Somerset 351 for 4 (Renshaw 129, Abell 70, Lammonby 56) vs Warwickshire
The current issue of Somerset Life contains a feature entitled “Twelve Reasons to Visit the Quantocks”. Fair enough but anyone sitting on the top deck of the Marcus Trescothick Pavilion this benign afternoon would have been able to name four dozen such justifications. This, after all, is the view some have been denied for three years.
However, an important, if subsidiary, justification for home spectators’ satisfaction was that instead of haemorrhaging wickets to the second new ball when Abell was third out on 277, Somerset were guided to overnight prosperity by Tom Banton and Steve Davies, whose modest but unbroken fifth-wicket partnership of 26 has left their side well-placed to take five batting bonus points from a game for the first time since last July. This, then, was the best day of the home side’s season so far but it is one that only Oliver Hannon-Dalby among Warwickshire’s bowlers will recall with particular pleasure.
In normal times Somerset’s prosperity would have been received with trenchant salutes on Gimblett’s Hill. However, that part of the ground is cordoned off because it is being redeveloped to allow greater access and more facilities for disabled spectators while retaining the quasi-feudal status of one of this place’s sacred areas. The regulars, you may be certain, are keeping a close watch to ensure that the memorial benches are restored. They can just about cope with losing matches down here but messing with Harold’s special space is different gravy.
There have been other changes at the County Ground. The old Ian Botham Stand, later the Sir Ian Botham Stand, has now been renamed The Lord Ian Botham Stand, thus reflecting a degree of escalating deference that would have done credit to the court of Louis XIV. Rumour has it that the area around the said seats is now known as the Lower the Tone End.
Of course, these cosmetic concerns did not trouble anyone during a first session in which Renshaw and Lammonby batted as if century stands have been ten-a-penny for Somerset’s batters this season. One noticed both batters’ clips off their legs in the opening overs but by luncheon the score was 130 without loss and they had reached their fifties with strokes to most parts of this ground. Lammonby’s straight drive off Will Rhodes was the sweetest of them; Renshaw’s pulled six into the Somerset Stand the most rewarding. The public address announcer signally failed to suppress the note of astonishment in his voice when he informed the crowd of what they could all see on the scoreboard. It was almost as though he was reassuring them that they hadn’t wandered into the back of the wardrobe.
That said, the pitch was misleadingly green and visitors have been suckered into batting second on such surfaces down here before only to find they are as bowler-friendly as the Blue Ridge Parkway. But the quality of the wicket makes little difference if you perform as poorly as Warwickshire in the first session. The accurate Hannon Dalby excepted, no bowler had conceded less than 4.4 runs an over at lunch, so it was perfectly fitting that the spearhead of the Edgbaston attack should take the first wicket when he slanted a good-length ball across Lammonby. The Somerset opener experienced a moment of deflection and Sam Hain took the catch.
Abell arrived at the crease and announced himself with a straight drive off Rhodes that was almost a declaration of purpose. Renshaw was already batting with similar assuredness and so for the next couple of hours, the pair were able to reinforce their team’s dominance. Renshaw clips and eases over his legs are a delight but he also leaves the ball with a circular D’Artagnanesque swish of the bat that is clearly borrowed from the atelier of S Smith (Kogarah). The Middlesbrough-born Australian reached his century off 158 balls with a back-cut boundary off Nathan McAndrew but just when the Somerset dressing room was preparing his isotonic refreshment in preparation for a third session at the crease, Renshaw edged a fine ball from Hannon-Dalby to the safe gloves of Michael Burgess, the wicketkeeper currently preferred to Alex Davies at Edgbaston.
The evening session was Warwickshire’s best of the day but that is not saying much for it. A dozen overs after the resumption and precisely at the juncture when we thought he might follow his 150 not out at The Oval with a second hundred, Abell tried to leg glance one of Rob Yates occasional off-breaks and gossamered a second catch of the day to Burgess. James Hildreth arrived and charmed the birds from their branches with three lovely fours. But experienced Hildy-watchers suspected what was coming and feared it dreadfully. The ball after his cover drive had elicited gentle smiles of fond recognition the Somerset veteran cut Hannon-Dalby straight to Craig Miles at point and trooped off with 23 runs against his name.
Having taken one wicket just before the new ball was due, Warwickshire had now taken a second when much of the shine remained. So it was to the substantial credit of Banton and Davies that they batted out the last eight overs of the day without further alarm. The pitch looks true and the course of this game is nothing like set but this has been a fine day for Somerset’s batters. A lovely one, as well, for those of us who witnessed it and can now watch an evening haze settling on those blue remembered hills.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications