This post looks at the county championship match between Somerset and Middlesex, with a bonus feature related to Somerset’s batting order. However I begin with…
OLD MAN DIES – BBC WILDLY OVERDOES THINGS
At 12:13PM yesterday an official announcement was made that Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, had died at the age of 99. The news was not much of a surprise since it was known that he had been ill, and his death can hardly be considered untimely at that age. Yet the BBC not only devoted all their TV channels and all their principal radio stations to talking about this and only this, they also commandeered every other aspect of their coverage for the same purpose, which meant that my plan to produce a blog post while listening to the cricket yesterday went by the board. I found a live stream on youtube, but that had to be watched, and could not simply be on in the background while I did other things. It may have been justifiable for both BBC1 and BBC2 to be devoted exclusively to this death, and for radio 1,2,3,4 and 5 to be devoted to it as well, though I would have considered even that to be overdoing it. However, to black out specialist content such as cricket commentaries, which one tunes into for one purpose and one purpose only was definitely overdoing it. The BBC is now back at more or less normal service after most of a day and night of blanket coverage of the death. It also seems inappropriate to be making so much of the death of a very old man by natural causes at a time when some 150,000 Brits have died before their time due to the Johnson government’s appalling mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic.
MIDDLESEX V SOMERSET
Somerset put Middlesex in, and a so-so bowling performance (only Lewis Gregory with 5-68 and Jack Leach with a superbly economical effort of 1-43 off 22 overs really bowled well) and some very poor fielding allowed the home side to reach 313 in their first innings, Sam Robson making the most of several slices of luck to rack up 165.
At 89-9 it looked like Somerset may well be headed for an innings defeat, but nos 10 and 11, Marchant de Lange and Jack Leach, put on 83, de Lange reaching a half century, to get Somerset to 172, just past the minimum needed to avoid the follow on, 164. Middlesex reached 87-2 by the close of day two, Craig Overton with both wickets, but a brilliant bowling performance today, with Overton getting a third wicket, Josh Davey taking 3-16 from 11 and Leach 3-18 from 11.2 overs saw Middlesex bowled out for 143, leaving Somerset needing 285 to win. Tom Lammonby fell early, but the other two Toms, Banton and Abell are going well, with Somerset 65-1, needing 220 more to win. This segues nicely on to my bonus feature…
THE TOMS XI
The fact that the top three in the Somerset order all answer to Tom got me thinking about an XI all of whom answered to Tom (nb I was very specific that this must be players who were actually referred to as Tom – Thomas or Tommy do not county – I am a Thomas and I dislike any diminutive form of my first name). Below is what I came up with:
- Tom Hayward – right handed opening batter, right arm medium paced bowler. He would be delighted to know that in this XI he will definitely by no higher than sixth choice as a bowler – he advised his great protege and fellow Cambridge native Jack Hobbs not let Surrey find out how good a bowler he was, because he felt that he himself was overworked by the county in that department. He was the second to reach 1,000 FC runs in an English season before June after WG Grace, and also second after WG to the career landmark of 100 first class hundreds. He was also a fine fielder.
- Tom Lammonby – left handed opening batter, left arm medium pacer. Two failures in the current match has reduced has record to 464 runs at 42.18 (was 459 at 51.00 going into it). That record includes three centuries. He is one the Somerset trio, two of whom I have named in this XI (Banton, who has just gone to make it 79-2, 206 still needed, is the one to miss out).
- Tom Abell – right handed batter, right arm medium pacer. The second of the two current Somerset Toms in this XI. He currently averages 32 in FC cricket, but is clearly on an upward trajectory, and an England career would not surprise many. Hayward shared many large partnerships with Bobby Abel – maybe he would also go well with an Abell!
- *Tom Graveney – right handed batter, occasional leg spinner, captain. The best batting record of any Tom, and the second most prolific batter to have played all his FC cricket after WWII. In 1966 he was part of a record breaking revival – West Indies had scored 268 and reduced England to 166-7, but Graveney (165), Murray (112 from no 9) and Higgs and Snow with a fifty a piece boosted England to 527 – 361 for the last three wickets! Unsurprisingly the West Indies were knocked sideways by this and went down to an innings defeat.
- Tom Killick – right handed batter. He averaged just above 40 through a 92 match first class career. This included 15 centuries and a career best score of 206.
- +Tom Blundell – right handed batter, wicket keeper, occasional off spinner. The Kiwi has a test average of 38 including two centuries, slightly better than his FC average of 36.
- Tom Emmett – left arm fast bowler, left handed lower middle order batter. Though it is principally his bowling for which he is selected, he was good enough with the willow to record a first class century when such scores were far from being commonplace. He was one of five ‘tykes’ to feature in the first ever test match in 1877.
- Tom Cartwright – right arm medium pace bowler, right handed lower order batter. Again picked for his bowling, but again far from valueless with the bat. He played a role in South Africa’s isolation from international cricket – he was named in the original England tour party, and withdrew citing injury but in truth because he did not want to tour in such circumstances. D’Oliveira, who should have been a shoo-in for the original squad anyway was named in his place, and when Balthazar Johannes Vorster then announced that D’Oliveira would not be accepted the tour was cancelled. This same Vorster a couple of years later gave vent to some particularly crass racism during a one to one meeting with Don Bradman which prompted the latter to pull the plug on South Africa.
- Tom Wills – right arm fast bowler/ right arm slow bowler. 130 FC wickets at less than 10 a piece. He was a hugely important figure in Australian sporting history, with his involvement in the 1868 Aboriginal tour of England and his role as the pioneer of Australian Rules Football, which he conceived as something for Aussie cricketers to do in their off season.
- Tom Goddard – right arm off spinner. He started his long career as a quick bowler and even took a hat trick using that method, but his overall returns were underwhelming, and Gloucestershire’s veteran left arm spinner Charlie Parker noted his big hands and suggested he turn his attention to spinning the ball. Goddard spent three years turning himself into an off spinner and gained his reward in the form of a long career which saw him become the fifth most prolific bowler in FC history with 2,979 scalps at less than 20 a piece. He achieved five more first class hat tricks as an off spinner, putting him joint second (alongside Parker who also achieved the feat six times) in this category, one behind Doug Wright who achieved seven first class hat tricks. As late as 1948 when he was not far short of 50 an England recall was a possibility, scotched by Arthur Morris who accepted responsibility for knocking him out of contention when Australia played Gloucestershire and doing just that, racking up 290 in five hours.
- Tom Richardson – right arm fast bowler. He took his 1,000th first class wicket in his 134th match at that level and his 2,000th in his 327th match at that level, both of which remain records for reaching those milestones. In the calendar years 1894, 1895, 1896 and 1897 combined he took 1,005 wickets. Neville Cardus, who named him one of the ‘Six Giants of the Wisden Century’ in a 1963 essay, recounted an incident from a match against Lancashire in brutal heat, when Richardson, deep into one of his customary marathon spells chased a ball all the way to the boundary off his own bowling.
This team has a strong top five, a keeper batter at six, two bowlers who can bat at seven and eight and three excellent specialist bowlers. Although there is only one genuine spinner the attack has plenty of variety. The chief misses due to the tightness of my restrictions were Tommy Andrews, an Aussie batter who was also an outstanding cover fielder and Thomas Godfrey Evans, one of the greatest of all keepers, who was always known by his middle name Godfrey. Please feel free to use the comments to identify any Toms you think I have treated harshly by not including them.
My usual sign off…