Captain Jack Cooper produced the best all-round display of his career as a Taunton CC player on Saturday to guide his side to a six-wicket victory at Bedminster - their seventh consecutive league triumph.
Cooper snapped up three for 13 from 8.3 overs, took a couple of smart catches, effected a direct-hit run out at the non-strikers end which saw the back of the dangerous James Carter and then went on to play a match-winning innings. For once, Taunton’s skipper had also called correctly at the toss, giving his bowlers an opportunity to exploit a greenish track.
Not for the first time, George Cook didn’t disappoint, nicking off Mark Barnes in his second over and inducing the home side’s captain, Gareth Elphick, to spoon one to Cooper at mid-off.
Sandwiched between those two dismissals, Cook also snared the massive wicket of Ian Harvey. The former Australian all-rounder smashed a sumptuous boundary from his first ball, left his second and then skewed the next delivery to backward point, where Charles Solanki held on to an excellent head-high grab.
Thereafter, the visitors’ trio of spinners - Ben Orr (two for 34), Graham Fitt (no wicket for 33 off 10) and Chris Greenwood (one for 32) - wove their magic and ensured there were to be no easy runs on offer.
The Bedminster innings was held together by Chris McCormack (27) and David Phillips (56), who took the score from 62 for five in the 22nd over to 115 for six after 36.
Phillips was fortunate to survive a vociferous caught behind shout early on in his knock, but played well in moving past his half-century. He was eventually the eighth wicket to fall, deceived in the flight by Orr and holing out to Chris Davenport at long-on, whereupon Cooper mopped up the tail.
With Tom Abell busy playing a starring role in his first-class debut, chasing down a target of 175 was never going to be an entirely straightforward task on a wicket where one or two balls were starting to keep low.
And so it proved when Davenport was castled by a scuttling delivery from Carter and Richard Godfrey was trapped in front by Sam Knapp, leaving the away side on 23 for two in the ninth over.
George Webber (39) was then joined by the irrepressible Cooper, and the third-wicket pair broke the back of the reply, as they patiently added 72 invaluable runs. It was Webber’s most important contribution of the summer, which was only ended when he poked a catch to cover, with the ball holding up a fraction.
The fall of Webber’s wicket prompted Cooper to take charge of proceedings, aided by some wayward bowling from the home side’s attack that yielded 42 extras in all. He struck nine boundaries and one maximum, as his team’s last 40 runs were posted in a little more than five overs, with the big-hitting Rob Dickins also getting in on the act.
Fittingly, Cooper hooked the winning runs high over square-leg, and finished unbeaten on 69 from exactly 100 balls.
As a consequence, Taunton’s dream of promotion is still alive, although Midsomer Norton’s victory off the penultimate ball against Wembdon keeps them in pole position with just two games remaining.
Brislington are the visitors to Gipsy Lane at the weekend, with the home side happy to believe that anything is still possible.
Cooper Associates Man of the Match: Jack Cooper
© Cricket World 2014