Tuesday 20th July 2021 – National Counties Game – The County Ground, Taunton
I’m going to start this little post with a shout out to a train company. It isn’t often that we can say positive things about any of the companies who run our railways but on the hottest day of the year, with warnings in place that the high temperatures may impact transport infrastructure, I went on four trains and each one was clean, air conditioned, provided WiFi and ran on time. I could myself lucky that it happened and know it was the exception rather than the rule.
So today was an opportunity to tick off another county ground on my UK Summer Tour but also combine with a football match at a new ground. I’m not sure who had nudged the counties to set up these showcase games on this particular day but it was a fantastic idea, although I am sure that Somerset may look back on it with some regret and red faces not just caused by the extreme heat.
Cornwall came, bowled well at the death and then batted patiently to eventually win by five wickets, chasing down a decent score of 260 with nearly four overs to spare. Not quite what the fans had expected going into the Royal London Cup games and coming off strong performances in the Vitality T20 which saw them finish runners-up to Kent in the South Division.
A number of these games were unfortunately cancelled for various reasons – my original plan had been to watch Suffolk take on Kent round the corner at Beckenham but instead I drove 120 miles to Chippenham then caught the train to Taunton to see one of the seven games still going ahead.
Despite tickets being just £10 there was a sparse crowd in the County Ground, with most people hiding from the sunshine in the impressive Marcus Trescothick pavilion. Somerset won the toss and decided to bat, fielding a team with a mix of experience. The last time these two sides met was 14 years ago with Somerset winning by 209 runs.
Despite a steady start, Somerset soon found themselves 62/3 but an impressive quick-fire partnership between Lewis Goldworthy and George Thomas added 98 for the 4th wicket, both eventually scoring half centuries.
As the clock moved towards one, it was time for some food. Somewhere in my not so big bag I had a sausage roll but I couldn’t find it, rummaging and removing items until it was located in my cricket hat. I put everything back before I heard a “finally” muttered from behind me in a sarcastic tone. I wasn’t sure whether the speaker was referring to me or the Somerset batsmen who were getting bogged down. I soon realised it was the former and the person in question had no inner voice filter. They simply said everything they were thinking – this came to light when their wife pointed out to them that they had just offended another women for wearing a hat that was “too bright”.
245-6 with four overs to go someone managed to become 249-9 as none of the tail end seemed to want to still around in the heat with lunch in the offing. Thankfully a last wicket stand between Sonny Baker and Jack leach saw them to 260, a decent score on such a hot day.
I used the follow the shade principal and moved my seat in time for the second innings, but realised how dangerous the stand I was located in could be with such a short boundary. In the first over a deft flick from Westbury took a nanosecond to reach the ropes, giving the fielders on this side of the pitch no chance.
The Cornwall openers started slowly and were soon outpaced by extras, with 14 of those on the board before either batsman had got to double figures. Cornwall kept up a 5 an over run rate before Westbury was caught by Goldworthy on the boundary/at backward square leg off Jack Leach for 26.
Kent and Harvey kept score ticking over before the former eventually lost his concentration and skied a simple ball straight up in the air for Barlett to catch when he had made 60, but Harvey kept on going. Support came and went down the order but he made sure the run rate was never more than 6 an over. With the final power play starting he eased ahead of the scoring and saw his team home for a famous victory with less than four overs to go. The only disappointment was that he remained seven short of a deserved century.
Whilst this was a surprise result – five of the other games saw the first class counties win convincingly, it doesn’t rank up there in terms of a major shock. It was a weakened Somerset side and the scorching temperatures were a real leveller for both side.