Tom Abell, Craig Overton cap Somerset’s escape with crucial season-saving win

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Somerset 389 (Abell 111, Bartlett 62, Keogh 4-99) and 337 for Dec 4 (Abell 115, Lammonby 110) Northamptonshire 265 (Young 85, Overton 5-38) and 109 (Davey 3-25) with 352 runs

Somerset’s Division One status has been secured after a season of constant worry and how fitting that it was two hundred in the game from their most worthy captains, Tom Abell, who brought relief to Taunton on their last day of home cricket this season.

Players like Abell, who are still ambitious to represent England for sure, but also be part of the fabric of their country, will be cherished more than ever at a time of great uncertainty for the game. Abell leads from the front; with every bat and ball contribution, with every barking media statement, his pride in the county couldn’t be clearer. He brings the message from Wookey Hole to Wellington that England’s professional game has just as much a place in the rural counties as the big cities.

After his excellent efforts with the bat, Abell went on to enjoy one of his happiest days in the field in his six years as Somerset captain. He had opted to hit seven more overs at the start of the final day, resulting in a draw as Northamptonshire had a notional 462 to win. Wins felt like a bonus, but Somerset defeated Northants in just 30.4 overs for a resounding 352-run win. At ten past two on the sunniest afternoons, everything was packed, fine and dandy.

Peter Trego, the former Somerset all-rounder and now one of county cricket’s most entertaining internal commentators, called the win “one of the most significant wins we’ve had in Taunton in recent seasons” and he was no exaggeration. Early in the season, many in the West Country felt Gloucestershire might end up above Somerset in the table, so fragile were their performances. Instead, Gloucestershire will go down with either Warwickshire, Kent, taking a 14-point buffer to last week, or Yorkshire, one point ahead.

The impetus for Somerset’s victory initially lay with Craig Overton. Always on the fringes of England, with 15 games and 1,500 drinks in all formats, Overton has somehow also pushed into eight championship games for Somerset. His 35 first-class wickets at 16.51 were a vital part. He took seven in the match here, and it was fitting that the last act was an Abell/Overton combination as Jack White shoved the first into the second slip where Overton, typically aggressively standing a meter forward, did a fine tumble catch took.

When the guts of Northants’ innings were examined, Overton had dropped just two wickets, but he set the tone. He started with Emilio Gay’s run, who reacted quickly enough when Will Young pushed a single several yards offside, before Overton voraciously sprinted to catch his own bowling and break the wicket with a diving forearm throw.

Mid-September brought a rush of wickets with new balls and the feeling was that the runout would be enough to get Overton on a pitch. It proved it when Luke Procter dropped the third ball in vain, emerging cautiously from his Chanderpaul-esque stance to find the ball in its forward path; and Luke Young grabbed one who left it to Abell on the second slip. With Josh Davey as subservient as Overton is inspiring, Josh Cobb caught at the wicket, Northants was 15 for 4. Cobb has taken on the role of number 4 due to the limitations of others but his meager returns suggest his natural place is lower in the sequence, or in the shorter formats.

Abell then dutifully fulfilled the role of emergency third seaman with Lewis Gregory off the field, injured. He had Ricardo Vasconcelos lbw for lunch; Josh Davey, casting an exemplary line, on a throw that nibbled just enough, soon added Rob Keogh and Tom Taylor, and the atmosphere of celebration became more and more apparent as Kasey Aldridge came in for two tail-end catches at the wicket.

David Hopps writes about county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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