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Golden moments from a memorable season in the commentary box

Somerset supporters will be familiar with the voice of Anthony Gibson.

Anthony is the voice of the BBC’s ball by ball coverage of Somerset’s matches throughout the year.

No one has been better placed to give their view on the season than Anthony from his position in the commentary box, so we asked him to write his review of 2018.

“It has been a memorable and hugely enjoyable season for those of us who have the good fortune to be able to put Somerset cricket into words from the commentary box on behalf of the BBC.  Winning helps, of course.  For myself, I’ve commentated on no fewer than 19 Somerset victories: five in the Specsavers County Championship, three in the Royal London One-Day Cup and 11 in the Vitality Blast, with my colleague Stephen Lamb adding three more, to bring the overall tally up to 22, every winning run or wicket representing a memorable moment in itself. But this has been a very happy season off the field as well.

“In all the years I have been covering Somerset cricket, I don’t think I have ever experienced such a strong, positive team spirit, embracing everyone in the club, from the most junior member of the ground-staff right up to the Chairman and Chief Executive.  What with that, and the atmosphere created by Somerset’s magnificent supporters, the Cooper Associates County Ground has been a very happy place to be this summer.

“Here then are just a few of what, for me, were the golden moments of Somerset’s season, which I had the pleasure of describing.

“Taking the County Championship first of all – which is, after all, where it belongs! – who could forget Matt Renshaw’s arrival on the scene in April?  A century on debut against Worcestershire was followed by a quite remarkable century before lunch against Yorkshire, with the ball swinging and seaming all over the place. He was off the mark with a six, reached 50 with a six and went to 100 with yet another six. It was an innings that, in the final analysis, was the difference between the two sides.

“As so often happens with cricket, joy and woe were woven fine when Somerset went to Old Trafford in early May. Stephen Lamb was on duty for that one, but I was listening, in a field in North Devon, enjoying the pleasure of a George Bartlett maiden century,  enduring the pain of Tom Abell falling one short after what seemed like half a lifetime on 99, and the mixture of both which was Marcus Trescothick going to a century with what turned out to be a broken foot.

“James Hildreth’s batting was a joy all summer.  There is no more fluent player in English cricket. The runs just seemed to flow from his bat, and never more so than in the 184 he scored against Hampshire. It was an innings for the connoisseur.  And how good it was to see Tom Abell coming back to his best.  As the runs piled up, the only thing that was missing was a century, and finally, gloriously, it arrived, on the grand stage of Headingley in early September.  Even the Yorkshiremen stood and cheered, so popular and personable is Somerset’s fine young captain.

“But we mustn’t forget the bowlers, or indeed the fielding, the brilliance of which has become one of the hall-marks of this Somerset side.  His injury problems finally behind him, Jamie Overton drew gasps of astonishment from the crowd at Worcester when he terrorised the home team’s batsmen with some searing pace. The rocket which scattered Moeen Ali’s stumps all over New Road was arguably the ball of the season, although the one that his twin brother produced to remove Kane Williamson at Headingley, just when he seemed to be leading Yorkshire to the safe haven of a draw, ran it very close.  Describing the twins then sweep away the rest of Yorkshire’s batting was another memorable hour or so.

“All this, and two hat-tricks, on successive days at Trent Bridge! Tom Abell’s was a fine piece of bowling, which underlined his potential as fifth seamer and tail mopper-upper, and brought huge pleasure to his team-mates. But Craig Overton’s, aided and abetted by the safest pair of hands in English cricket, was just stunning. Three top order Notts batsmen, Slater, Wessels and Samit Patel, all c Trescothick b Overton C,  under a clear blue sky with Somerset en route to second place in the Championship.  Only winning the thing at last could be more golden!

“You’ll have noticed that I haven’t mentioned the tie!  It was certainly a memorable moment when Tom Bailey took that catch to dismiss poor Jack Leach, not least because it meant that I’d become one of very few people to have commentated on a tie in first-class cricket (and certainly the only one involving Somerset). But golden, it certainly wasn’t.  In fact, it would produce one of the season’s most poignant moments, when I remembered that the player we had, two hours earlier, asked to interview at close of play was Jack, on the strength of his 7/74 to bowl Lancashire out in their second innings.  Now, shattered as he was, the poor chap had to explain what was going through his mind as that last, fateful ball was bowled. He answered frankly and bravely.

“Somerset’s Royal London One-Day Cup campaign gave us a sparkling century from Hildreth against Glamorgan, and a defiant one from Pete Trego down at the Ageas Bowl, which won the match, but all in vain, as Essex were in the process of beating Kent, so snuffing out any hopes of Somerset’s qualification.

“However, in the Vitality Blast, Somerset’s performances under Lewis Gregory produced golden moments almost every game!  First there was Pete Trego’s match-winning 72* to trounce the old enemy, Gloucestershire, in the very first game, a wonderfully characteristic innings, followed by an ebullient post-match interview, but which was then promptly eclipsed by Johann Myburg’s century in 42 balls to see off Essex.  The standing ovation he was given when he signed off at Taunton in the quarter-final was almost equally memorable.

“Corey Anderson played some brutal knocks, foremost among them a decisive 72 in 30 balls when Somerset were struggling against Glamorgan at Sophia Gardens.  And what can we say about Lewis Gregory?   In game after game, his runs down the order were at the heart of Somerset’s success, most of all in that explosive, six-laden, 72 in 30 balls which turned the quarter-final against Notts.

“But it was the fielding, and in particular the catching, which for me produced the Blast’s most glittering Somerset moments.  Jerome Taylor made plucking a Jason Roy thunderbolt out of the sky at Taunton look as easy as picking an apple from a tree.  Max Waller took any number of brilliant catches.  But if you were looking for a single golden moment to encapsulate the excellence of Somerset in the field it would have to be Jamie Overton’s ‘out and back again’ catch on the long-on boundary to see off Middlesex’s Paul Stirling. The combination of athleticism, judgement and sheer presence of mind was breath-taking (and some would argue that the catch he took on the boundary against Kent at Canterbury was even better!)

“I’ll finish with a moment which was golden for me, not so much for its brilliance or its impact on a game, but because of what it said about how cricket should be played.  In the Worcestershire second innings at New Road in July, Somerset were struggling to take wickets on a pitch that had gone dead. Ross Whiteley turned a ball from Craig Overton to backward square leg, where it was scooped up low down by James Hildreth.  The batsman turned to walk back, the umpires were unmoved, everyone on the ground happy that it was a clean catch. Everyone, that is, except James Hildreth, who signalled to the umpires that the ball had been grounded and called the batsman back.  It was the gold standard of sportsmanship and a moment to cherish in what will always be remembered as a golden summer for Somerset cricket.”

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