At the end of two days of shifting fortunes, Somerset are fighting hard to deprive Warwickshire of the maximum bowling bonus points and the win that would give the Midlands side the County Championship
There can have been few more exciting spells of cricket, whether in the Hundred, the Blast or any other form of the game, than that played in the first hour and a quarter of the second day.
In that time, Somerset did their level best to scupper Warwickshire’s hopes of a fourth batting point. Spearheaded by Craig Overton, they reduced the Bears from their overnight 283-4 to 322-9, with 28 runs still needed off 23 balls.
We were then treated to the sight, in the absence of fielding restrictions, of the last pair batting with nine men on the boundary. This made Warwickshire’s task well nigh impossible. Craig Miles and Danny Briggs did their best but 11 were still wanted off the 110th over.
Briggs was on strike. He hit the first ball of Jack Brooks’ over through extra cover for four, struck the next past backward point for another boundary and then smote a mighty six over square leg. Fourth bonus point achieved! And in all, 20 came from the over.
With Nottinghamshire just missing out on a third bonus point, the statisticians amongst us rapidly concluded that the winning or losing of the Championship title was now in Warwickshire’s hands – provided they could take maximum bowling bonus points and also win the match.
When Craig Miles hit a return catch to Overton, the last wicket pair had added 45 runs off 40 balls. Briggs was left unbeaten with 53 off just 31 deliveries. He hit five fours and three sixes.
In the morning, Overton, who had laboured without reward on the first day, had taken 5-31 in 8.5 overs.
In the lead up to those last wicket heroics, Somerset had struck early, Michael Burgess edging Overton to the keeper and Sam Hain failing to add to his overnight score before being comprehensively bowled by Jack Brooks. Then Chris Woakes played an airy shot at Overton to be caught at backward point. At 297-7, that fourth bowling point looked far distant.
Somerset who, dare one say it, had occasionally looked slightly apathetic at times on the first day were now very much on the case. Both Brooks and Overton were managing some movement in the air and off the pitch. Tim Bresnan aimed to hit one delivery from Overton through mid wicket, only to see the ball fly past his off stump. The 300, which at the start of the day seemed just a minor stepping stone, was greeted with grateful applause.
When Bresnan hit a half volley straight back into Overton’s midriff, Warwickshire were 304-8 and had lost four wickets for just 17 runs.
Warwickshire’s intent was still there, as demonstrated by Craig Miles scooping Josh Davey for four and, though never boring, hitting him over mid-wicket for 6. Then Craig Norwell was well caught by Azhar Ali at long off, a steepling catch off Overton, which set up that dramatic last wicket stand.
After the early excitement, the rest of the day was bound to be a slight anti-climax.
Somerset made a steady start before Ben Green was bowled by Chris Woakes. Tom Lammonby, who after a miserable red ball season hit a sublime second innings century against Lancashire last week, seemed for a time to be on course to repeat the effort before that man Briggs got in on the action again and took a smart caught and bowled.
Tom Abell then continued his recent run of dismal form by edging Liam Norwell to the keeper. Azhar Ali held firm and reached a solid fifty before Tim Bresnan served up a nasty lifting delivery. Will Rhodes took a sharp catch at second slip to send Ali on his way for 60.
After brief resistance, Lewis Goldsworthy holed out to Chris Woakes off Danny Briggs. 187-5 could have been 187-6 when new batsman Lewis Gregory slashed at another Briggs delivery and the ball hit Tim Bresnan at slip, somewhere near the shoulder.
Although they strove hard for a further breakthrough, the Warwickshire bowlers were thwarted by stern resistance from Gregory and Stephen Davies who put together a fifty partnership. Somerset closed on 239-5.
And so we can look forward to two more days of hard fought cricket before the destiny of the Championship trophy is decided.