Somerset 209 (Hannon-Dalby 5-18) and 164 (Norwell 7-41) beat Warwickshire 135 (Overton 5-31) and 189 (Hain 92*) by 49 runs
Somerset’s thoughts are firmly on the Royal London Cup final at Lord’s on Saturday, and the prospect of their first limited-overs trophy for 14 years, but once their fate is known attention will turn again to what has become a perennial question: is this the year they can win the County Championship for the first time?
In fact, that’s a conservative assessment. Tom Abell, Somerset’s captain, was asked after victory over Warwickshire if they could win the treble. With the first trophy not even gathered in yet, Young Mr Abell treated the assembled media to his most bristly, firm-jawed expression he could muster and pronounced something ultra-responsible about not looking too far ahead. Quite.
Warwickshire took some chiselling out on the third morning with Somerset needing a delayed lunch to complete a 49-run victory. The chief obstacle was Sam Hain, who extended his overnight 43 to 92 not out. He registered the only half-century of the match and played with a sobriety while so many others were throwing back tequila slammers.
ALSO READ: Dawson, Willey in Warwickshire’s sights as Farbrace looks to lift club
With Liam Norwell’s seven-for on debut also in mind, Warwickshire’s head coach Jim Troughton reflected: “We had the game’s outstanding batsman and bowler, but still lost the game. But we went toe to toe with Somerset who are the in-form side in the country.” Nevertheless, Somerset remain top, Warwickshire bottom, and they will be grateful that only one county goes down this season to accommodate a divisional restructuring.
Not too many conclusions can be drawn from such a fast-on-the-draw encounter on a skittish pitch, but Somerset’s Championship challenge can last deep into the season, especially as an outstanding side has yet to announce itself. Jack Brookes’ return to fitness will supplement their pace bowling stocks and the fact that they have loaned out players with as much ability as Jamie Overton and Dom Bess tells of the quality at their disposal. If they lack anything, it is one more batsmen with an old-fashioned desire to bat long, a Sam Hain in other words.
Victory just after one o’clock on the third day gives Somerset ample time to prepare for a Lord’s final that is somewhat devalued by the absence of Hampshire’s England do, but Abell knows that Somerset’s weakest performance over 50 overs was against a below-strength Middlesex side so remains wary of over confidence.
Jason Kerr, Somerset’s coach, played down suggestions that a green surface had been prepared with an early finish in mind. He was wise to say nothing to vex the pitch inspectors, and if Somerset pushed things a little, they remained within acceptable limits.
“It is not an exact science what the surface is going to do,” Kerr said. “We wanted a little bit more pace in the surface than the match against Surrey. There were only two days between the games and preparation time was limited. I don’t think anybody anticipated the cricket to be as quick or as action packed as it has been.
“I encourage the cricketers to adapt themselves but there’s no doubt we need to adapt as well. There is always a fine line. I am still not comfortable at the minute. There are too many soft dismissals. But the way we are operating as a bowling unit is arguably getting us out of a little bit of trouble with the bat.”
Warwickshire began the morning on 103 for 6, needing a further 136 to win on a pitch that had assisted the seamers and, to a lesser degree the spinners, throughout the game. Three wickets fell in the first hour: Henry Brookes poking at Liam Gregory’s wide outswinger; Jeetan Patel bowled leg stump by one that came back sharply; and Norwell, Warwickshire’s hero with the ball, caught at the wicket against Tim Groenewald, trying to force off the back foot.
An early finish appeared to be on the cards. The Somerset members who had grumbled about free admission (“what do we get in return then?”) were probably looking at the ne’er -do-wells and thinking it was a good thing too.
But Hain was dropped on 49 by Davies after getting an inside edge to a ball from Gregory and the resulting single brought up the game’s only half-century, some reward for his technical excellence and determined mindset.
Norwell survived a tough caught and bowled chance to Groenewald in the same over before edging a back-foot force to the keeper in the bowler’s next over. With 99 needed from the last pair, there was minimal tension, but Oliver Hannon-Dalby provided wholehearted support.
On 84, Hain was given another life when Groenewald misjudged a top-edged hook off Gregory at fine-leg and allowed the ball to drop over his head before bouncing over the rope. With lunch delayed, the last-wicket stand grew to 49 before Hannon-Dalby steered a wide ball from Gregory to Overton (who had an excellent all-round match) at gully. “We were getting a bit twitchy,” Abell admitted. But victory had been logged and it was preparation time for the Lord’s final to begin in earnest.