TAKE a short stroll up the road from the County Ground in Taunton and you come to the shop run by “Psychic Sybella”.
Not even that fine woman could have foreseen the dramatic developments on day two, when Somerset turned the title race upside down and all but knocked Yorkshire out of the running.
In a quite remarkable morning session, the sort to confound any crystal ball or tarot card exponent, eight wickets fell as Yorkshire plunged from 86-3 to 103 all-out to concede a first innings lead of 96 before reducing Somerset to 4-2 in their second innings.
The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed the mathematical discrepancy therein; surely nine wickets must have fallen in that case instead of eight?
But the Yorkshire No 10 Ben Coad was unable to bat, bowl or indeed take any part in the day due to what the club described as a “medical illness”, although the 25-year-old pace bowler was able to watch proceedings from the players’ balcony.
As such, Coad would surely have watched on as surprised as anyone as Yorkshire lost their last six wickets for 17 runs in 7.1 overs – three to spin, three to pace in gloomy conditions with the floodlights on.
It was a tough day at the office. Somerset bowled beautifully in bowler-friendly conditions ... and we couldn’t stop them.Paul Grayson, Yorkshire CCC batting coach
After recovering to 49-2 at lunch, Somerset lifted their second innings score to 121-2 in watery afternoon sunshine as the third-wicket pair of James Hildreth and Tom Abell safely negotiated 33 overs with no hint of the preceding pandemonium.
By the time that bad light ended play with 13 overs left, Somerset had moved on to 269-5, a lead of 365, and were firmly on course for a win that would mathematically end Yorkshire’s outside interest in the title and most likely see Somerset leapfrog leaders Essex, who are labouring in their match against Warwickshire at Edgbaston. Somerset’s first-ever Championship title is now once again a distinct possibility.
“It was a tough day at the office,” said Paul Grayson, the Yorkshire batting coach. “We felt we were in quite a good position (going into the day), but Somerset bowled beautifully in bowler-friendly conditions and, after losing a couple of early wickets, we couldn’t stop them.”
Coad was not the only Yorkshire player incapacitated when the visitors began the day on 70-3 in reply to Somerset’s first innings 199. Will Fraine, the opening batsman, injured his knee in the warm-ups, with Matt Fisher and Jack Leaning later pressed into service as substitute fielders.
The teams had warmed-up in the lightest of rain, which disappeared to permit a prompt start. It was murky, though, and atmospheric too, with dark clouds swirling above the jagged outline of the Quantock Hills, which stood fierce and foreboding away in the distance, like something out of a Hardy novel.
It was in the sixth over of the morning when the mayhem commenced, Tom Kohler-Cadmore pushing forward to Lewis Gregory and edging to third slip. Steve Patterson, the nightwatchman, chopped on to Roelof van der Merwe while trying to cut, the Dutch spinner striking again when Jonny Tattersall, playing forward, edged to second.
Harry Brook went lbw pushing forward to Josh Davey, who, two balls later, had Tim Bresnan propping forward and edging to second also. The innings ended when Keshav Maharaj slapped back a return catch to van der Merwe, with only three Yorkshire players reaching double figures.
One sensed that a wicket could fall any ball, and Somerset lost two inside the first four overs of their second innings. Murali Vijay was lbw sweeping Maharaj, the left-arm spinner opening the attack at the River End, and Steven Davies drove Patterson wastefully to cover.
But Yorkshire were unable to maintain the pressure, with Maharaj not as effective as on the first day in conditions which favoured the spinners, but not excessively so.
Coad’s absence, of course, left Yorkshire a bowler down, and Hildreth and Abell took advantage during an afternoon in which, conversely, one had no idea where the next wicket was coming from.
Eventually, after a stand of 117 with his captain, Hildreth fell for 58 when he shimmied down the pitch to the spin of Adam Lyth and turned the ball into short leg’s hands.
A fourth-wicket partnership of 64 ensued between Abell and Tom Banton in 12 overs, ended when Banton drove Maharaj to slip from the final delivery before tea.
Somerset lost Abell without addition after the break, lbw to Bresnan for 62 as they slid to 191-5, but George Bartlett and Gregory added 78 in 17 overs to heap on the misery, and you did not need to be psychic to know that Yorkshire are staring at a hefty defeat.
Yorkshire have released left-arm spin bowler Karl Carver, opener Bilal Anjam and pace bowler Matthew Taylor.