Defiant Jones stalls Somerset's attempt at win
by John Ward

Ground:County Ground, Taunton
Scorecard:Somerset v Kent
Player:ME Trescothick, GO Jones, M Kartik
Event:LV County Championship 2010

DateLine: 25th July 2010


Marcus Trescothick will regret a conservative declaration at Taunton on the final day of their match against Kent, as it allowed the visitors to escape with a draw as the game went down to the final over. Set 335 to win, Kent finished the match at 191 for seven wickets, and Somerset had to settle for a draw.


The loss of the entire day’s cricket on the third day did not necessarily condemn the match to a draw, as it would on a traditional Taunton pitch, but it obviously made a definite result less easy to obtain. Somerset had the tricky decision to make about a declaration, starting the final day as they did on 128 for two in their second innings, 161 runs ahead of the visitors. They began against some very erratic bowling from Amjad Khan, who twice produced wild deliveries that beat the keeper to the boundary in his first over.


The overnight pair of Marcus Trescothick and Alfie Thomas were positive from the start, with Thomas soon showing aggression with an assortment of attacking strokes. Trescothick for a while played it cool, until he hit a ball from Khan over midwicket for six; the bowler responded with another wild delivery that cost four more byes. Trescothick fell for 80, though, driving a low catch to short extra cover after having just evaded the same fielder, James Tredwell, with a similar stroke that went for two. He faced 101 balls and hit eight fours and three sixes. In the next over Thomas followed him for 30, bowled by Malinga Bandara as he went on the slog.


Zander de Bruyn and James Hildreth continued the aggressive approach, the former getting away with some reverse sweeps, the quality of which varied from outstanding to dubious. Hildreth was slower to open up, but he swept past his partner in the late twenties; however, when on 48 he unwisely ventured into the disreputable world of reverse sweeps and was given out from a skied catch to the keeper off Bandara; he faced 37 balls. Next ball, but at the other end, de Bruyn fell for 43 (40 balls) to an unusual dismissal; groping outside off stump to a ball from the erratic Matt Coles, the ball was dropped by the same keeper, Geraint Jones, but it lodged in his pads and the batsman had to depart. Somerset were now 285 for six, 318 runs ahead, and a declaration appeared imminent.


Peter Trego had a slog and quickly skied a catch for 4; Craig Kieswetter and Ben Phillips had a few big heaves before the declaration came at 12.36 with the total 301 for seven. All the top six had contributed to that total, playing with purpose, and their batting during the morning session had been the most confident of the match, with the Kent bowling rendered quite ineffective. Coles took three for 73, but his last two wickets came with the batsmen on the slog and the figures rather flattered him.


Kent therefore needed 335 to win, and in four overs before lunch they cleaned up twelve of these. After the break Joe Denly and Sam Northeast progressed with confidence, against rather some rather ineffectual bowling. Northeast played some fine drives through the covers, although he narrowly escaped being caught off one such drive. Finally, in the fourteenth over and rather belatedly in the view of many, Murali Kartik, seen as Somerset’s potential match-winner, was brought on to bowl.


The batsmen, however, were not to be overawed by Kartik, who did not begin well, and the 50 came up in the 19th over – following which 12 came off Kartik’s fourth over, including a six by Denly. The first wicket came unexpectedly, as Denly (36 off 54 balls) drove a ball from Thomas straight, only for the bowler to hold a sharp chance very well. The opening pair had put on 67 and given their team a fine start.


Unfortunately for Kent, it didn’t last, as the momentum was interrupted and with only ten more added Northeast, trying to turn a ball to leg off Kartik, skied an easy catch to square leg for 40. The Indian spinner was now settling down to bowl with more accuracy, making the ball turn and bounce disconcertingly at times. Jones in particular had some narrow escapes from miscues and a difficult edge to the keeper, but Martin van Jaarsveld (6) went first, well caught low down at deepish square leg by Jos Buttler as he tried to pull Willoughby; 94 for three. One got the impression now that Kent had given up serious hope of victory. Jones and Blake played a subdued game until tea, when the score was 100 for three.


235 in the final session was never a serious possibility, and it appeared that Somerset may have been too conservative in their declaration. Alex Blake had a very difficult time at the crease, but so had Kieswetter behind the stumps. Blake finally surrendered by padding up to Kartik for 10, plumb lbw, and Darren Stephens, next in, edged another sharp turner and lifter from Kartik to the juggling Trescothick at slip. He made 9, and Kent were 134 for five with a minimum of 20 overs to be bowled.


But James Tredwell was the man for the hour, as was Jones, who settled down very well after such a dodgy start to his innings. The two, without undue alarms, played with good sense and, as Kartik tired, few alarms. The game lost its intensity as Somerset began mentally to accept that their chance of victory had gone. There was some brief excitement as, with twenty minutes to go, Tredwell uncharacteristically moved across his stumps, trying to turn a ball from Kartik to leg, and was lbw for 15. The total was 166 for six, and soon afterwards, four minutes from time, Jones’s long vigil came to an end as Kartik beat him and trapped him lbw for 47, scored off 150 balls. But it was too late for Somerset, and the last three Kent wickets remained intact. Kartik finished with five for 57, bowling a marathon 31 overs.


This uncommonly green Taunton pitch has been good for the game. It did give help to both seam and spin bowlers, but it was still possible for batsmen to succeed on it, as Somerset showed in their second innings. Its very colour probably put gremlins into the minds of the batsmen in the first innings. But, after a third-day washout, it kept the match alive and provided a good finish. It came much closer to providing an even balance between bat and ball than the old Taunton featherbeds, and, if persevered with, would certainly give the home county a better chance of winning the first championship title in their history.


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