That was the question posed to spectators at the County Ground yesterday by a billboard advertising “The Royal Marines Experience”.
To judge by an unarmed combat demonstration by the Somerset-based 40 Commando, which provided entertainment prior to the match, the answer was an emphatic “no” as they proceeded to kick, punch and club seven bells out of each other on exercise mats behind the pavilion.
“Gentlemen, you may want to look away now,” warned the master of ceremonies to the assembled menfolk. No sooner had the words left his mouth than one marine approached another from behind and kicked him firmly between the legs, at which point this correspondent decided that he most definitely did not have the “state of mind” needed.
Ditto when the “kicker” got a taste of his own medicine when another marine held him from behind while another clubbed him in the stomach with a baseball bat.
It all made for a marked and somewhat unexpected contrast to the usual Sunday morning atmosphere in Taunton, where tourists wander this delightful town as the bells of St James’ Church next to the cricket ground welcome worshippers.
Alas, the pre-match preliminaries, which also included entertainment from the Royal Marines marching band, were followed by a cloud burst that delayed the start of this game by four-and-a-half hours, reducing it from 50 overs per side to 20 overs per side, Yorkshire losing by five wickets after a maiden half-century from Matthew Revis had helped them to 158-5, Somerset winning with five balls to spare as the experienced James Hildreth returned fire with an unbeaten 61.
For barely had that marching band packed away its trumpets and sheet music and the players taken to the field for the scheduled 11am start than the rain came down – seconds, indeed, after the match ball had been ferried out to the middle by a marine who somewhat dramatically withdrew it from an ammunition container, at which point the tannoy announced that it was “mission success!” If success equated to a cricket ball being taken from the edge of the boundary and handed to the umpires on the pitch, without it being intercepted by malevolent forces of some description, then that was indeed the low bar achieved.
Even The Hundred, for all its gimmickry, has not yet resorted to this idea – or indeed that of having other marines guarding the square while brandishing machine guns, as happened also, although that would at least deter most pitch invaders.
Once the puddles had dispersed along with the seagulls that took root on the covers, with the wet conditions giving way to a dry if unpleasantly windy afternoon, such cricket as there was rewarded the patience of the 3,200 crowd, which had been kept entertained in the run-up to the eventual start-time by the marching band as it delivered brass renditions of such classics as Starship’s We Built This City and, of course, Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline (this had turned into a 20-over game, after all).
On Yorkshire Day (the band should rightly have played the Emmerdale theme or On Ilkla Moor Baht’at), Yorkshire lost an early wicket when Harry Duke tried to scoop Josh Davey and was caught behind, the visitors having been sent into bat.
Gary Ballance fell cheaply, the ball from Kasey Aldridge rebounding on to the stumps off the Yorkshire captain’s body, and when Will Fraine clipped to deep-backward square-leg after a promising cameo, and Jonny Tattersall lobbed up a bat/pad chance, Yorkshire were 54-4 in the eighth over, which became 66-4 at the 10-over halfway stage.
George Hill, like Fraine, contributed a useful cameo before, like Fraine, picking out the fielder at deep-backward square-leg.
But Revis, the 19-year-old who top-scored with 43 on debut in the opening match of the tournament against Surrey, confirmed his potential with an innings that helped Yorkshire towards a competitive total.
There were a couple of pulled sixes in his 41-ball innings, which included a quartet of fours, while Will Luxton, the 18-year-old who top-scored with 68 on his own debut in Yorkshire’s previous game against Northants, kept him astute company during an unbroken sixth-wicket stand of 69, to which he contributed 31 from 19 balls with three fours and a pulled six of his own.
If there is one advantage of a 50-over tournament decimated by call-ups to The Hundred, it is that young players are getting plenty of opportunity.
Revis and Luxton are good prospects, and they are not the only ones in this young Yorkshire side.
Faced with a target that felt quite challenging, Somerset were given a speedy start by Steven Davies. The wicketkeeper struck Ben Coad for a brace of fours before rather giving it away when he cut the same bowler to Revis at point, leaving Somerset 22-1 in the third. Sam Young and James Rew, the latter a 17-year-old left-hander on debut, took the total to 53 in the seventh over and were looking reasonably comfortable until Young fell.
The 21-year-old right-hander, playing only his fourth List A game, lofted Revis to mid-on, where Ballance took an excellent catch diving forward. Although Young stood his ground momentarily, unsure as to whether the ball carried, the umpires conferred and sent him on his way.
At halfway, Somerset were 75-2, the advantage theirs in knowing what to chase. They might have slipped to 78-3 but Ballance, running back from mid-off, dropped a difficult chance when Hildreth, on 15, sent up a skier off Matthew Waite.
Ballance did take his second catch of the day in the next over, however, Rew sending a switch-hit out to point off the spinner Jack Shutt. But Hildreth went to his fifty from 28 balls and was well-supported by Lewis Goldsworthy, with whom he shared 66 for the fourth wicket, Goldsworthy and Ed Byrom falling to leg-side catches off Waite with the winning line in sight.