Captaincy by formula?

The match at the ‘Fortress’ which the Chelmsford County Ground has unofficially christened itself looks doomed to a draw – and has been from early on. But with a rail strike curtailing too much travel, I find myself there again today.

Starting at 99/1, Somerset add 30 in the first hour and 60 or so in the second and lunch at 186/1. Both Abell and Renshaw into the 70s and not really discomforted during the morning session.

The session has been very formulaic especially Westley’s captaincy. Harmer from one end for an hour, have 30 minutes rest, then Critchley before Harmer returns. At the other end, 30 minute stints for Porter, Snater, Walter and Beard. Walter perhaps being the less expected but at least Westley is trying something different!

Lawrence sees double? Sorry…a bit of camera trickery!

Somerset resorted to Lammonby yesterday as a slightly slower, skiddy bowler but whilst Walter is not a lot slower than the others, he’s a close as anyone to a medium pacer. But he too had no success. This formula did manage to bowl 33 overs in the session – so it can be done!

Both sides have similar 5th wicket average scores so far this season. The fifth wicket for Essex fell at 342 and Somerset are already above their 5th wicket average, I expect overall similar scores and Somerset to save the follow on just before close of play.

But you never know! Overcast conditions changing to higher cloud and possibly sun and teams refreshed from lunch!

The afternoon progressed much as expected. Harmer unchanged from the River End, quicks from the Hays Close until 10+ overs away from the new ball when Critchley returns. One wicket in the session – Bartlett for a quick 24, but he’s only there since Abell had to retire hurt/injured on 90no just as the 200 partnership looked.

Renshaw quietly and serenely progressed to his hundred and tea arrived – to time for once, and 65 overs bowled – at 288/2. This is all very formulaic and predictable especially in a match going nowhere fast.

A key bowling skill is to hide the ball from the batter! Matt Critchley
And again
Once more!
All culminating in a perfect delivery (but no wicket!)
Harmer in action

As foretold Somerset save the follow on by the close; Renshaw eventually goes for 146 and Somerset 359/3…just 146 behind.

The pitch could last for a week or more, bowlers toiling without reward, bats filling their boots. But how to break the formula?

The oldsters will tell you ‘do something the opposition don’t expect’ – as the game is played in the mind, the trick has to be to scramble brains! One wicket often brings two so why not? Try SirA with his Bob Willis impersonations? Westley and Lawrence and their version of spin (or are there restrictions in place for players in the 100 so they don’t overexert themselves…as social media will have you believe?); just anything to break the formula! Incidentally, it’s been scientifically proved that the more you play, the better you get! Will someone please tell the ECB?

Or is everyone just winding down in this last round before the one day month takes centre stage? Who knows…but Somerset have the most to gain to save their season but if it all follows the formula then you can probably count the spectators on one hand when they shake hands after tea tomorrow.