The Curse Continues

Vitality Blast, South Group, Canterbury, July 20, Kent 165-9 beat Somerset 124 by 45 runs.

The curse of Canterbury continues.

It is horrible, it is inexplicable, it refuses to go away.

Nothing more to say. Move on…..

The Madness of The ECB, The Madness of The Hundred

Last weekend an England cricket team did something that hasn’t been done by any of their predecessors. They won the world cup for the first time since its inception 44 years ago. The game was shown live on terrestrial TV and up against the mens’ singles final at Wimbledon, the viewing and listening figures were amazing. The TV audience peaked at 8.3 million.

England play in a bold and exciting style in this 50-over format of the game a product in part of the decision several years ago to switch the domestic longer form one-day game to this format. 

You would think that this success would provide the governing body with great satisfaction and perhaps see even greater support for this competition in the coming seasons. But no, the ECB is downgrading the domestic 50-over competition from 2020 to a “development” competition running up against the hundred, the Board’s shiny new showpiece event.

The impact of this is that from next season the rising stars of English cricket, who will almost inevitably be signed up to one of the 8 Hundred franchises, will no longer play any 50-over cricket. How the selectors are to choose the players who are to be brought into the England squad over the next four years is anyone’s guess.

If you thought this was lunacy, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The ECB have decreed that there will be 8 city franchise teams based at the Test Match Venues but all drawing on a geographical catchment area. But in the case of the West Country, where the “Welsh Fire” will be based in Cardiff will not be an amalgam of Glamorgan, Gloucestershire and Somerset but, like its rivals a random bunch of players brought together by a draft.   

A Taunton based Somerset supporter will, the ECB assume, be willing to drive up the M5 across one of the Severn Crossings and into central Cardiff, in the late afternoon to support their “local” franchise. 

The format is as the name suggests 100 balls a side. Apparently the concept of an over is hard to understand and in a bid to attract a new audience of women and children who are the governing body say in need of a simplified format to make the game easier to understand.

How patronising. How insulting. How dare they.

The evidence suggests that cricket on free to air TV is not that inaccessible in its current 6 ball over format. And even more tellingly the start of the Vitality Blast, the highly successful 20-over format, which saw 28,000 at Lords on Thursday evening, has grown year on year. The County Ground at Taunton sells out for the majority of its T20 games. But next year this format will also be, because of the investment in the new competition be condemned to poor relation status.

We are beginning to hear of big names being signed to coach the franchises. We hear of huge sums being set aside by the Board to set up this new competition. No one it seems thought, even for a moment about instead of spending these sums of money they accept a marginal reduction in income from Sky to allow some T20 games to be screened free-to-air.

That investment allied to a smart marketing campaign aimed at explaining the established short form format to this alleged “new audience” would surely have been a far more sensible step.

So, given all this, and there are many more arguments I could put forward to illustrate the stupidity of the ECB’s decision, what it the real motivation.

To answer that gets to the heart of why Somerset fans in particular are so vocal in their opposition of The hundred. The only explanation has to be that the Board see the future of County Cricket as being the 8 “super” counties where all the money and players will be focussed. 

Somerset of course are not part of those plans. We are the annoying country bumkins who keep punching above our weight, keep producing outstanding local talent and keep filling our ground. Whereas Cardiff and Durham, Middlesex and Lancashire all host division two cricket this season plucky old us just keep finishing at the business end of Division One.

While I am not suggesting this whole scheme is aimed to castrate Somerset, that would be paranoia of the highest order, it does seem convenient to the test match grounds if they can avoid the hassle of having to perform well on the pitch each season to earn a place in the top division.

The good news is that England’s success last Sunday is beginning to open the eyes of many cricket followers to the mess that the ECB is creating. The full implications of the Hundred are becoming common knowledge. Whether this will be enough for the ECB to realise the folly of their ways is yet to be seen.

So forgive us Somerset supporters if we look ahead to 2020 with some trepidation. Forgive us if we are worried that this wonderful club, with its proud identity and outstanding record in the last 10 years in all formats, will lose its status as part of the county elite.

And if you do happen into the county I suggest you don’t mention “The Hundred”. 

Banton Weight!

Vitality Blast, South Group, Cardiff – Somerset 181-2 (18 overs, Banton 64, Trego 47*, Babar Azam 35, Hildreth 24) beat Glamorgan 180-5 (20 overs, Van Der Merwe 2-17) by 8 wickets

Tom Banton, Somerset’s Tom Banton is a very special talent. We have known this for a while but have tried to temper our excitement for fear of over-burdening young Tom with expectation. But I can wait no more.

Banton was a pivotal figure in the Somerset batting line up in the 50 over cup success with two hundreds and an eye catching 69 in the final. Last evening, alongside his new opening partner, Barbar Azam he guided Somerset to a comfortable victory in their opening T20 Blast game at Cardiff.  

He is at that stage of his career when stats don’t do him justice, but he is already averaging over 30 with a best of 79 and 4 fifities in the championship from just 8 games and the trend is definitely upward, a pair of 70s against Hampshire at the end of June was followed by a battling 63 at Headingley in a losing cause on Monday. You get the feeling that something very big is just around the corner in red ball cricket for Tom

But last evening Banton was sensational. Opening the batting with Somerset’s newest recruit Barbar Azam Banton utterly dominated an opening partnership of 98 in 51 balls. Now Barbar is no ordinary T20 exponent, he is currently ranked number one in the world among international T20 batsmen.

And Barbar was none too shabby last evening his 35 took only 23 balls before he was first out. From the first over Banton set about the not inconsiderable task of chasing 181 to win on a Cardiff pitch renowned for being low and slow as if it was the easiest thing in the world. The power play was carnage, 75-0 in 6 overs. He “ramped” two sixes reversed pulled one of the Glamorgan seamers and then when, out of desperation the hosts tried slow left arm in the last over of the power play he slog swept for a six so big it was probably still going when the sun set!

In total his 64 off 34 balls included 5 fours and 5 sixes. In 40 minutes he won the game for Somerset, leaving Peter Trego and James Hildreth, with 47* and 24* respectively,

to coast home with 2 overs to spare. A huge margin in the short form.

Perhaps the most telling element of Banton’s innings was the way he made it all look so easy. Great players do that. Somerset supporters of my vintage will remember how Viv Richards would seem to have all day to select his shot and find the gap in the field while other fine players around him were being hurried for pace.

Babar soon realised that all the pressure was off him, that all he had to do was play his normal game and support Banton. That in itself is the greatest testament to Somerset’s young wicketkeeper batsman’s performance last evening.

I would not be surprised if Somerset, at some point in this T20 campaign get near 300. That may sound like madness but consider this. Banton’s and Barbar added 75 in the first six overs. If they had continued at that rate that’s exactly 250. If the pair of them stayed together I can’t imagine, even allowing for the power-play effect, they would slow down their rate of scoring!

And all this should be digested in the context of Tom’s T20 experience to date. It is easy, half was through his breakout season to forget how raw Banton is. Just four career appearances before yesterday, two in 2017 and two in 2018, a highest score of 29* at the other end from the Johann Myburgh carnage against Essex.

Banton is not finished item yet, far from it. Heaven help county bowlers when he is. But 

The Blast

My beloved Somerset’s quest for their elusive first-ever County Championship title has been put on hold for the moment, making way, for this year only (thank you ECB and your continued tinkering with the schedule) for the first phase of the T20 Blast which starts this evening.

Divided into two groups, North and South the 9 teams in each division will play 10 games before the Championship resumes on 18thAugust and then a further 4 to decide who fills the top four places and heads for the quarter finals.

Those quarter finals follow the same format as last year with first in the South group being home to fourth in the North group, etc. The winning quarter finalists head to Birmingham for finals day.

Somerset, winners of the other one-day trophy earlier this season, will be one of the favourites and have signed one of the world’s top one-day batsmen, Pakistan’s Babar Azam for this year’s competition. It will be a major surprise if they fail to qualify for the knockout phase and a disappointment if they don’t secure a home tie.

But T20 is more of a lottery than the 50-over format so drawing a form line from that competition is not easy. Ashes call ups will also have an impact, Somerset could be without their talismanic T20 leader Lewis Gregory who is in England’s 13 man test squad for a significant part of the competition. But there is young talent in abundance in Taunton. It will be fascinating to see who steps up in Lewis’ absence.

Alongside Somerset I expect Sussex and Hampshire reach the quarter finals. Both have one-day pedigree in the recent past and both have a group of potential matchwinners. The other place is more open, you’d expect Surrey, given the depth of their resources, to be strong but they were woeful in the earlier white-ball competition. 

Don’t be surprised if Middlesex come from nowhere.

In the north, despite the pasting they have just handed out to my boys in the Championship Yorkshire will be outsiders in the group. From a purely parochial point of view I’d like to see Somerset loanee Dom Bess help the White Rose turn things around in Leeds. Notts, perennially the strongest one-day team in the country have been having a dreadful time of it in the longer form so may be vulnerable if they don’t get off to a good start.

Last year’s surprise winners Worcestershire look a good bet to qualify and I’ll go for Lancashire, Yorkshire and Derbyshire (a bit left field I know) to join them.

My picks for finals day are:

Somerset, Hampshire, Lancashire and Worcestershire

Beyond that it’s anyone’s guess.

International Recognition

It has been a tough few days for Somerset’s players and supporters. But we move on and today there was the wonderful news that Lewis Gregory (albeit apparently as a standby for James Anderson) and Jack Leach have both been called into the 13 man squad to play Ireland next week and the “pre-Ashes camp” the following week. Thoroughly deserved in both cases.

Lewis’ availability to lead the T20 side is not yet clear but even if he is allowed to play this weekend he will, if selected by England, not be available for the next couple of weeks of the Blast. No doubt Tom Abell will lead the side in his absence. Leach of course has not been part of the T20 side although I’d like to anticipate a world where that changes very soon.

Lewis Gregory has been outstanding with bat and ball for Somerset this season. Following on from last winter’s England Lions tour, which he captained, his choice to reprise that role this week was entirely justified. He leads the PCA MVP rankings at present. Jack Leach who has by all accounts been the pick of the Lions bowlers in the Australian second innings finished with figures of 28.5-5-109-5. 

Jack Leach – pick of the England Lions bowlers on Tuesday

There is an eternal paradox here in that players, from whichever county, get noticed if they are performing well for that county. The county club has had the benefit of those performances but then has a hole to fill when those players are called up for England Duty.

For many counties this is a perennial problem, Yorkshire have been without Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow and Adil Rashid since early May and are unlikely to see much of them again this season. Hampshire lost James Vince and Liam Dawson for the same period and while they will return to their county any day now Hampshire’s championship challenge has faded in their absence. And Surrey, perhaps worst hit will be without Jason Roy, Rory Burns, Ben Foakes and Sam Curran.

If Somerset are to succeed they need to attract and retain the best players, something which they won’t be able to do if those players see us as a club that does not want its players representing England. As supporters we need to understand that.

My Dad believed for the whole of his life that the England selectors barely knew where Somerset was let alone how to get to the County Ground. There was some element of truth in that in the pre-Botham era where a Somerset player probably had to perform at Lord’s, The Oval, Headingley or Old Trafford to get noticed.

But no longer. The consistent performances of the county in the last few years and the ongoing production line of fine cricketers from the academy is getting attention from Ed Smith. In the last year and a half Craig Overton, Dome Bess and Jack Leach have all made England debuts. A number that would have been unthinkable ten years ago. And there may be more to come with Tom Banton and Jamie Overton to the fore and George Bartlett, when he rediscovers his class not far behind. And if Tom Abell is not a future England captain …….

In the short term the T20 side will be weakened but Lewis’ absence will give an opportunity to one of the many youngsters on the fringes, Ben Green and Lewis Goldsworthy come immediately to mind. We didn’t know until the start of this season just how good Tom Banton is and we won’t know about Ben or Lewis until they are given a run in the side. They like Banton could be fixtures by the start of next season.

Every Somerset supporter should swell with pride at this England selection, wish both Lewis and Jack well and revel in seeing the next wave of Academy graduates coming into the first team. This is the next phase of Somerset’s development and it is a very exciting one.

While I am at it I’d like to deal with the question that has been rolling around Somerset cricket these last few days like a thunderstorm in the Vale of Taunton. At its heart is what it means to be a Somerset supporter. I have a very simple view, born probably out of the fact that I was brought up as a Somerset fan long long before Social Media was a thing.

In that, much simpler era, discussions about the team’s fortunes or a particular players merits took place in the office at the pub or in the ground out of the consciousness of the players (although occasionally players were on the wrong end of supporters comments at the County Ground). And that was all fine, we are all entitled to our opinion and long may that continue.

But now it is all too easy after a poor display by the team, a bad shot, dropped catch or couple of poor overs to jump on Twitter or Facebook and vent one’s spleen. And to me that is a complete no no. 

It is clear to me that the players are all too aware of the criticism. Some deal with it better than others. But they should not be subjected to it. How would you feel if a work colleague or customer jumped on Twitter to tell the world what an unflattering view you had of your day’s work?

Tom Abell and his team are also trying their hearts out to win this thing, this big shiny end of September thing that we all crave. That’s hard enough in itself. To paraphrase JFK’s much played speech this week around the 50thanniversary of the moon landing,we choose to do this things not because it is easy because it is hard.As supporters we need to do exactly what the word means – support. And that is not just turning the County Ground into a fortress for the rest of the season but also holding back and counting to ten when a player doesn’t perform or the team has a setback.

I don’t want to preach, but I believe that we all have an influence for the rest of what so far has been a fabulous season.

Diary Time

Sometime around this time last season I started writing a diary of the “run-in” of Somerset’s cricket season. It was in large part a cathartic exercise, Somerset supporters are you see a tortured breed.

I’ve decided to start the diary now in the most unpromising circumstances, Somerset have just lost, no been thumped by Yorkshire in Leeds today and the lead we had at the top of the Championship has evaporated to the extent that Somerset now trail Essex, who won today, by 4 points.

The Championship has four games to go but it takes a break until 18th August as the first phase of the Vitality Blast takes over.

My feelings as I write this a few hours after the inevitable defeat was confirmed are not too down. While I am worried that our lead has gone we still have our destiny in our own hands with the leaders due to come to Taunton for the last game of the season.

Somerset have played wonderful cricket this season. They have won the one-day cup, the county equivalent in format to the World Cup to follow on from last season’s runners up finish in the championship to go with their appearance at T20 finals day.

This is a young homegrown side led by a young Tauntonian captain. It is a team that Somerset supporters are very proud of and feel as close to as any in my 50 years of supporting our marvellous club. As well as the captain Tom Abell, who is surely a future England captain, there are the Overton twins Craig and Jamie, big tall strong fast bowlers and capable bats, Jack Leach the left arm spinner who hails from my old club Taunton Deane, George Bartlett, Tom Banton – another future star in the making and the current England Lions captain Lewis Gregory. And there are more coming through, soon.

At the other end of the scale there is the legend that is Marcus Trescothick, the man who has opened the batting for over half of the 50 years I have been a Somerset supporter. Tres has decided to retire at the end of this season and if there is a cricketing God surely He will want such a distinguished career end fittingly with the first Somerset Championship.

September’s Unfinished Business

Specsavers County Championship Division One, Headingley, Leeds – Somerset 196 (J Overton 52* K Maharaj 7-52) and 251 (Banton 63, Abell 53) lost to Yorkshire 520 All Out (Balance 111, Kohler-Cadmore 102, Brook 101, Bess 4-130) by an innings and 73 runs.

“Comprehensively Outplayed”

Not my words, those of captain Tom Abell in his post-match interview. And it pretty much sums it up.

Every Somerset supporter would have started the day with the hope, however slim, that Somerset could pull of the improbable and escape with a draw. Within 11 overs of the resumption both Tom Banton and Dom Bess were dismissed along with nightwatchman Tim Groenewald and all hope was gone. Even if defeat could not have been avoided the hope was that Banton and Bess, two of our brightest young stars could play career defining innings on the last day.

Although the Overton twins, demonstrates the application of a simple yet effective method, resisted for a short while after Steven Davies had gone it was all over shortly before lunch. Somerset emerge with just the solitary bowling point from a chastening defeat.

The Yorkshire sages had opined before the game that their side hadn’t been at their best so far this season. The certainly were in this game. Somerset by contrast were not. The measure of this team will be how they react from here, an evaluation complicated by the fact that we won’t see red ball action for over a month.

Jason Kerr’s comments after the game should give all Somerset fans cause for optimism. Stressing that while no longer leading we are still very well placed in the championship and that spirits, despite this defeat are high in the squad. Somerset had a similar blip in the middle of the 50-over cup group stages and we know where that ended, a collective experience that should stand us all in good stead.

With Essex wrapping up victory over Warwickshire they are now the leaders by 4 points with 4 to play. Yorkshire have got themselves back to the fringes of contention 34 points adrift of Somerset. They will need to win all four of their remaining games (including the trip to Taunton) to have any chance.

The remaining fixtures are:

Essex:               Kent (a) Warwickshire (a) Surrey (h) Somerset (a)

Somerset:         Warwickshire (a) Yorkshire (h) Hampshire (a) Essex (h)  

Yorkshire:         Notts (h) Somerset (a) Kent (h) Warwickshire (a) 

There has, paradoxically been a surge of support for the team on social media over the last few days, pleasing to see and I am sure something the players will appreciate. This is I think evidence of the deep affection for and pride in this team from the supporters. Long may it continue.

It is also pleasing to see the positive and supportive response from a large number of Somerset supporters to the lazy media narrative that Somerset badly missing Lewis Gregory and Jack Leach. While there is no doubt that they were both missed in Leeds, any side would miss two such superb cricketers. But that is not the point. Somerset has developed an academy system that is the envy of most other counties. The purpose of that academy is to produce talent in all formats for the Somerset first team and beyond. Somerset have been the beneficiary of the consistent high-quality performance of Gregory and Leach and it is gratifying to see that talent being recognized at a higher level.

Yorkshire rarely see Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow or Adil Rashid, Hampshire have been without James Vince and Liam Dawson since mid-May, Lancashire will not see James Anderson again this season. It is one of the side-effects of success at county level and one I hope we will have to come to terms with as a club.

But all that is in the future, we have a T20 competition to win and that starts, with barely time to breathe, on Thursday in Cardiff. That campaign will dominate until 18thAugust with the trip to Birmingham. Hopefully by the time the championship returns we will be anticipating a T20 quarter-final.  

Beyond that, when we get into September it is fair to say Taunton is going to be the place to be for the remaining two championship games. We need to make the CACG a formidable environment for both Yorkshire and Essex. We have some unfinished business with both.

#WeAreSomerset

Still Fighting

Specsavers County Championship Division One, Headingley, Leeds – Somerset 196 (J Overton 52* K Maharaj 7-52) and 159-4 (Banton 58*, Abell 53) trail Yorkshire 520 All Out (Balance 111, Kohler-Cadmore 102, Brook 101, Bess 4-130) by 165 runs with 6 wickets remaining.

After a chastening first two days which saw Somerset staring at the unpleasant prospect of an innings defeat there was some real fight on day 3 from firstly the lower order in the first innings and then from the captain, Azhar Ali and Tom Banton in the second.

Many lesser teams would have capitulated from the position Somerset began the day in so while the odds remain very much in favour of Yorkshire wrapping up a win tomorrow the chances of them being made to bat again have significantly increased.

And it could have been so much better. 

Jamie Overton and Tim Groenewald showed either side of lunch in a stand that was worth 44 what could be done with real application and a little luck. Their alliance created the possibility, which seemed remote when James Hildreth and Dom Bess went cheaply in the first session, of picking up a batting bonus point. But it was not to be as Jack Brooks was unable to hang around long enough to get the additional 4 runs needed. 

Jamie Overton had come in at the fall of his brothers wicket when Somerset were 103-7 and his contribution of watchfulness and controlled aggression saw him pass 50 off 69 balls which included 3 sixes and 5 fours. 

Following on the openers took Somerset to tea at 79-0, Abell looking particularly fluent. But just as we were all hoping the bar could bat out the day to give Somerset real hope of pulling off an unlikely draw Matthew Fisher got Azhar lbw to one that was perhaps going over. James Hildreth followed virtually straight away the result of an rush of blood against the South African spinner which he will not be pleased with. 89-0 had become 94-2.

Abell was beginning to really look set passing his 50 off 100 balls with 11 fours when Fisher, bowling a beautiful line and length and moving the ball both ways induced a nick to wicketkeeper Tattersall. Tom was crestfallen and dragged himself away from the centre. The captain had played superbly in the most difficult situation and deserved a big hundred for his efforts but it was not to be. He can however console himself that he is looking back to his very best. I confidently expect that someone is going to be on the receiving end of a “big one” from the skipper before the season is out. 

George Bartlett is having a torrid time at the moment and while form is temporary and we all know his class is permanent it is hard to watch. 43 balls for 5 runs accrued for Somerset’s number 5 his difficulties accentuated by Banton who was beginning to flow at the other end.

It was no surprise when George became Maharaj’s second victim, 148-4. But Timmy G joined Tom Banton and they saw Somerset through to the close. Groenewald doing exactly what he couldn’t as night watchman last Monday occupying the crease for 20 minutes, facing 20 balls and ending 0*.

At the other end Banton after a slightly edgy start, justifiable in the circumstances, was beginning to purr. 58 off 75 balls in 96 minutes with 9 fours demonstrates how well he played.

It is going to really hard tomorrow, and even the most wildly optimistic Somerset fan would hesitate to before even thinking of that possibility but as Jamie Overton reminded us in his post day’s comments Steve Davies, Dom Bess, Craig Overton and Jack Brooks all have first class hundreds!

But Somerset are still alive in this game, still fighting and know that if they can string a couple of partnerships together in the first half of the day the psychological balance will begin to shift away from Yorkshire. For creating that possibility Somerset’s players deserve a great deal of praise. Irrespective of the outcome tomorrow they have shown that they are worthy of staying right in this title race until the end.

#WeAreSomerset

Rallying Cry

Specsavers County Championship Division One, Headingley, Leeds – Somerset 76-4 trail Yorkshire 520 All Out (Balance 111, Kohler-Cadmore 102, Brook 101, Bess 4-130)

This has been as hard two days for Somerset’s players and supporters as we’ve had for a long time. Somerset, who in the recent past have had an excellent record in Yorkshire are facing the very real prospect of their second defeat of the season.

But, while Yorkshire have been excellent in this game so far, Somerset in truth haven’t been that far behind. Throughout the 5 sessions of the hosts first innings the bowlers kept running in, the fielders chased after and threw themselves at everything to save a run here, a couple there. 

The one area where I am sure Somerset’s players will be disappointed is their catching. More chances were put down in this innings than I can remember for a long time. While those chances did not in isolation affect the total Yorkshire reached it was hard on the bowlers who had to strive tirelessly to get anything out of an unresponsive surface.

By the time Harry Brook was superbly caught right on the line at long off by Azhar Ali Somerset had bowled 160 over and 1 ball and in all that time no wides and only one no-ball accrued. 

Somerset’s first target was to bat 31 overs to the close. Conditions were glorious overhead, the sort of weather you wish for when batting at Headingley and the pitch was placid. The demise to 49-4 is therefore as hard to explain as it was to watch.

Yorkshire’s bowlers were fresh, Somerset’s batsmen significantly less so, both mentally and physically and there was lift and bounce with the new ball. Tom Abell got a beauty from Matthew Fisher, Azhar looked fragile taking 29 balls over his 4, Tom Banton was caught behind neither forward or back to the left-armer and George Bartlett played a shot he will not remember fondly.

James Hildreth batted with few alarms and looked as calm and classy as only James Hildreth can, and Steven Davies gutsed it out through to the close. It wasn’t pretty on Davies part, but he takes great credit for the work he put in after such a long stint with the gloves.

James Hildreth, crucial role ahead on day 3

This has, so far been a season for the ages. One trophy in the cabinet already and well in contention in the Championship. Despite winning 7 of our first 9 games we haven’t been able to shake Essex off and may after this round find ourselves in second place if Essex complete the victory at Chelmsford which looks highly likely. But let’s be honest no Somerset supporter thought this thing that we are trying to achieve would be easy, that’s not the Somerset way.

I was thinking yesterday afternoon what I would be saying to my Dad if he was still around to have our usual post-play chat. Always one to have his cup half empty he would no doubt be seeing the worst and would need reminding that in all his years of supporting Somerset we’ve never made it easy for ourselves. Think of all the near misses in the 70s, the September weekend in 78, the two losing C&G cup finals at the start of this century and the numerous runners-up finished in the last 10 year.

Norse mythology was based around their concept of the Norns, female beings who rule the destiny of men. The Vikings believed that the Norns watched the efforts of men and took pleasure in weaving the twists and turns of fate and the watching the effect it had on mere mortals. So it shouldn’t be any surprise that Somerset cricket’s fate is being twisted and turned in front of our eyes at this stage of the season.

I was lucky enough to grab a few minutes with Tom Abell at the end of yesterday’s play. You only have to spend a couple of minutes in the company of this most impressive young man to see how much this all means to him and his team. A few minutes where you appreciate how hard they are trying to bring it all home and how much they appreciate our support.

I told Tom, and I am happy to repeat it how proud I am of this team, probably more proud than I have been of any Somerset team in my lifetime, and how much so many of us are investing emotionally to support the team. 

It was clear from my chat with Tom that they know things haven’t gone their way so far at Headingley but that is not for want of trying. Sport is like that. But that’s where we the supporters come in. So this is a plea from my heart to all Somerset supporters, the plea I would be making to my Dad if we were having that conversation. 

Now is the time to redouble our support for Tom and the team, to let them know we are all behind them. I know we can’t bat, bowl or field for them but we can provide a platform of support for them to go out and do so on our behalf. If things don’t work out on a particular day or in a particular game that’s something we have to accept and all pick ourselves up for the next day.

And that commitment from every Somerset supporter begins right now as Somerset batt on day 3 in a bid to get something out of this most unpromising of positions.

#WeAreSomerset

I Need to Pinch Myself

I’m not certain when I first listened to cricket commentary on the radio, but I know by the early seventies it was required listening for me whenever I got the chance. Back then it was Arlott, Johnson and co on Test Match Special and to a cricket mad kid from Somerset it was heaven.

Things have changed a lot since then. It seems to me that for many of the modern cohort of TMS commentators it is more about them than the game. There are notable exceptions, Simon Mann and Vic Marks most prominently, people who love the game of cricket as much as I do and let that shine through their words.

A few years ago the BBC won the rights to cover every ball of every game of county cricket (Championship, 50-over and T20) and a whole new world of enjoyment for cricket fans has opened up.

New names have come into my world, superb broadcasters who are also cricket fans and for who the game, and in the majority of cases, their county is the thing. They are too numerous to mention but a TMS crewed by these BBC “Local” commentators would be a thing to behold.

When I was 18 I decided that I wanted to be a journalist. The dream was to one day become a commentator on TMS and The Daily Telegraph cricket correspondent but, it was not to be and a career in accountancy beckoned!

But it hasn’t stopped me listening to cricket commentaries and wondering if I could do that, wondering if I’d ever have the chance, and if I did what it would be like.

I’ve been writing and about and taking photos of cricket on a regular basis now for the Somerset supporters website The Incider for the last two seasons with the desire to build myself a bit of profile as a cricket writer and photographer.

In the last few weeks I’ve been lucky enough to talk to the BBC Nottingham and Yorkshire cricket correspondents as part of my pre-match previews of Somerset’s upcoming games. And from that came the chance today to do my first bit of “radio” thanks to BBC Yorkshire’s Jonathan Doidge.

So if you happened to be tuned into BBC Somerset, BBC Bristol or any of the numerous BBC Yorkshire stations this afternoon you may have heard my debut as I joined Anthony Gibson as his summariser in the afternoon session.

I’m pleased to say I wasn’t nervous, but that had a lot to do with Anthony, Jonathan and the equally wonderful DT (Dave Townsend). And I think I acquitted myself well (well at least I remembered to stop talking as the bowler ran in!) . It certainly gave me a real appreciation of the skill and concentration required and an even greater appreciation of the work that goes in to each sessions commentary.

Dave Townsend and Anthony Gibson look down on play as Somerset take on Yorkshire at Headingley

I just hope I get another crack at it – soon!

But in the meantime thanks again to Jonathan, Dave and Anthony not just for today but for their work every day of the season. And to them and their colleagues Martin Emerson, Dave Bracegirdle, Scott Reade, Kevin Hand, Mark Church and many more – well played sir.