Byrom produces season’s best to steady Somerset youngsters
In late September, at last, the sound of a professional bat on a red ball was heard at Lord’s again in the Bob Willis Trophy final, if only for 44 overs during which Somerset, sent in by Essex, scored 119 for four.
As this final has to be staged behind closed doors – and with renovation work at cricket’s headquarters so that new stands can replace those named after Bill Edrich and Denis Compton – the hum peculiar to Lord’s was absent, but not the clank of girders and bleep of vehicles reversing.
Unfortunately the all-too-familiar patter of rain on the old pavilion roof brought play to an end with Essex on top but Somerset still in it.
The pitch, so far, has been a slow turner with something for all the bowlers, so the first county firstclass final looks as though it will not be a high-scoring affair, unless Sir Alastair Cook digs in for a couple of days.
Bob Willis himself might have been content with an opening spell, and a pointed, even caustic remark about the lack of carry.
At 10.29, after a minute’s silence, the players on the field and the boundary edge took a knee. No nonwhite player was involved. Somerset’s long association with West Indian cricket, which began before the Second World War and featured such greats as Sir Vivian Richards, Joel Garner and Chris Gayle, has ended. Essex omitted their 21 yearold middle-order batsman Feroze Khushi in favour of an established opener in Nic Browne.
At 10.30 Somerset would probably have accepted a lunch score of 90 for three, and that at close of play. It was not so much the pitch that provided the threat as “the overheads” of thick cloud and the poor light.
Such a young batting line-up as theirs, with Tom Abell their eldest specialist aged 26, could have been rolled over but, thanks to Ed Byrom’s unbeaten 51, they are still afloat. If they can hack out a first innings of 250, Somerset might even hold the upper hand against the county champions, given the strength of their pace bowling.
It is already Byrom’s highest score this season and was much needed after Somerset had fallen to 52 for 3.
He hit nine fours in an 85-ball knock, and the best of it came when he challenged Essex’s supremacy with four fours in the last two overs before lunch, even daring to hit one off Simon Harmer who had managed to find some turn.
Adam Wheater, the wicketkeeper, held a spectacular catch after Abell’s glance behind looped slightly off his thigh pad.
Full stretch: Essex wicketkeeper Adam Wheater plunges to take a spectacular catch to dismiss Somerset’s Tom Abell at Lord’s