|Ground:||County Ground, Taunton|
|Scorecard:||Somerset v Sussex|
|Player:||CD Nash, MW Machan, PD Trego|
|Event:||LV County Championship 2015|
DateLine: 8th July 2015
SOMERSET v SUSSEX
Taunton, Day 4
Close of play: Sussex (208 and 311/2) drew with Somerset (274 and 208/6).
Somerset today nearly lost a game they should have had little difficulty in saving, thanks to a tardy Sussex declaration that came after lunch. However, their top order nearly threw the match away with a disastrous collapse in mid-afternoon, when the first five batsmen for the most part threw their wickets away in the space of five overs. However, the home team found two heroes in Peter Trego and Luke Gregory, who dug in for more than two hours for the seventh wicket, keeping the Sussex bowling at bay until a draw was assured.
On a morning of uncertain weather, Sussex resumed at 311 for two wickets, a lead of 245, with Matt Mechan on 137 and Chris Nash on 76. There was no indication that they were pushing for an enterprising early declaration, and most of the morning seemed to consist of one landmark after another being reached.
The first landmark was Nash’s century. He took most of the strike early on, and ran to his hundred within twenty minutes with brisk scoring; it took him 148 balls altogether. Then came the 200 partnership between the pair, before Machan reached his 150, off 207 balls. It took just over an hour for the 400 total to come up. During that time the Somerset bowling looked for the most part quite toothless and helpless.
In the end the wicket fell quite easily, as Machan, instead of playing more safely with his score of 192, slithered down the pitch to play a strangely half-hearted drive at Abdur Rehman, and the simplest of stumping chances was accepted. He faced 237 balls and hit 26 fours; the total was now 440 for three.
Two overs later Craig Cachopa fell lbw to Rehman for six. In retrospect the bowler probably regretted appealing, as this brought in Luke Wright, and clearly now, at last, Sussex were preparing for a declaration. Wright got off the mark with a sweep for six off Rehman, and followed it up with two more. Perhaps the umpires found difficulty in seeing where his hits had gone, as they now took the players off for bad light and an early lunch. The score was now 468 for four, with Nash on 140 and Wright 19.
Even now Sussex declined to declare, bringing their batsmen back for another over and a half. They were profitable enough, if unnecessary: another 22 were added, Nash adding two runs to his score and Wright another 20 off six balls. When Ed Joyce called his men in, the score was 490 for four, and Wright had scored 39 not out off just twelve deliveries, with five sixes and two fours.
Somerset were set 490 to win, next to impossible even if Craig Overton were fit to bat, but Sussex had only 67 overs in which to dismiss them. Even given the hold Steve Magoffin often has over the Somerset batsmen, it is an unlikely task on the Taunton pitch even if the rain held off. None of the Somerset bowlers would care to remember their figures, with Thomas (one for 70 off 19 overs) alone going at under four an over.
A draw seemed almost to be assured for Somerset as Marcus Trescothick and Tom Abell shared a steady opening partnership of 69 in 19 overs, handling Magoffin and the others without much trouble. But then Luke Wells came on to bowl his off-breaks and Trescothick tried to greet him with a mighty and irresponsible slog-sweep – only to be bowled for 33.
This started an appalling collapse of the middle order, with each of the top five batsmen, all specialists, contributing to their own downfall within the space of just five overs. Myburgh fell for 6, Hildreth for 1, and then Abell edged into the slips for 36. Finally, when Allenby’s grope outside the off stump led to yet another slip catch, the score was 84 for five wickets, a shocking situation for the home team. Wells had three of these wickets, and the Pakistani left-arm spinner Ashar Zaidi two.
This left Trego and Gregory finding themselves suddenly with the need to fight for their team’s survival, and it was still before tea. They survived until the interval, ringed by close fielders, for another seven overs and four runs, the score then being 88 for five.
The atmosphere at tea seemed to suggest that Somerset’s last five wickets would have little hope of surviving the day and saving the match. But after tea Trego and Gregory continued to bat with grim determination, and gradually began to become more confident and assertive. Trego was the more aggressive, scoring at about twice the rate of his partner, and he went to his second fifty of the match off 82 balls.
Gregory fell for 32, caught at leg-slip off Robinson, just before the close, leaving Trego unbeaten on 95. Their magnificent fighting partnership of 120 have saved Somerset’s bacon, and the innings total was 208 for six. Wells finished with three for 56, Zaidi with two for 16, and Sussex doubtless rued their late declaration.
(Article: Copyright © 2015 John Ward)
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