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Tom Abell: “It feels brilliant to be able to qualify for Division One”

Following the news that Somerset had confirmed Division One status for the latter part of the LV= Insurance County Championship, Benjamin Redwood speaks to  Club Captain Tom Abell to gather his immediate thoughts.

Currently absent with a hamstring injury, Abell is still Somerset’s top Championship run scorer this season, scoring 635 runs at an average of 63.50, with a high score of 132 not out in the rain affected draw at Gloucestershire.

“Obviously news has come through today that we have qualified, and that is where we want to be. It was our first objective of the season and with it being achieved, it is a great feeling. But we start afresh now, the job is not done!”

“The pleasing thing is that there has been a lot of growth in our red ball cricket this summer. We want to be competing in Division One for that County Championship crown.”

Tom reflects on four games that have defined Somerset’s red ball cricket so far this season, starting with the opening game victory at the Home of Cricket, when Somerset defeated Middlesex by 4 wickets…

Batting first, the hosts posted 313, with Sam Robson top scoring with a very impressive 165. Notably for Somerset, Lewis Gregory was able to take five wickets and start his season off with a bang. In response however, Somerset could only post 172 in their first innings, trailing by 141 runs. Fortunately, Jack Leach (28 not out) and Marchant de Lange (51) put together a vital 83 run tenth wicket partnership to keep Somerset in the game, something that captain Abell has not forgotten, saying “it really kept us in that game!”

Following the momentum of an impressive 10th wicket partnership, Somerset cheaply bowled Middlesex out for 143. Craig Overton, Josh Davey and Jack Leach took 3 wickets apiece. Leach’s performance in particular was mightily impressive, as he returned to Somerset duty from the Test series in India.

Somerset chased the 285 runs required for victory, with Tom top scoring with 84. George Bartlett (76 not out) and Lewis Gregory (62 not out) took Somerset over the line.

Reflecting on the game, Tom Abell said: “It was a real rollercoaster of emotions in that first game!

“The first few days we were really poor, and we let ourselves down. We did not apply ourselves well enough. We have spoken about how we are great frontrunners, but we want to better in games when our backs are against the wall. That first game was a real opportunity for us to bounce back.”

“To win that game at Lord’s was very special. Winning your first game is huge in the context of the season. You want to set the tone and get off to a winning start and we just about managed to do that”.

Despite a great start at Lord’s for Somerset, the following week was a huge reality check.

Local rivals Gloucestershire came down the M5 following a huge defeat in the 2020 Bob Willis Trophy but left on the Sunday with 22 points. James Bracey took the game away from Somerset with a magnificent century in the first innings and a match winning 83 not out in the second innings to lead Gloucestershire to an eight-wicket victory.

“That was a big reality check for us. We were humbled in that game. Gloucestershire are a good side and played very well. But it was a massive reality check. The signs were there from the first game that we weren’t quite where we needed to be – particularly with the bat. We paid the price for it!

“Following the result, we had a chat with the group to discuss where we needed to improve. It made us realise we weren’t as good as we thought we were. When the going was tough, we needed to stick in. It hurt. We are a proud team and a proud county. To lose to Gloucestershire in that manner was really disappointing.”

Luckily for Somerset, the defeat was the only defeat in their first nine fixtures. The county bounced back with a nine-wicket victory at Leicestershire. Tom top scored with 88 in the first innings, before Craig Overton ripped through the foxes as he took five wickets to bowl Leicestershire out for 199. Somerset won at a canter, chasing the 118 runs required, as Tom Lammonby scored 70 not out.

Somerset backed up their victory on the road at Leicester with another dramatic victory against Middlesex, this time at the Cooper Associates County Ground. Middlesex impressively made 357 in the first innings, in which Somerset responded with a below par 286 all out. But on day three, Craig Overton and Josh Davey took control for Somerset, bowling out Middlesex for 117 and giving Somerset a real chance to win the game.

On the game, Tom Abell said: “It was a massive game. We wanted to build a little bit of momentum. It was before that game that we did address our batting issues. It wasn’t about our ability; it was recognising periods in games when we needed to absorb pressure a bit better. There were certainly periods in that game when we did.

“We were behind the eight ball for large parts of it, but we fought our way back. It gave us a huge amount of belief. No matter the situation in the game, we’ve got it in ourselves to win. With our bowling attack, we have the ability to recover from difficult positions.”

Cornishman Lewis Goldsworthy made his First-Class Somerset debut, and managed to take the team over the line on a nervy final day.

Tom Abell said: “The way Lewis Goldsworthy played on debut, in that pressure, to get us over the line, was brilliant. His partnership with Steve Davies was just brilliant”

The knock that Lewis Goldsworthy did play on that Sunday, with Tim Murtagh swinging the ball around corners was appreciated by those fortunate enough to be in the ground that day. Following the post-match press conferences, Goldsworthy was given a rapturous round of applause from his peers as he walked back to the Colin Atkinson Pavilion.

Somerset’s best performance so far this season came at the Ageas Bowl in the 10-wicket defeat of Hampshire. Having won the toss, Hampshire were skittled for 79 with Lewis Gregory impressing with 4/26. In response, Tom top scored with 66 as Somerset were bowled out for 336.

Despite losing the entirety of Day Three to the weather, Somerset were able to bowl Hampshire out for 258, despite some very stiff resilience from the Hampshire batsman. Felix Organ scored 7 from 108 deliveries, with Keith Barker scoring 52 not out at a time when the rain seemed imminent. Thankfully, Somerset took the last two wickets of Organ and Abbas, which left Somerset requiring just the two runs for victory. One ball was enough, as Eddie Byrom scored 2 not out to give Somerset a 10-wicket victory.

“The Hampshire game was probably the most defining game of our season up until now. Winning the toss, it was pretty favourable to bowl first. When we came to bat in tricky conditions against a quality seam attack, we managed to put into practise what we had spoken about as a team. We had to absorb a lot of pressure and we did that! It was slow going, but we reaped the rewards later in the innings.”

“Going into that final day having lost so much time to the weather. It’s a tough place to go against a really good side. It was a very defining moment in our season and a very defining win. It was probably one of the better wins I’ve been involved in at Somerset.”

Following the comprehensive defeat of Hampshire, Somerset have gone on to draw their last four games, that has given the adequate points to propel them to Division One of the County Championship.

“With four games, every game is going to be key, you can’t afford to have those sessions or days when you are not at the races. We have been so consistent for such a long time which bodes really well for us”.

“You’re playing against the best teams in Division One. There’s so much to play for. We’re really excited with our red ball cricket; I think we are in a very good place. The way we have developed this season has been evident. We’re understanding how we get the best out of ourselves as a team. We’re really clear of our roles.”

“We’ve been competing at the top of Division One for a while now and the fire is burning stronger than it ever has done. We’re desperate to push the boundaries and raise the bar. I know we have what it takes, and I know we have the ability to beat any team in the country. It’s going to be tough, but we are certainly ready for the challenge”.

 

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09/07/2022 19:00 - The Cooper Associates County Ground