Abell falls for 98 but joins Steve Davies in resounding second-wicket stand to build home side’s lead to 372
Somerset 360 and 323 for 6 (Abell 98, Davies 82, Bartlett 74) lead Hampshire 311 (McManus 91, Northeast 67, Davey 5-78) by 372 runs
Marcus Trescothick left Somerset just before the start of the season to become England’s elite batting coach, but he has been seen around Taunton once or twice during this match and who can blame him? The quality of the young crop of batsmen he has so influenced is so apparent that letting go completely must be impossible to contemplate.
If they had Jack Leach, one of England’s Lord’s hygiene supervisors, in their side (or his fellow spinner Dom Bess, who has joined Yorkshire) their chances of a final-day victory would be decent. But a county that has made such an impact with spin must instead hope that, if the rain is not too disruptive, some menacing clouds may pep up their seamers.
So much emphasis has been placed upon Abell’s ability to survive a captaincy that was thrust upon him shortly before Christmas 2016 that the progress of his batting is rarely mentioned. His first-class average is only 34, but he now averages 63.50 this season and with the veteran James Hildreth so bereft of form, his runs have become more important than ever.
Abell is so bristly and businesslike that the fact he is such a touch player can almost pass unnoticed. He leans into his drives with minimal physicality. Two delicate boundaries to third man off Kyle Abbott – the second taken off middle stump – left the bowler mildly nauseated. His innings was immensely orderly, as if every shot had been properly audited before he played it.
Somerset’s first-innings lead was not so secure that they could afford an early collapse – certainly not to the extent of their 113 for 7 in the first innings – but once Eddie Byrom, foot fast against Abbott, had been caught at the wicket – Abell and Davies combined in a resounding second-wicket stand of 139 in 30 overs.
The essence of Davies was seen in his first boundary, an uppish square drive against Abbott that has been both his strength and weakness over the years. He was helped by some fatigued overs from both Abbott and Keith Barker, the latter looking a throttled-back version of the bowler whose swing caused such mayhem first time around.
Barker, as a left-armer, did at least provide ample rough for Organ, a balletic offspinner (think a lightweight version of Simon Harmer) who became the central figure in Hampshire’s attack, claiming Davies, Abell and Hildreth in a spell of 3 for 115 in 29 overs, which was broken only by a short, and misconceived, return for Abbott immediately after tea.
Davies fell lbw to a full-length ball, sweeping, which at least brought some hollow consolation for his fielding blemish earlier; Hildreth, who scraped around, popped a catch back off a leading edge; Abell reached 98 with a sumptious back-foot cover drive, but sought a late cut for his 100 later in the over and under-edged a ball that turned back sneakily low. Liam Dawson’s slow left-arm option was not utilized at all and he probably has his mind on the Blast.
At 203 for 4, there was still work to do, and Organ’s turn, if not substantial, did demand a certain wariness. Bartlett, lanky and stylish, and Goldsworthy, much more diminutive and in his debut season, acquitted themselves splendidly in a four-an-over stand of 108. Goldsworthy, a spin-bowling allrounder from Truro, got off the mark with such a pleasant off-drive against Abbott that his reward was a waspish bouncer. Bartlett, put on the seat of his pants by another Abbott bouncer, responded by uppercutting him for six.
It was Bartlett who became the senior figure, fittingly so because he is all of 23. He might have been caught off Organ at cow corner, on 43, only for Hampshire’s captain, James Vince, to complete a tank around the boundary by recognizing that it was not his – or Hampshire’s day as the catch evaded him.
At least Vince was not quite as extended as the elderly spectator who pedalled frantically backwards to catch – or perhaps avoid – Bartlett’s six over extra cover and hopefully was brought to a halt before heading west down the A38 towards Wellington.
David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps