregory helped to bowl the hosts out for 219 in 66.4 overs.  Somerset replied strongly scoring 474 for eight declared in 100 overs, a total that featured 110 from Johann Myburgh and another century for James Hildreth who made 152.  Batting for a second time Hampshire had reached 173 for four when the rain put paid to any further play on the third day.  The final day was washed out and Somerset had to settle for a frustrating draw from which they took 13 points.

After the match Jamie Overton said: “It’s up there with the best days of my career this far.  It’s only my second five-for so I’m pretty happy with how things have gone.  We never thought we would bowl them out for 219 after they were 140 for one.  It was just one of whose things when the ball got soft and out of shape so we changed it and it started to swing. We put the balls in the right areas and fortunately for me it worked out.”

Somerset returned to the Cooper Associates County Ground to host high flying Middlesex for their next fixture in July.  After being put in Somerset were bowled out for 236, Chris Rogers top scoring with 57 whilst Jim Allenby made 44.  When the visitors replied they were dismissed for 381 as Allenby claimed four for 67 and Craig Overton took three for 86.

Second time around Somerset had reached 348 for six by the end of the third day and on the final morning batted on to reach 446 for nine before declaring.  Marcus Trescothick made 124 whilst Peter Trego top scored with 138 as Middlesex were set a target 302 from 46 overs.

Tres and Tregs

Unfortunately there was heart break for Somerset as the visitors reached their target with just two balls to spare.  After the match disappointed Somerset Captain Chris Rogers said: “Naturally if you lose a game then of course there are regrets but if we are serious about wanting to win the title then we want to win games.  You can’t just keep on playing out the draws and expect to be up there at the end.  Hindsight is a wonderful thing.  We had them eight down and if the ball goes up in the air and you catch it then you are bowling to number 11 and you can win the game.  The other thing is that we are here to provide entertainment, so we play the game and play to win.”

Next in line for Somerset was a trip to Trent Bridge to face Nottinghamshire who chose to bat first.

An opening partnership of 196 between Steven Mullaney and Jake Libby provided a solid foundation that they used to go on and post 401 all out.  Craig Overton with four for 54 from 25.3 overs was the pick of the Somerset attack.

Somerset replied with 437 all out, Marcus Trescothick and Johann Myburgh sharing an opening partnership of 123.  Trescothick then added 101 with Chris Rogers (48)  for the second wicket and 122 for the fifth with Jim Allenby who hit 63, before being last man out for a superb 218.

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Batting for a second time Notts were all out for 135, Allenby taking three for 23 off 14 overs while Gregory ended with three for 27 off 12.2.  Somerset reached the 100 runs required without loss thanks to an unbeaten 58 from Myburgh and 37 from Trescothick, who spent every minute of this match out on the field!

Somerset captain Chris Rogers was full of praise for Marcus after the match.  “What do you say about Tres?” he said.  “He is an inspiration to everyone at the Club.  You have got a guy who many people expect to be retired, but he sets an example to everybody else with the way that he goes about his game, the passion he has and the hunger that he has to do well.  The young guys respond to that, they see what he is like and they want to be like him.  He’s a fantastic role model.”

The next match in the competition saw Somerset welcome Durham to the Cooper Associates County Ground.  After winning the toss the hosts opted to bat first.  The Durham attack made early inroads and the hosts found themselves 115 for seven before Craig Overton with 42 and Ryan Davies (31) added 61 to enable their side to reach 184 all out.

When they replied Durham also found runs hard to come by and were dismissed for 189, Jack Leach doing most of the damage with five for 69 from his 19.3 overs, while Roelof van der Merwe ended with four for 59 from 25 overs.

Somerset’s second innings was in disarray at 33 for six, but van der Merwe and Overton put on 72 for the seventh wicket after which Davies added 52 for the last wicket with Tim Groenewald to help the hosts reach 180 all out.

Chasing 176 for victory Durham started day three on 130 for five, needing just 46 for victory with five wickets remaining.  However, on a quite remarkable morning just 22 balls were needed as Leach (four for 46) and van der Merwe (four for 45) bowled Durham out for 136 in a remarkable 16 minute spell that will be talked about by Somerset supporters for years to come.”

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After the celebrations had died down Chris Rogers said: “I probably didn’t see that happening overnight.  I thought we were in with an outside chance because the ball was turning and they had their tail end in, but it all went to plan.  We beat the bat a lot yesterday evening, but today it all went our way and when that happens it’s quite fortunate.  To finish it that way is fantastic.  All credit to the guys too.  We were down and out on a couple of occasions in this game but fought back hard.”

The 2016 season came to a dramatic conclusion and we will complete our round up with the remaining five games tomorrow.