The race for the Bristol & Somerset League crown (and with it promotion) will go down to the final game of the season, following Midsomer Norton’s shock defeat at Frenchay and Taunton’s comfortable win at home to Brislington last Saturday.
Taunton cruised to a 10-wicket win against their opponents from Bristol, thanks to another magnificent opening partnership between Tom Abell (102 not out) and Chris Davenport (73 not out). With neither of them offering even the semblance of a chance, the pair put on an undefeated 198, to go with partnerships of 207 not out, 127, 99, 64 and 51 on the previous occasions they’ve opened the batting together.
Having recently announced himself to the wider cricketing world with 95 on his Somerset debut versus Warwickshire, Abell was back in the familiar groove of scoring runs for the club that he first played for as an eight-year-old.
He has now amassed 770 league runs for the year, including three centuries, at an average of 128. Meanwhile, Davenport, who hails from Western Australia but holds a British passport, has lost little in comparison, with 668 runs at 61.
Earlier in the day, it hadn’t been all been plain sailing for the hosts, who were made to work hard for any rewards in the field by a spirited display from Brislington’s top order.
The visitors’ skipper and former Somerset batsman, Richard Ollis, elected to make first use of another fantastic cricket wicket, allowing Harry Popplewell and George Cook to display their now customary pace and aggression with the new ball. But both Will Ollis (39) and Jamie Phillips (23) were resolute during their own opening stand of 51.
The breakthrough was eventually made in the 13th over, following the introduction of off-spinner Chris Greenwood, who won a leg-before verdict against Phillips. South African Donovan Scholtz (20) then helped Ollis take the score to 84 before he was very well caught at slip by Ben Orr, again off the bowling of Greenwood, who shortly afterwards held on to an equally sharp return catch to see the back of the younger Ollis.
When Orr dismissed Jake Williams, and the Greenwood-Orr combination accounted for the dangerous Jon Rogers without scoring, Brislington were in real trouble at 121 for five after 30 overs.
That they didn’t capitulate was down to the skill and experience of Ollis Senior, who made an excellent half-century and also found a capable ally in the form of young Cameron George. The sixth-wicket pair were to add 52 before George (15) gave Orr his third catch of the innings, this time at long-off, from the bowling of Graham Fitt.
It was to prove to be a profitable spell for off-spinner Fitt, who made short work of the lower order in claiming fine figures of four for 29, to go alongside Greenwood’s superb four for 27 from his full allocation. However, the key wicket of Ollis (55) belonged to the returning Cook, courtesy of a blinding catch down the leg-side by veteran ‘keeper, Jon Kerslake.
Thus, in a little more than a handful of overs 173 for five had become 195 all out, and the stage had been set for Abell and Davenport to do their thing. In the meantime, a very tight internal battle between Taunton’s seam and spin bowlers has developed – with the seamers just edging it 51 to 50, in terms of total wickets taken; but with Fitt’s 22 wickets of off-spin leading the way from Cook’s 18 of seam.
Everything now hinges on the last round of fixtures, with a buoyant Taunton travelling to Old Bristolians on Saturday, and Midsomer Norton (no more than a couple of miles away) at Bedminster.
Cooper Associates Men of the Match: the entire First Team squad - for putting themselves in with a genuine title shot with one game to go.
© Cricket World 2014