|Ground:||County Ground, Taunton|
|Scorecard:||Somerset v Gloucestershire|
|Event:||Royal London One-Day Cup 2016|
Somerset v Gloucestershire
Gloucestershire (260 off 50 overs) lost to Somerset (263/9) by one wicket
A rare local derby match between the south-western counties of Somerset and Gloucestershire at Taunton resulted in a victory for the home side. That is the cold fact. The details are that Somerset followed up their superb one-wicket victory over Surrey in the county championship with an even more unexpected and remarkable victory by the same margin over their northern neighbours. The last pair of Jamie Overton and Tim Groenewald put on 65 together, unbeaten, to take their team home by the narrowest of margins with three balls to spare.
It was an overcast morning, with the odd bit of light drizzle just before play was due to start, when Somerset won the toss and put Gloucestershire in to bat. The damp stopped before the scheduled starting time and an enthusiastic crowd approaching 5000 in number gave the ground a vibrant atmosphere.
Gloucestershire showed confidence and intent from the start of their innings. The left-handed Chris Dent was the main figure, ready to take on the bowlers with a will. Dent lost his opening partner, Mark Klinger, in the sixth over, the Gloucestershire captain being bowled for 6 by a fine delivery from Craig Overton that just clipped the top of his off stump, the total being 23.
Gareth Roderick also showed aggression, hitting two powerful fours, but had only 9 to his credit when he slashed a ball into the covers, only for Roelof van der Merwe to fling himself low to his left and pull off a fine catch, reducing Gloucestershire to 51 for two in the ninth over.
Dent continued to play very well, reaching his fifty off 55 balls, but Hamish Marshall never really got going, making 14 before he was bowled by a good ball from Peter Trego for 14. One ball later, Ian Cockbain risked a quick single into the covers in an attempt to get off the mark, but he chose the wrong fielder, as van der Merwe, despite a slight fumble, threw the wicket down at the bowlers end to run him out and make the score 94 for four in the seventeenth over.
This, it proved, was the turning point in the Gloucestershire innings, as never again did they show the same dominance that had threatened a score in excess of 300. Dent decided he needed to hold the innings firm now, while Benny Howell was slow to get started, and the scoring rate, hitherto almost a run a ball, slowed down. After 26 overs, when they had moved to 130 for four, Dent decided he could now open up again, and sped through the eighties and nineties to reach a fine century off 106 balls.
Gloucestershire were picking up and looking confident again. But at this vital player and without addition Dent was gone, caught in the covers by that man van der Merwe again, and Gloucestershire were 161 for five in the 32nd over.
The remaining batsmen were never to master the attack, although they did keep the runs coming. The 200 came up in the 38th over, as Howell and Jack Taylor for a while managed almost a run a ball, but neither could see it through to the close, falling for 35 and 43 respectively.
That man van der Merwe now took a hand with the ball, bowling left-arm spin and removing Howell, Tom Smith and Craig Miles to finish with the best Somerset figures of three for 51 in nine overs, to add to three catches and a run-out. Neatly enough, the final wicket fell off the last possible delivery with the score on 260, as van der Merwe bowled Miles with a low full toss for 16. Gloucestershire were no doubt rather disappointed that their total was not higher in the circumstances, but 260 was not a disaster.
When Somerset replied, they quickly lost Adam Hose in the second over for 8, slashing loosely at a ball from Matt Taylor outside the off stump and edging a high catch to slip. In the next over the new man, Peter Trego, drove hard on the off side, only to be brilliantly picked up at silly mid-off by Howell. Somerset were badly set back at 14 for two.
However, Johan Myburgh and Jim Allenby did not let it bother them. This experienced pair concentrated on working the ball around the field to keep the score ticking over, while not neglecting the boundaries when they had opportunity. They were just beginning to swing the match back Somersets way when Allenby, on 29, suddenly swung recklessly across the line and was bowled by Howell; 79 for three in the sixteenth over.
Myburgh continued to apply himself, however, and with James Hildreth at the other end reached his fifty off 63 balls. The pair added 87 together at more than five an over, but then, on 81, it was Myburghs turn to throw his wicket away with an impatient hit, when he had been playing well enough to take his team home without any risks. His final score was 81 off 118 balls, and he left at 166 for four in the 33rd over.
The shadow of self-destruction fell further over the Somerset batsmen. Luke Gregory ran himself out for 6, looking for a most unlikely single. Hildreth, on 48, drove across the line and a leading edge gave the bowler, Smith, a return catch. Then van der Merwe, having performed so superbly while Somerset were in the field, swung across the line to be bowled by Howell for 1. The bowling was steady, the batting negligent. Somerset had slumped from 166 for three to 186 for seven, and the match was suddenly as good as lost.
Nine were out for 198, but the last pair, Jamie Overton and Tim Groenewald, decided to go down with all guns blazing to send the disappointed crowd home with something good to comfort them. They went for their shots, mostly powerful drives, the score mounted, and suddenly a match that had seemed as good as over found Somerset needing just 11 to win off the final two overs.
Gloucestershire were now deeply worried; they held long consultations and fielded with desperation, having just missed a run-out opportunity. The penultimate over, bowled by Matt Taylor, brought seven runs, leaving Craig Miles to bowl the final over and defend three runs. Groenewald hit the second ball for a single, and then Overton drove the third over the bowlers head for the winning boundary Somersets second remarkable victory in just over a week.
Groenewald had been a hero of both the one-wicket victories. He finished unbeaten with 34, while Overton had 40, and their magnificent fighting partnership had put on 65 runs. Dent had scored a century, Myburgh an eighty before giving it away, no bowler took more than two wickets. But little will be remembered by either team except for the amazing batting of the last Somerset pair.
(Article: Copyright © 2016 John Ward)