Anthony Gibson: View from the boundary’s edge 2022
Anthony Gibson: View from the Edge of the 2022 Frontier
BBC commentator Anthony Gibson gave Somerset a front row seat to another dramatic season.
Here is an excerpt of his review of the club’s 2022 campaign, which will appear in full in the 2022 Almanac.
It was a minister’s egg of a season – good in parts, but best not to dwell too long on some of the other parts. Commentating on home games at ground level, in Peter Trego’s favorite corner, wasn’t an entirely new experience as we’d been stationed there before when the Trescothick Pavilion was built. But it would be fair to say that as a vantage point it didn’t add much magic to the view.
Looking at the Championship fixture list it always seems likely that Somerset’s fate could depend on how they fared in the toughest starts – away to Hampshire and Surrey, home to Essex and Warwickshire, four of the strongest on paper teams in the country. Being without Craig Overton, Jack Leach and the returning Matt Renshaw to open in a windswept Ageas Bowl didn’t help at all, and a disappointing three-day innings loss was the result, the only consolation being a typically fluid 87 from James Hildreth.
If this was a false dawn, then the game’s outcome was an overly prophetic foretaste of what was to come. But the losses to Essex and Surrey could just as easily have gone the other way. The morning session on Saturday 16 April offered the most convincing cricket of the season as Craig Overton stormed in from the end of the Trescothick Pavilion, determined to eject Essex for less than the 84, which was all it took them to win. Superbly assisted by Peter Siddle, he finished on 6/30 to go into the first innings on his 7/57. But it was in vain as Rossington and Snater fought a leg-bye for the win.
It was different in the oval. Far from snatching victory from the jaws of defeat, Somerset twice threw away potentially dominant positions as they went from 223/3 to 337 all-outs in the first inning and from 132/2 to 207 all-outs in the second. This time it was Tom Abell’s composed and stylish 150* that was in vain and that made it three losses in three to September’s four losses – seven on the go, its worst run in decades. There was no discouragement.
But this Somerset side is rock solid and they hit back with two innings wins, against Warwickshire at home and Gloucestershire away. One particularly happy memory is the rhythmic hand clapping of the Taunton crowd as Jack Brooks ran in Warwickshire’s second innings like he was an Olympic long jumper. I have seldom seen Jack happier than after proving both his physical fitness after a very tough spell with ankle problems as well as his worth at the side. With an injury-stricken Gloucestershire put to the sword at Bristol courtesy of another good Abell century and Jack Leach’s best bowling of the season, hope seemed to burgeon once again.
Only to be cruelly obliterated in the next game: bowled out for 69 in the second innings by Messrs. Barker, Abbott and Abbas. That was easily the worst afternoon of the season, and Jason Kerr offered no excuses afterward. A second loss to Surrey, despite the best efforts of Peter Siddle and a rapidly improving Kasey Aldridge, left us with nothing to do but play for First Division survival. It was good to see Jamie Overton back at the CACG; not quite so good to see him knock out both his brother and Josh Davey with scary bouncers and Somerset needs two concussion subs!
So at this unusually early stage of the season, the focus shifted to the blast, beginning with a stunning win at Canterbury. Rilee Rossouw – whose recruitment some of us doubted! – announced himself with 81 in 54 balls in a game-winning 121 straight partnership with Captain Tom. As if rubbing our noses in us doubters, he followed with 67 against Essex, 26 in a low-scoring game at the Ageas Bowl, 74 against Sussex and 30* to complete the Glamorgan crush at Taunton after Tom Banton and Will Smeed had put together a century-opening partnership – which sadly wasn’t the shape of things to come. Rossouw failed once at Bristol, only for the bulldog, Roelof van der Merwe, to pull the fat from the fire when all seemed lost in what for me, with all due respect to Rilee, was the T20 innings of the season. What a fine, lively cricketer he is!
As in 2021, the Blast Quarterfinals should prove to be one of the standout events of the season. Banton, Rossouw and Lammonby sent the hapless Derbyshire bowlers all over the place, 18 sixes raining down on the sold-out crowd. As might be expected, the shocked Derbyshire batsmen capitulated for 74 and left Somerset with the biggest win of 191 runs in domestic T20 history.
But history was not to repeat itself on finals day, just a week later. Opponents in the semi-finals were Hampshire again, but a Somerset side, tired from four bleeding days in the Southport heat, wasted too many runs and lost too many wickets as batsmen gathered momentum. It was a shame because on their day the 2022 Somerset T20 side was a match for anyone.
The four-day mid-season games were hot and grueling, with highlights being a brave and potentially match-saving first century from Lewis Goldsworthy at Southport, a game that also saw a hugely impressive debut from James Rew. We might have beaten Yorkshire at Taunton if it hadn’t rained on the final day and it took Rew – the first of many, if I may judge – and Tom Banton, who batted as a concussion substitute, centuries to get to four hot Days to revive at Chelmsford on a swollen pitch that risks giving the four-day game a bad name.
Hopes were never very high for Royal London, with Somerset missing at least eight top-flight players, but even then, losing seven out of eight was weak. It was good to see the young fast bowlers get their chance, Sonny Baker impressive again and Ben Green’s remarkable 157 against Durham will long be remembered, our chivalrous captain the embodiment of heroic failure as he dragged himself off the fateful final over. Hopes that veterans James Hildreth and Steve Davies would somehow turn back the clock and form winning combinations with the youngsters were soon dashed when Hildy exited the Durham game in a dejected final; the saddest moment of the season.
The fight for survival in the First Division becomes all the more important amid rumors about the future form of championship cricket, the side being bolstered by Pakistan test players Imam ul Haq and Sajid Khan. Rain spoiled what could have been a happy ending against Gloucestershire and then Jack Brooks dashed Warwickshire’s hopes of chasing 364 and winning at Edgbaston by two wickets in an over, a game in which the climax for me was a typically elegant one was, and also long overdue century by George Bartlett.
The highlight of the season came in the penultimate game – a win over Northants in three days in glorious September sunshine. Two flowing centuries from Tom Abell and another, slightly more studious one for Tom Lammonby laid the foundation for victory but it was Craig Overton’s return from England duty and a back injury that made all the difference. The roar that went up as he flew low to snag Jack White of Tom Abells Bowling to seal the win – certainly the champagne moment of the season – was only challenged by the cheers that greeted the news, that Gloucestershire had scraped Gloucestershire home from Warwickshire, meaning a win in Somerset would make us certain.
But there were positives. The home batsmen – Abell, Lammonby, Bartlett, Banton and Goldsworthy – combined scored over a thousand more runs than in 2021. James Rew made his breakthrough. Rilee Rossouw’s hitting lit up the blast, Craig Overton was a transformative influence whenever he played, and we enjoyed Matt Renshaw’s Australian exuberance and Peter Siddle’s big heart.
During the hot summer of 2022, when most other grounds were parched and brown, Taunton’s outfield was immaculate, a huge credit to Scott Hawkins and his hard-working ground crew. And nobody (except maybe the players) could have made that judgment better than us BBC commentators – on the edge of the line!
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