Both sides have a strong chance of qualifying for Division One
Gloucestershire27 for 6 (Overton 4-16) drew with Somerset 300 for 8 dec (Abell 132*, Gregory 57)
The weather forecast is bleak beyond contention yet the cricketers are still practising in their morning nets. Most days in the summer and many in the winter you will find them there or indoors, preparing not merely for the next few hours but for the next game, the next week, the next season. They say Tom Graveney had a net every day of the season; an artist ensuring he could still draw a perfect circle. And here are Graveney’s heirs on a ground he once called home. One feels strangely honoured to watch them on this dull Sunday morning when there’s not a hope in hell of three sessions’ play…
But it was not just professionalism and a hard-earned distrust of meteorology that informed the players’ warm-ups at the County Ground. There remains every chance that both these counties will qualify for Division One of the County Championship in late summer. If so, they will not meet again in another West Country derby but will play only the other four teams in the top division. However, they will carry through half the number of points they gained in the two matches they have played against each other in the conference stage. This meant that when Craig Overton pinned Tom Smith with the seventh ball of the day the bonus point Somerset gained for taking three wickets will be worth half a point at the sharp end of the summer, always provided, of course, that Gloucestershire also qualify for the top division.
And Somerset’s bowlers were not finished. Two balls after Smith departed Tom Lace was strangled down the leg side, which, to judge from his reaction, was more or less what the former Middlesex batsman would have liked to have done to Steve O’Shaughnessy the instant he saw the finger go up. Next over Kraigg Brathwaite clipped Josh Davey very low to short midwicket where Tom Abell took a good catch to his left. The trap could not have been more obvious had Somerset’s captain carried a large sign round his neck with the words: “This is a trap” written upon it. Baldrick would probably have considered the ruse beneath his dignity. Either way, Gloucestershire were 21 for 5, Somerset needed one more wicket for another point and nobody needed to visit the moral maze to guess which team welcomed the rain that began a few minutes later.
In truth they were the lightest showers, psiloi compared to the hoplites that rolled in later. The umpires went out to the talk to the ground staff, although maybe O’Shaughnessy was just keeping out of Lace’s way, and cricket began again at noon. Only eight balls could be squeezed into this session but even they were significant. Ian Cockbain played on to the last of them, thus giving Somerset their fifth bonus point of the match and Overton his fourth wicket with the new ball, a fact that Chris Silverwood will have noted with interest. There was little to detain any of us thereafter. An early lunch was called and the abandonment was announced at 3.10. Having beaten Somerset at Taunton, Chris Dent’s side will take 16 points into Division One compared with their opponents’ 9.5, always providing both teams get that far.
But a very wet game did produce one undisputed victor: Gloucestershire have not just accommodated spectators on these extraordinary days; they have made them welcome and that warmth has extended to the media and the rest of cricket’s caravan. Any necessary regulation has been light touch and enforced with the greatest good humour. As much as the spectators who turned up to watch the match, the Gloucestershire staff who made it possible for them to do so are a credit to the game.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
(With Inputs from ESPN)
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