Ennui and Oak Trees Yorkshire CC1 Headingley
By Farmer White et al
July 14 2019
Brooksie Ferret goes back to God's second County and Farmer White goes with him to see what he can do against his former team mates.
County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th July 2019. Taunton.
Somerset. T.B. Abell (c), Azhar Ali, J.C. Hildreth, T. Banton, G.A. Bartlett, S.M. Davies (w), D.M. Bess, C. Overton, J. Overton, T.D. Groenewald, J.A. Brooks.
Yorkshire. A. Lyth. W.A.R. Fraine, G.S. Balance, T. Kohler-Cadmore,, J. Shaw, H.C. Brook, J.A. Tattersal (w), M.D. Fisher, K.A. Maharaj, S.A. Patterson (c), D. Olivier.
Jack Leach and Lewis Gregory were not available for selection for this match having been selected to play for the England Lions at Canterbury.
Toss. Uncontested. Yorkshire required to bat.
First day. 13th July – A day of ennui and oak trees
At the Oval, if you sit in the Peter May Stand, the aircraft slide in over your left shoulder and cross the pitch in a line from long on to backward point as they find their way to Heathrow. At Headingley, if you sit in the Fred Trueman Enclosure, they come towards you over second slip and long-on, as they descend towards Leeds-Bradford Airport. I imagine they would have kept to the same course had Trueman bowled to May here more than 60 years ago now although the airport would have been known as Yeadon in those days. Had they played on the pitch used for this match I imagine May would have blessed the day and Trueman would have had words of another variety. From my seat in the Trueman enclosure, beyond a straight long-on, and directly under the approaching aircraft the ball seemed to be going through on a line as straight as the flightpath which the aircraft followed and with bounce as even as their smooth computer-directed descent.
I had arrived at the ground about twenty minutes before the start just as an announcement was made that the toss had been uncontested and Yorkshire would bat. There was a blanket of low cloud but when I caught sight of the pitch between two stands my heart sank. It was white. Now, I know little about pitches but I do tend to associate white ones with runs. I have held for many years a view, or is it an ingrained instinctive feeling borne of much experience of watching cricket, about insertions not dissimilar to that of W.G Grace. Essentially: Don’t. My anecdotal memory and instinct tell me the weight of history is against insertions. Perhaps not on an April green-top. But otherwise it is. Not every time. But in the majority of cases. Abell’s insertion of Surrey at Guildford in 2018 is still seared on my psyche. It symbolises the end of the Championship dream for that year.
In spite of Somerset being nearer the Championship two thirds of the way through this season than they had been when they visited Guildford one third of the way through the 2018 season it was to be a slightly detached day at the cricket for this ardent Somerset-watcher. I was meeting an old schoolfriend for the first time in 50 years and the cricket was watched through a haze of memories revived. His journey to the ground had not been as smooth as the descent of those planes. He had had to travel some way and his infrequent bus had drifted in towards him as he waited at the bus stop and then suddenly veered away to leave him stranded, rather like a Jack Leach delivery might a bemused batsman. Somerset supporters are not so easily thwarted and a story involving a dog, a car wash and a fortuitous lift described his odyssey to the ground. Perhaps too some confusion in our arrangements can be allowed after 50 years but we really should have done better than to have been unable to find each other in spite of each directing the other by mobile phone towards a meeting point at the entrance. It would have helped had we both been at the same entrance.
We were equally bemused about the decision to insert Yorkshire, and when Craig Overton and Jack Brooks with the new ball seemed unable to make any impact, it did not settle our nerves. The runs were hardly flowing, the score was just 9 for 0 after five overs, but that lack of threat from bowlers who had driven virtually all before them this season was worrying. Lyth did miscue a pull off Brooks but the ball looped harmlessly, well over midwicket’s head. When Brooks dropped short again the ball rocketed to the midwicket boundary. There would be no room for error on this pitch.
Jamie Overton replaced Brooks at the Kirkstall Lane End but his pace, if perhaps grabbing the attention of the batsmen, scarcely seemed to trouble them as it has everywhere else in this season of seaming pitches. Pitching full he was driven straight for three by Lyth. When he dropped slightly short Fraine pulled him to the boundary and Lyth pulled him over it. Then, as so often seems to be the case on flat pitches, the edge he found was so thick it flew well wide of the slip cordon for four. Batting was looking ominously easy for Yorkshire. As the morning wore on that miscued pull and the thick edge were confirmed as false prophets rather than glimmers of hope.
Groenewald and a returning Craig Overton gained some control by bowling particularly tight lines and the Somerset fielders were as parsimonious as ever in the allowances they made the batsmen. But the batsmen worked carefully towards lunch within the limits imposed on them and Bess found himself bowling from the Rugby Stand End with lunch still half an hour away. He was driven over the Rugby Stand boundary for six by Fraine but boundaries in truth were the exception rather than the rule of the morning.
With lunch fast approaching and Somerset supporters’ hopes of a breakthrough before the interval receding Brooks joined Bess for a second attempt at the batsmen. Within the over Fraine was walking back to the Pavilion having pulled a ball limply straight into Bess’s midriff at midwicket. Bess barely had to move his hands let alone his feet. With lunch an over away Lyth played an odd-looking stroke, somewhere between a drive and a cut, and, as it looked, spooned the ball towards Abell at mid-off. It took a dive but Abell took the catch. Yorkshire lunched at 83 for 2 off a full 32 overs, about 30 runs short of the normal first session allowance.
It had felt an odd morning. Somerset inserting Yorkshire when to my mind at least the pitch cried out to be batted upon. Then Yorkshire batting on it at about the same tardy pace at which those gently descending aircraft seemed to crawl across the sky towards Leeds-Bradford although the Somerset bowlers would have had a say in that. And then the sight of the aircraft produced a thought. The cloud could not have been that low for me to have seen them. And then those two precious wickets, and yet both being limply driven out of a morning of batting care did not raise hopes of a sudden Somerset breakthrough. Then as I walked through the tunnel under the new Rugby Stand on my lunchtime circumnavigation the PA announcer revealed Essex were 74 for 2 at lunch against a Warwickshire team denuded of its two best batsmen by the England Lions selectors. Given 200 seems to have been par score at Chelmsford this season 74 for 2 added to the sense of unease I was feeling about Somerset’s position.
The afternoon session was a continuation of the morning one. It continued to be played at the pace of those seemingly gently moving aircraft. Whenever I looked at the scoreboard the Yorkshire run rate seemed to be stuck on a perpetual 2.8. There was a higher ration of boundaries from Ballance and Kohler-Cadmore than the morning had afforded but they did not seem to accelerate Yorkshire’s cause at any greater rate than had Lyth and Fraine. The Somerset bowling did not seem to have quite the intensity of recent times although it seemed well-enough directed, particularly by Groenewald, Craig Overton and Bess, and it certainly did not encourage any extravagance from Yorkshire. Abell encouraged even less with a tight four over spell for four runs in the lead-up to tea.
Flat cricket all around was the impression and it seemed to result in a flat crowd. There was very little of the endless running commentary on the cricket from the home spectators that had so illuminated last year’s visit here. Perhaps because I was in a different stand, perhaps because the crowd was more spread out because the new Rugby Stand was open whereas it had been a noisy building site last year. More I think because of the lethargy of the cricket. I do not recall ever seeing spectators at Headingley reading newspapers and magazines during the course of play as several were this year.
My friend and I, whilst keeping our eyes peeled for any sign of a Somerset breakthrough, fell into discussing other cricket. Cricket from sixty or so years before played in a field normally inhabited by cows. The only available pitch in the six-inch-high grass was a dirt footpath barely a foot wide but mercifully straight. It encouraged straight bowling for if the tennis ball pitched in the long grass either side it would founder and stop thereby offering the batsman a free hit as it perched atop a tuft. The ‘outfield’ did not encourage strokes along the ground for a well-struck ball that travels six feet does not do much for the scoring rate. I once, but only once, hit three successive ‘sixes’ into the oak tree which stood just inside the fence which formed the boundary at long leg to the right hander, just as the old lime at Canterbury stood at long leg just inside the boundary to the left-hander. The oak was the only place you could sensibly hit a six because there was no boundary straight, the field was too long and rose steeply into the distance, and beyond the square fence boundary was a field of corn and the other way a stream. Both were ‘six-and-out’. Such was childhood cricket on the edge of rural Somerset when May and Trueman played.
Tea was taken with Yorkshire on 181 for 2 and Essex on an even more glacial, but, if the rest of the season at Chelmsford is an indicator, potentially match-winning 157 for 3. Neither score did anything to ease a worried Somerset mind. It is normally defeats that are fatal to a Championship challenge. In this season of a fast-developing close ‘two-horse’ race failing to win could be. My teatime circumnavigation resulted in a discussion in the depths of the tunnel under the new Rugby Stand which focused on Somerset’s decision to field. It came to no serious conclusion as is often the case with such discussions for, apart from anything else, those having the discussions on this side of the boundary have no knowledge of the considerations to be taken account on the other side.
The evening session seemed to bring more progress for Yorkshire as Ballance looked to accelerate in the overs before the new ball and against it. Three times in the first two overs with it he drove and once cut the ball, each time for four. It was now that I noticed Bess, fielding at deep midwicket, constantly shouting encouragement to the bowlers. Genuine attempts to encourage I thought, not the sometimes mechanical shouting you hear from deep fielders. It stood out but Somerset had never gone quiet in the field in spite of the mounting Yorkshire total. Once Jamie Overton kicked the air in apparent frustration but I thought the team stuck to the task if not with quite the full-on intensity of the season to date.
With half an hour to go to the close Bess was still calling out, “Come on Jamie O!” from his distant outpost. Whether it spurred Overton on I know not but finally he found the edge of Ballance’s bat. The ball flew straight into the hands of Hildreth at first slip, and out again almost as if he had not noticed it coming. Perhaps the ennui of the day had him thinking of hitting sixes into oak trees. More probably it was just one of those things. The beneficiary was Groenewald who, in the very next over found the edge of Ballance’s bat from where it flew to the thwarted Overton at second slip (Groenewald's 400th wicket ed). Ballance was gone for 111 having raised Yorkshire’s scoring rate to 2.9. Kohler-Cadmore finished on 77 scored in 66 overs at the wicket.
Yorkshire finished the day on 282 for 3 and Essex on 245 all out. It had not been Somerset’s day, at either ground if the Chelmsford pitch is playing true to type this season. Whether the day will play a significant part in the eventual destination of the Championship in a tight contest may only be known when the trophy reaches its destination. For the moment Yorkshire will start the second day with the slow-moving Kohler-Cadmore and Shaw, the nightwatchman, at the wicket. It has been a tenet of Somerset’s season that where they have fallen behind in a match, almost invariably, someone has stepped up to halt or reverse the course of the match. If Somerset are to maintain their lead over Essex it may need another such intervention today. If the intervention comes, as another Somerset supporter whom I bumped into on the streets of Leeds last night put it to me, Yorkshire’s caution in the face of the Somerset bowling on the first day has kept them within Somerset’s reach.
Close. Yorkshire 282 for 3.
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Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 2019:07:16:21:45:30 by Grockle.
It is also reproduced in full here with Day 1 being the frontpage and the other days appearing below
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:07:14:11:51:02 by Grockle.
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County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th July 2019. Headingley.
Overnight. Yorkshire 282 for 3.
Second day. 14th July – A numbing esperience
The disappointment was there to see in the face of every Somerset supporter I saw as I left the ground. It was more than the looks you see after the normal sort of ‘bad day at the office’ cricket. There was a deeper look, one almost of shock. No-one said a word, other than by the look they gave. And every last one gave the same look. For this day had the feeling not just of a heavy defeat pending but of the Championship on the turn. Not only had Somerset fallen far behind Yorkshire but Essex had forged well ahead of a Warwickshire side with batting weakened by England Lions calls and which will have to face the spin of Harmer in the fourth innings. If Somerset lose, which is where the neutral money will be, and Essex win, which they have in every other match this season at Chelmsford Somerset will fall into second place in the table for the first time since the first match of the season. Essex have had the wind in their sails since they beat Somerset at Chelmsford and Somerset have steered themselves into the choppiest of waters in this match since they set the wrong course when they did not contest the toss.
Yorkshire had built the most solid of bases on the first day ending it at 282 for 3 but it was not a runaway score. This season, on more occasions than one, Somerset have turned situations where the opposition have threatened to win and then pressed on to come away with a victory themselves. Those occasions, and six of Somerset’s seven victories, have come against sides in the bottom half of the table. Somerset did not play a top four side in the first six matches of the season during which time they built up a 30-point lead at the top of the table. This is their third match against top-four sides. They have won one, lost one and are now odds on favourites to lose another of those.
In 2018 the defining match was against Surrey at Guildford which Somerset began as Championship leaders. After that devastating defeat it was clear Somerset would not win the Championship that year. The change-around, if that is what is happening, has not been so clear cut in 2019. Even if this match is lost the winning of the Championship will still be in Somerset’s hands, as it will be in Essex’s because Somerset’s last match of the season is against Essex at Taunton. If it comes to that as it now very well might Somerset would have to overcome 128 years of expectation as well as Essex.
It is worth noting too that the last time a side won the County Championship having lost more than one match was in 2013 when Durham won ten and lost four. This match is not lost yet but with Somerset already four wickets down, still 444 runs adrift and Maharaj getting at least one ball to turn sharply they will need a performance of gargantuan proportions to avoid a second defeat and to stay at the head of the table.
I arrived at the ground, after completing my first day report, about half an hour into the day’s play. Groenewald, Somerset’s most consistent bowler in this match, keeping a tight grip on the Yorkshire scoring, had bowled the nightwatchman Shaw. As I found my way to a seat Kohler-Cadmore, with two boundaries, reached his century. As I sat down he edged Craig Overton to Jamie Overton at second slip and Yorkshire were 319 for 5. With the score on 343, Brook, on 25, edged Abell, the ball bisected Davies and Hildreth at first slip, both moved towards it and both stopped and the ball ran to the boundary. 343 for 6, with Brook gone, might just have pushed the door ajar for Somerset. Bess, as he had throughout the first day, immediately roared his encouragement from the boundary, “Come on Tommy A!”, but in the pit of your stomach it felt the moment had passed.
Brooks’ removal of Tattersall shortly afterwards with a ball which seemed to lift and take the shoulder of the bat or perhaps the glove before looping to Jamie Overton at slip had Yorkshire at 351 for 6. It was the apogee of Somerset’s day for thereafter Brook, made his good fortune count. In partnerships of nearly 50 with Fisher and over 100 with Maharaj he steered Yorkshire to beyond 500 and destroyed any prospect of a Somerset victory.
As the weight of Yorkshire runs released the pressure the on their batsmen the rate of scoring accelerated. There was one flash of hope for the Somerset bowlers. Fisher drove hard at Craig Overton and edged the ball at catchable height but it flew too wide for Jamie Overton’s dive at slip. As lunch approached Brook turned Jamie Overton to long leg to bring up his 50 and, since he had been missed, had looked in no trouble. When the lunch interval arrived with Yorkshire on 386 for 6 and Warwickshire on 57 for 4 in reply to Essex’s 245 you could feel Somerset’s lead in the Championship shrinking in front of your eyes.
The afternoon session was demonstrably Yorkshire’s. Bess, who bowled more overs than any other bowler, forced an edge from Fisher which Banton took at short leg caught. 398 for 7. That brought Maharaj to the wicket. He, with Brooks holding firm at the other end, put any remaining thoughts that Somerset might somehow find a way to win this match to flight. At five and a half runs an over he and Brook, but mainly he, finally, emphatically and at speed, took the match far beyond Somerset’s reach. In one short phase of play he drove Bess for four, pulled him over one of the long square boundaries for six and drove Groenewald through the covers for another four whilst Brook added an off drive off Bess for yet another four. Abell kept working on lifting his team with constant cries of, “Come on!” and repeated bursts of three emphatic claps of the hands. It made no difference as the runs contiued to flow like the waters over Niagara.
Waiting for a declaration, for that is what it felt like we were doing, is a dispiriting experience if it is your team that is doing the waiting. The Somerset heads kept up but it must have hurt that, for the first time in the field this season, they found themselves in a situation that looked completely beyond their control. Only when Maharaj, on 72, skied Bess to long on and Jamie Overton took the catch did Somerset regain some control in the field. Brook was on 89 with two wickets left and Somerset kept seven fielders on the boundary, constantly offering him the single in an attempt to get the tail ender on strike. Bess did remove Patterson, caught by Davies, but Brook and Olivier held their nerve for the eight overs it took for Brook to find the final runs he needed for his century.
520 is an enormous mountain to climb, five sessions in the field is an energy sapping marathon and an innings like that of Maharaj finally removing any semblance of control from the fielding side must sap the spirit. But it is in situations such as this that Championship winning sides find the strength to resist. Whether 16 overs, including the final two from the Rugby Stand End, on top of the responsibilities of captaincy is good preparation for opening the innings is a moot point. It could not have helped either that the ball from Fisher which Abell edged to slip swung perfectly away from him. He had played the same push drive in the previous over from Fisher and it had flown across the grass through extra cover to the boundary.
The ball that removed Azhar after he had scored four from 29 balls moved away but not significantly and I did notice that although the bat played forward the feet barely moved. Banton did come forward to Maharaj but the ball still took the edge to go through to Tattersal behind the stumps. Olivier seemed, if only at first, to get more bounce than the Somerset bowlers had done and when Bartlett attempted to pull a bouncer it flew straight to mid-on without much pace and Patterson took a simple catch, if any catch is simple.
Somerset were 49 for four and whilst those last three wickets spanned six overs it felt like they had fallen in as short a time as it takes to describe them. It was a numbing experience after the number of heights Somerset have reached this season and those faces I saw at the end of the day told the tale of just how numbing. More numbing than witnessing the Essex defeat for at Chelmsford losing the toss and the first innings of Sir Alistair Cook had been major factors. Here Somerset had offered Yorkshire first use of the pitch and then been completely outplayed on it.
From 49 for 4 Hildreth, who played with care and judicious attack throughout, and Davies gave a hint of permanence although twice in succession Davies was beaten by Maharaj and once Hildreth was beaten by a ball that clearly surprised him with sharp turn, confirmed by the text which said, “Huge turn there.”. It was impossible to tell from my angle whether other balls turned but the way the batsmen played a number of of them left me with the impression that they had.
With Essex 151 runs ahead of Warwickshire with nine second innings wickets in hand Somerset must draw this match to remain at the top of the table. From the position they find themselves in it will take the effort of a Colossus to do it. The bowlers have produced such efforts on a number of occasions this season. The batsmen only at Trent Bridge in the form of Abell and Bartlett and to a lesser extent at Taunton against Kent in the form of Bartlett. The size of the task and the presence of a test-class spinner in the form of Maharaj sets the odds heavily against them. It would give the rest of the season a Colossus size boost if the batsmen could pull it off.
Close. Yorkshire 520 ( G.S. Ballance 111, T. Kohler-Cadmore 102, H.C. Brook 101, D.M. Bess 4-130). Somerset 76 for 4. Somerset trail by 444 runs with six first innings wickets standing.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:07:15:10:31:34 by Farmer White.
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County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th July 2019. Headingley.
Overnight. Yorkshire 520. Somerset 76 for 4. Somerset trail Yorkshire by 444 runs with six first innings wickets standing.
Third day. 15th July – Of friends and signs of Somerset reviving
My friend from the days of May and Trueman, Alley and Wight came to the cricket again. No problems with his bus this time. Apparently, it was as reliable as a Bill Alley over and he arrived for the start as perfectly as a Bill Alley ball would have arrived on a length. My bus was a different matter. My habitual, report delayed departure, was further delayed as my bus waited obstinately at the stop for three minutes for the timetable to catch up with it. Three minutes is an age as interminable as thirty minutes in the dentist’s chair when Somerset are trying to save a game with the Championship potentially on the line. And the journey can take as long as having the nerve removed from your root canal if the bus decides to make acquaintance with every red traffic light in Leeds as well as pick up every member of the population it can find.
The journey is even longer if all the while Yorkshire are extracting Somerset batsmen like a dentist removing a job lot of teeth and your friend is providing a running commentary as you go. “Hildreth lbw Maharaj,” said the first text. Whilst I was absorbing that blow another text came in. It was from my occasional cricket-playing correspondent. He was watching the online feed and had decided to provide an expert summary of the wicket. “Hildreth out. Playing for the spin to a ball that did not turn.” Hildreth had made 37. Apparently, Maharaj was turning some balls although “not massively” and not others.
“Bess lbw Maharaj,” said the next text from my friend. In the midst of my composing a reply the ‘new text’ icon appeared at the top of the screen on my antiquated unsmart phone. “Another wicket or an expert summary on the last one?” the thought. It produced more anxiety than the dentist deciding to have another poke around in your mouth when you thought the ordeal was over. “Bess playing for spin to another ball which did not turn,” the expert summary. At least by now my bus had extricated itself from the centre of Leeds and looked as if it had decided to make a real effort to get me to Headingley before lunch. Not quickly enough. It was beaten by another text. “Craig Overton bowled Maharaj,” the seemingly by now almost inevitable news. “Bowled by a quicker ball,” the assessment of the expert summariser as the bus finally reached my stop. I have had more restful bus journeys, even ones travelling to watch Somerset play.
108 for 7 the stinging reality of the score as I emerged between the stands. Davies, who my wicket-battered brain had entirely forgotten was still at the crease, 33 not out. Jamie Overton was at the other end and before I had sat down he had crashed Olivier through the off side for four. It provided some balm to the shattered soul. More, when after some overs of studious front-foot-down-the-wicket defence and some occasional single swapping with Davies, he stepped down the wicket twice in two overs to hit Maharaj back over his head for six to the Rugby Stand sightscreen not far to my left. I didn’t change the inevitable deep-lying despond of Somerset still nearly 400 runs behind but it did lift the layer of the spirit which sat above the despond.
Davies had been playing an innings of intense defence. He had scored but four runs since I arrived and eight in all in his partnership of 35 with Overton. He had never looked comfortable against Maharaj but to the distant eye he had not looked to be in any undue trouble either and with Overton looking in even less trouble at the other end it came as something of a surprise when Davies didn’t get forward to a ball from Maharaj and edged it to Lyth at slip. Somerset were 138 for 8 and at 382 runs behind with Maharaj rampant the discussion centred around whether the innings would reach lunch and whether the match would reach the end of the day. As it was Overton and Groenwald, with some front foot defence and the occasional boundary including an inside edge past his stumps for four from Overton, steered Somerset to lunch at 168 for 8, the pair having added 30 runs in the half an hour or so since the fall of Davies.
During the course of that bit of relief my friend and I were joined by another friend of mine with whom I had work for a few years nearly 40 years before. My customary lunchtime circumnavigation was forgotten as our discussion of Somerset cup finals variously attended and not attended between the three of us all those years ago, but in the memory only yesterday, ate our lunch break. How two friends could between them collect their tickets on the day before one cup final, lose them between then and the next morning, end up watching the match on television and still be friends 40 years on must be one of the greater testimonies to the bonds of friendship in the annals of those supporting Somerset.
We were brought firmly back to the present by Jamie Overton. In the first over after lunch he struck Olivier for two fours and off the final ball despatched a bouncer over the cover boundary with a stunning uppercut that had all our jaws dropping. It was the stroke of the day and exemplified the fight Overton and Groenewald were taking to the Yorkshire attack. It took Overton to 51, Somerset to 178 for 8 and even to thoughts of a bonus point. But Maharaj still provided an ever-present threat and a slog-sweep for four by Groenewald was followed by two ferocious but unsuccessful appeals and a third successful one. Groenewald had made 15 but Somerset were still 18 short of that precious, perhaps all-important, bonus point with only Brooks, who received warm applause from the Yorkshire crowd, remaining to bat.
Overton struggled to get the strike but after a boundary from Brooks and two no balls from Olivier Somerset needed just eight runs for the bonus point with Brooks on strike against Maharaj. “He won’t last the over against him,” the spoken thought. The second ball he swept for four. When I saw him coming forward to defend the third my heart sank for Brooks always looks to me safer on the attack and the attack has on occasion come off. To his defensive stroke the ball looped nicely off the edge to Lyth at slip and Somerset were all out for 196. A deficit of 324 runs.
The follow-on was inevitable and Abell and Azhar emerged to try again. Abell got the innings underway with a cover drive which brooked no argument. An edge through third man for four apart he and Azhar did not look unduly troubled by Patterson and Fisher who opened the bowling for Yorkshire. “I thought they might have tried opening with Maharaj,” said one of my friends and the thought had crossed my mind for he was clearly the main threat and the extra bounce of the new ball might have aided him.
As it was Yorkshire persisted with pace for 14 overs. It seemed a blessing after the perils of facing Maharaj before lunch and Abell and Azhar took full measure from the opportunity with drives through the covers, glances to fine leg and steers to third man. 44 for 0 the score when Maharaj finally took the ball. “The real contest starts here,” someone said. That thought was reinforced when in the next over Abell when Abell took the attack to Shaw, glancing him for four and turning him square for another. Between the two he had benefited from a thick edge from a defensive stoke but it had travelled safely to the boundary for four but in essence Abell was playing an innings of growing assurance.
The pair then proceeded to play Maharaj with care but, as far as I could judge, with some confidence. There was much studied defence and the occasional beaten bat but no more than the ordinary against a quality spinner on a wicket offering a little help. There was some good fortune too. A firm drive from Azhar sped along the ground straight at the cover fielder but struck the edge of the matting protecting the wicket, took off and flew over the fielder’s head for four. A perfectly executed steer to third man found the boundary without such artificial aid. The pair took Somerset to tea at 79 for 0 which seemed like riches indeed after the cricketing disaster of the first innings.
The partnership must have had at least an air of permanence about it because as it developed my friend from schooldays and I fell into to piecing together some of our different but complementary fragments of childhood memory into a coherent picture of some of those times. Other friends no longer in contact were remembered and yet others who had been rediscovered with the aid of serendipity. It came as a surprise therefore when Azhar was beaten by a ball from Fisher which cut into him off the seam and he was lbw for 41. Somerset 89 for 1.
94 for 2 when, off his fourth ball, Hildreth attempted to loft Maharaj back over his head but only succeeded in looping it slowly to the mid-off fielder. The gasps of irritation from Somerset supporters were audible. “What an awful stroke, and after such a good start,” the general opinion and it was difficult to disagree but I always temper my thoughts with the other side of the Hildreth coin. The innings of sheer genius which have brought Somerset over 40 centuries and an average over 40. To my mind the cost of such dismissals as today’s, exasperating though they are, is worth the riches he has delivered for Somerset over the years.
It hurt more when, almost immediately, Abell was caught behind off Fisher for 53 defending against a ball which perhaps moved away a fraction off the pitch and Somerset were 101 for 3 still 223 runs behind. As thoughts of a collapse began to take shape Banton and Bartlett, in diametrically contrasting styles, began to despatch them back whence they came. Bartlett was all defence, scoring five in an hour. Banton, as is his style, amidst periods of intense defence, essayed a full-blooded attack on the bowling. None were spared. Even Maharaj was driven square and beautifully reverse-swept along the ground, both strokes spectacular and both delivering four runs. Olivier was driven through the covers just as spectacularly for four off the first ball of an over. Three times in the over he resorted to bouncing Banton. Three times Banton hooked him to the Western Terrace boundary for four. “You can pitch it at this end of the pitch you know,” was the response of a Yorkshire supporter a few rows in front of me.
A quarter of an hour before the close Yorkshire made what may have been an important breakthrough when Bartlett played forward to the ever-persistent Maharaj and was caught at slip. “A bit early,” one of my friends said when Groenwald came out to perform the nightwatchman duties with twenty minutes or so still to the close. But Groenewald was equal to the task and held his end secure.
A defeat from the position Somerset find themselves in with Maharaj in such form and the pitch offering occasional help to the seamers seems all but inevitable but some semblance of calm had been restored to the Somerset batting by the end of the day. Some more of the same on the final day might at least give some hope that Somerset might re-vitalise their challenge when the Championship resumes for another round of matches in a month’s time. And, whatever the outcome, I had had a wonderful day watching cricket in 2019, reliving cricket in 1978 and 1979 and childhood years lived before the Gillette Cup marked the beginning of a change in cricket the ramifications of which are with us still.
Close. Yorkshire 520. Somerset 196 (J. Overton 52, K.A. Maharaj 7-52) and 159 for 4 f/o. Somerset trail Yorkshire by 165 runs with six second innings wickets standing.
Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 2019:07:16:09:51:06 by Farmer White.
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County Championship Division 1. Yorkshire v Somerset. 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th July 2019. Headingley.
Overnight. Yorkshire 520. Somerset 196 and 159 for 4. Somerset trail by 165 runs with six second innings standing.
Final day. 16th July – Descent into despond and the will to prevail.
As I made to leave the ground a Yorkshire member asked me how I rated Somerset’s chances of winning the Championship. “We will need some consistency from our top order,” my reply. “This puts Yorkshire in with a chance,” he said although with half a wry smile. Yorkshire are 34 points behind Somerset and 38 points behind Essex with each having four matches to play. “You will need some help from Essex and Somerset,” I suggested. And added, “I think it unlikely both will slip up to the extent you need.” He was rooting for Somerset, he said, if Yorkshire couldn’t do it. That has been an almost universal comment, with their own county inserted, from opposition supporters around the country over the last two years and in the great majority of cases it seems a genuine sentiment. Somerset’s eternal pursuit of the Championship has assumed almost mythical status among knowledgeable lifelong County Championship watchers.
Thinking about Somerset’s prospects as I left the ground it occurred to me Yorkshire have yet to play Essex at Headingley and Somerset at Taunton, and in the final match of the season Somerset and Essex play at Taunton. Perhaps a Yorkshire title is, if unlikely, not entirely fanciful. As to a Somerset title the pattern of the fixture list may play a part. Somerset stormed to a 30-point lead after the first six matches of the season. All six were against the bottom four counties, then and now. Since then three of Somerset’s four games have been against teams in the top half of the table. Two of those three games have been lost. Three of the remaining four games are against those same three teams. Both of the defeats were away from home and the two teams in question have still to play at Taunton. The third team, Hampshire, were beaten at Taunton and have to be played at Southampton. It will not be the easiest of run-ins especially with the weight of hope those matches will be played under. There is much food for thought and there will never be a better time for the Somerset top order to produce a feast of runs.
There was never a particularly realistic prospect, with four top order batsmen already out and Maharaj bowling with such confidence and in such form, of Somerset batting well into the evening session which they would have to have done to save this match and garner the five points they would need to keep above Essex in the table. Even so I had set my alarm even further back into the night than usual in an attempt to complete my third day report in time to get through the gate for the start. I failed by about 15 minutes in part because of the inordinate amount of time it takes to buy a ticket at some grounds these days. It was as if the man behind the ticket window was engaged in some intense game of online poker as he looked intently at his computer screen and engaged in some sort of game of cat and mouse with it until, eventually, it yielded up a ticket.
“One gone already,” said one Yorkshire supporter to another as I emerged from the automatic turnstile which read my ticket in far less time than it had taken to produce it. “Always good to get one early,” the reply.” Who was out?” the desperate question the informant did not answer. Groenewald or Banton? It might make quite a difference. “Groenewald, trying to drive a wide one from Fisher,” said my old work colleague as I sat down near the sightscreen in the Rugby Stand. “He had already edged two balls for four. Didn’t need to play the one that got him out.” 171 for 5 the scoreboard read. Banton and Davies now at the wicket, probably Somerset’s last two batsmen who could bat ‘long’.
Banton looked as if he was trying to play ’long’. His front foot kept planting itself well down the wicket to Maharaj with the bat alongside to push the ball back down the pitch. To the seamers he seemed to leave or defend. It left an uneasy feeling. It is not Banton’s style and I wondered if he did not have enough to think about without having to concentrate on playing contrary to what has appeared to be his usual free-flowing game. When he reached forward to block a ball from Patterson it cut back, went through the ‘gate’ and upended his off stump. He had scored 63 but only five of them on the final morning. The heart, already looking down at the pit of the stomach, sank painfully towards it. Without long innings from Banton and Davies any remote hope of salvation in this match would be all but gone.
My friend and I had barely absorbed that shock when Bess was also bowled through the ‘gate’ by Patterson, also playing forward. Before the clock over the Western Terrace reached noon Davies, having beautifully late cut and then square cut Patterson for a brace of fours was out when, off the same bowler, he miscued a drive horribly to mid-off. Patterson had taken three wickets in less than half an hour. Too say Davies dismissal summed up Somerset’s demise would be harsh but that is exactly how it felt. My friend was lost for words, not something either of us much suffers from at the cricket, and I could not help him.
That left the Overton brothers at the wicket but a deficit of 113 and five hours of the day still unused was a situation beyond even their powers to rectify. That didn’t of course stop them tackling Yorkshire head on. Craig had already driven Maharaj about as straight as it is possible to drive. The ball had cleared the rope in front of the sightscreen to my left. When Jamie repeated his brother’s stroke off Maharaj it came down the same line but travelled about six feet further. I have recorded the six feet for posterity in case the brothers ever keep a reckoning. They each struck a pair of boundaries too, Craig reaching 23 and Jamie 21. They were both out lbw, Jamie for Maharaj’s third wicket and Craig for Patterson’s fourth after their rate of scoring had slowed, often a precursor of a wicket to my mind. And with that Somerset had lost by an innings amid an explosion of Yorkshire cheers and before the umpires had called lunch.
The news from the phones was that Warwickshire, only one wicket down overnight in their attempt to hold on for a draw against Essex, were subsiding. Somerset were still, technically, top of the table but the faces of Somerset supporters knew such technicalities would count for nothing in an hour or two. With just four matches still to play Somerset had ceded top place in the Championship to Essex. The 128-year wait suddenly weighed heavily indeed. The hope that had steadily risen on the crest of Somerset’s five victories in their first six matches had been dented at Chelmsford. After Headingley the prospect of another second place took its place alongside the hope. It produced an empty feeling. The pit of the stomach felt like a chasm and the heart plummeted into it.
I made my way back into Leeds to spend the hours before I could use my advance rail ticket, selected to minimise travel costs, on a train selected to ensure I could stay until close of play had the need arisen. Leeds is a vibrant city with much new-build in the old industrial quarter. When I spent my first exile in Leeds nearly 50 years ago I once counted over 130 factory chimneys from a vantage point on the side of the hill below the University of Leeds. There is now one and no smoke seems to emerge from that. Plush office blocks, residential accommodation, coffee bars and open spaces have taken their place at least in the section I walked through. It is not just the cricket world that moves on.
Green areas, real and artificial, are dotted about the city, covered shopping areas abound and the streets swarm with people. The city has nearly 60000 students in its two universities, a life-giver to a city if ever there was one. On the day Somerset lost to Yorkshire, hundreds, perhaps thousands, had returned from their summer break with parents in tow to attend their graduation ceremonies. Others had not gone home or live permanently in the city. On the green areas the City Council provides deck chairs and it was in one of these that I spent several hours, at times surrounded by students, as the newly-fledged graduates and their families paraded up and down.
I carry an e-reader with a goodly supply of historical texts, all bought for 99 pence or less, for just such circumstances as I now found myself in. It was an hour or more before I could bring myself to open it. The effect of Somerset’s defeat was numbing. Worse than the feeling after Guildford in 2018 even though after that it had been obvious to most of us there that Somerset would not win the Championship that year. But at the time of Guildford Somerset had only reached, and only just reached, the top of the table in the previous match, one third of the way through the season and Guildford had immediately shown Surrey to be the better team, not just in the match, but per se and that was all there was to it. The season and the world, for me at least, moved on.
But now, we were two thirds of the way through the season, Somerset had been top of the Championship since the second match and had come to Leeds 15 points ahead of Essex. The Championship, on paper at least, was within reach even if the bulk of the remaining matches were against the stronger teams. A defeat therefore of such proportions as that suffered here after the season Somerset had had thus far could not fail to shock. There had been mitigating factors at Chelmsford, not least the loss of the toss, and those might have made up for a good proportion of the difference between the two sides. At Headingley there were no mitigating factors after Yorkshire were, incomprehensibly to most supporters, invited to bat without a toss.
Eventually I forced myself to continue reading a life of Sir Robert Walpole, a man of unbounded calm and possessing an unshakeable will to prevail even in the face of the deepest crisis. An unshakeable will can take you a very long way. But even my deep interest in history could not keep thoughts about the cricket and the implications of Somerset’s defeat from disturbing the picture of Sir Robert’s twenty-year long dominance over all opponents. Eventually thoughts of the discussion with the Yorkshire member brought some balance. The Championship is still wide open. There are still four matches to be played. But if Somerset are to have a chance of winning the title they will now have to win an almighty three-way scrap involving the team above them and the team below them in the table. Crucially the batsmen, particularly at the top of the order, will have to score runs in greater numbers and more consistently than they have done thus far this season.
But above all the unshakeable will to prevail, particularly shown by the bowlers and fielders, which marked the victories against the teams at the bottom of the table at the beginning of the season, will have to be shown again at the end against the teams at the top. Every single ball faced or delivered will have to be faced or delivered as if the Championship depends upon it for, in a tight race, it very well might. This team has shown often enough this season it is capable of just that. If it can do so again September may be interesting yet.
Result. Yorkshire 520 (G.S. Balance 111, T. Kohler-Cadmore 102, H.C Brook 101, D.M Bess 4-130). Somerset 196 (J. Overton 52*, K.A. Maharaj 7-52) and 251 (T. Banton 63, T.B Abell 53, Azhar Ali 41, S.A. Patterson 4-54, M.D. Fisher 3-61, K.A Maharaj 3-75). Yorkshire won by an innings and 73 runs. Yorkshire 22 points. Somerset 1 point.
Edited 3 time(s). Last edit at 2019:07:18:00:57:56 by Farmer White.