Byrom class lifts Somerset before Essex fight back
With three days to go, the Bob Willis Trophy final is wide open, after Somerset posted a working total of 301.
If there is more of the cold rain which has replaced the autumn sunshine and blighted the first two days, so that the game ends in a draw, the winners will be the county that takes the first-innings lead.
Eddie Byrom held Somerset together with his third first-class century, and a fine one it was, especially considering he had not passed 30 in the five qualifying rounds. It was undoubtedly the finest hundred ever made by a left-handed Zimbabwean vegan in his maiden innings at Lord’s.
Instead of being constrained by the knowledge that Somerset have never won the championship, and by the reputation of Essex’s leading wicket-taker Simon Harmer, Byrom batted like a fearless youth, although he is 23 and therefore one of Somerset’s older batsmen.
In the No4 position, he replaced their only senior batsman James Hildreth, who was injured, having torn a hamstring when called for a T20 run – by Byrom.
He could hardly have done more to make amends.
“I’ve only been here [Lord’s] once before to watch the Somerset oneday team bring home the trophy last year,” said Byrom, who has an Irish passport (his father was a sports journalist in Zimbabwe) and who moved to England at 16. “Zimbabwe’s a bit of a mess now, and I’ve committed to playing for Somerset and wanting to play for England, so that’s definitely my ambition.”
The best parts of Byrom’s innings were his straight drives which, leading elbow high, brought up his 50 on day one and his hundred on day two, and his refusal to let Harmer slowly suffocate Somerset.
The influence of Marcus Trescothick, Somerset’s batting coach, was evident when Byrom clipped
Lording it: Eddie Byrom marks his century
Harmer through midwicket, and swept him, before Harmer cleaned up the last two wickets in consecutive balls – but too late for Essex to begin their reply as the last three overs were lost to bad light.
Byrom cashed in between the two new balls by sharing a stand of 127 with Craig Overton, who contributed a forthright 66, but his bowling might be even more influential.
If Alastair Cook drops anchor, on a slow pitch, he retains the appetite to grind out big scores.
Essex’s fielding was not spry, as they are older than Somerset, and their captain Tom Westley did not post a third man until Somerset were up and running at 132 for four. But Sam Cook, 23, persisted to take five wickets.
“I think he’s going to develop into a really, really fine bowler,” said their head coach Anthony McGrath. “He’s learning how to swing the ball, and he’s got a bit of growth in him.”