Jack Brooks looked a shrewd signing for Somerset at the start of the season, and so it proved on the fourth day at Guildford as the quick took his maiden five-wicket haul for the club to blow reigning champions Surrey away.
His devastating opening spell of bowling, in which he took three for 11 to add to his pair of wickets on the third evening, squeezed hope away from the hosts, who resumed two wickets down needing only 168 more runs.
Brooks induced Gareth Batty’s edge from his first delivery, the ball whizzing past second slip, but four overs later knocked over off stump with Batty heaving to leg.
Dean Elgar inside edged a yorker onto his stumps third ball — he began the season with a century at Taunton, but now averages 6.14 in his last seven innings — before Ben Foakes was very well taken, low down at second slip by Marcus Trescothick. Brooks had three wickets in seven balls and Surrey had collapsed.
“I put a lot of pressure on myself and I probably haven’t come to the party too much this season coming back from injury,” Brooks reflected on his five for 33. “I like to think I rise to the big occasions and these fourth day innings trying to defend a small score, I’m used to doing that over the years.”
Tim Groenewald replaced Brooks at the Railway End, but the Jenga exercise wasn’t done there. First ball, Groenewald yorked Scott Borthwick for 45 and then Will Jacks was pinned lbw an over later, by one that nipped back and kept low.
Groenewald had his third wicket when Rikki Clarke swished wildly and was snaffled by Steven Davies in front of first slip. Ryan Patel deposited Craig Overton into the trees but guided to gully four balls later, and when Morne Morkel chipped to mid off Somerset claimed a 102-run victory.
For Somerset, a momentous victory, moving top of the table and reminding everyone of their hunger for the Specsavers County Championship. When they were trounced at Guildford a year ago the title seemed to swing in the direction of Surrey, who refused to let go.
This season, Surrey have held the trophy as if with Vaseline on their hands. They remain winless and may drop to seventh if Warwickshire beat Nottinghamshire. Injuries and international calls have depleted their squad but on paper this side is far stronger than this.
“We’ve probably got to win all nine games and hope [Somerset] might slip up at some stage,” Surrey captain Rory Burns said of their title hopes. “Someone’s got to beat them for us and reel them back in.
“I think if we win nine games of cricket we wouldn’t be far away but at the minute we’ve got to win one game of cricket.
“There was a game to win there and we haven’t quite been able to do that. Batters showed at various times on that wicket that it wasn’t unplayable.
“We’re probably not being got out at the minute, we’re finding ways of getting ourselves out.”
Somerset have four wins from five matches; Surrey had three after five last season in their charge to silverware. The reverse fixture at Taunton last month provides their only missed points and there is a sense that momentum is building around this side.
Could this be the year they break their Championship duck?
“It’s one game at a time for us,” said captain Tom Abell. “We know things can change very quickly. Certainly not thinking too far ahead.”
He did, however, note the importance of this crushing victory.
“When you turn over a side like that, eight international cricketers in their side, they’re a quality opposition.
“They stormed the league last year and I have no doubt their form will turn around, but for us to beat such a good side is particularly pleasing.”