A mix of frustration and anticipation at Lord’s. There was more disruption from the weather after a sunny morning during which Somerset recovered from a shaky overnight position. The anticipation comes from the fact there are still three days of play available and the forecast is supposed to improve.
In the meantime Eddie Byrom posted his first century for Somerset, an invaluable one that will surely enhance his chances of becoming a regular in the lineup next summer.
To deliver in a high-profile final adds weight to the runs he scored. He received positive yet measured support from Craig Overton in a partnership of 127 that brought Somerset right back into the game.
In the end they were bowled out for 301, which means their situation is better than at the end of Wednesday, when there were 119 for four. As has been the case throughout this reduced red-ball summer Somerset recovered from a potentially perilous position even though their tail could not wag on this occasion.
The sun was out early and as a consequence the playing surface seemed to possess fewer demons as the ball softened. After a couple of elegant boundaries Steven Davies was caught behind off Sam Cook, who along with Jamie Porter has carried the Essex attack in this match so far, whereupon Byrom and Overton took charge.
Byrom was reassuringly methodical throughout, neat and purposeful and quick to drive anything over-pitched in what should be a landmark innings for him. Overton, a natural aggressor, was sensible in his approach – this was a tricky situation and an important game. Eventually Essex had to switch to Simon Harmer, who bowled accurately without finding much turn and the batsmen were mature enough to play the ball not the man.
After a long afternoon interruption this pair shepherded Somerset to the advent of the second new ball, which in this competition has been available after 90 overs. This changed the tempo of the game just as the temperature started to drop rapidly. Back came the tireless Porter and Cook and the wickets started to fall again. Overton pushed half-forward and was hit on the front pad and the umpire, Rob Bailey, sent him on his way. In the next over Cook dismissed Byrom in the same manner.
Lewis Gregory, a free and dangerous spirit in the lower-middle order, swung Cook for the solitary six of the innings over the leg-side boundary. He tried the same shot again, missed and became the third lbw victim with this devious new ball. This was Cook’s fifth wicket, an invaluable effort from a wholehearted bowler especially since Aaron Beard had proved to be too expensive to bowl too many overs.
There were a few silky strokes from Josh Davey but then Harmer finally intervened. Another raised finger sent Jack Leach on his way propping forward defensively and being hit on the front pad, the sort of lbw that he will be pursuing eagerly later in the match. Out came Jack Brooks, a formidable No 11 this summer, who missed his first ball and was bowled to leave Harmer on a hat-trick. Theoretically there were three overs to negotiate.
The players went through all their rigorous pre-innings routines and marched out to the middle, where to no one’s surprise, the light was deemed to be bad and everyone returned to the pavilion with Alastair Cook and Nick Browne leading the way.
The loss of time should not be decisive. With three days left all sorts of possibilities are in prospect – though it would help if 98 interrupted overs could be bowled in a single day.