Body blows as Yorkshire battle to save game at Taunton
THERE was a fleeting passage of play on the third day of this match when past and present entwined in evocative fashion.
It came in the form of three blows suffered by George Bartlett, the Somerset batsman, who was fielding at short-leg for two of them and at silly-point for the other.
First, Tom Kohler-Cadmore swept successive balls from Jack Leach, the England left-arm spinner, into Bartlett’s body, causing him to go down as if he had been poleaxed. No sooner had Bartlett, a wiry 24-year-old, recovered from those traumas when, in Leach’s next over, Jonny Tattersall sent a full-blown cut shot crashing about his person.
As poor old Bartlett retreated gingerly and no doubt gratefully into the safety of the outfield, his helmet, shin pads, elbow protectors and taped-up fingers having afforded scant protection, it called to mind memories of the great Brian Close, who of course played for Somerset after Yorkshire got rid of him.
Close copped almost as many blows standing at short-leg as he scored runs or took wickets; the comedian Eric Morecambe famously quipped that the start of the cricket season was invariably signalled by the “sound of leather on Brian Close”.
Close himself made light of it to the extent that he dismissively observed, when asked about his almost Jaws-like powers of physical recovery, “How can the ball hurt you? It’s only on you for a second.”
It is the sort of logic that only someone daft enough to put himself at short-leg in the first place could come up with, a bit like saying that one could simply shrug off a punch on the nose from Tyson Fury.
All of which coloured an otherwise functional kind of day at the County Ground, Taunton, one on which Yorkshire extended their first innings score from 167-4 overnight to 276 all-out, thus narrowly avoiding the prospect of being forced to follow-on.
Somerset reached 225-6 in 51 overs of their second innings, accumulating at pace without having to take any absurd risks, giving them a lead of 373 going into the final day on a pitch on which Leach will hope to do damage.
It remains tough going for bowlers, though, on a slow, placid surface, with Somerset hoping that scoreboard pressure will help their cause.
They certainly need the win, stuck second-bottom of the County Championship First Division and in a relegation fight into which Yorkshire could be dragged if they go down here.
Should that arise, it would hardly be the fault of Kohler-Cadmore, who converted his overnight 68 into 100 exactly, his 10th first-class hundred, against the county he is joining at the end of the season on a three-year deal.
Kohler-Cadmore fell two balls after reaching his century, so plumb to the occasional off-spin of Matt Renshaw that he had already started walking off before checking that the umpire had raised his finger.
The only other wicket in a mostly cloudy first session, which Yorkshire closed on 230-6, was that of Matthew Waite, who clipped Kasey Aldridge to a deliberately placed short mid-wicket and promptly hit himself over the head as he walked off, as if to say: “Doh, what did you do dat for, stoopid?”
But Waite played his part in a fifth-wicket stand of 65 in 23 overs with Kohler-Cadmore, which steadied Yorkshire after they had lost two wickets in two balls the previous night to their former pace bowler Jack Brooks.
Yorkshire’s innings ended in an hurry shortly after lunch, the visitors collapsing from 267-6 as they lost their last four wickets for nine runs.
Jonny Tattersall, who had played well for the second-top score of 43, seemed to be trying to leave one from Marchant de Lange that he edged to the keeper, and Dom Bess was so annoyed with himself for driving Aldrige to cover, having resisted for over an hour, that he threw his bat high in the air and, as it rotated and revolved on its journey back to ground, caught it impressively before walking off.
Jordan Thompson had his middle stump knocked back by de Lange, and Shannon Gabriel skied Aldridge high to mid-on.
Bess and Jack Shutt, the two off-spinners, shared the first four wickets as Somerset built on their 148-run lead.
Shutt had Renshaw reverse-sweeping to slip and Tom Lammonby caught at cover off a leading edge, then Bess had Tom Abell caught at slip and Lewis Goldsworthy taken at mid-wicket.
Later, Thompson had James Rew pulling to long-leg and Bess grabbed his third when bowling Lewis Gregory.
Bartlett ended his day in the wars when fielding at short-leg by dusting himself off to score an unbeaten 88 from 110 balls with seven fours and four sixes, an innings of which the fearless Brian Close would doubtless have approved.