Nottinghamshire v Somerset, Trent Bridge, 2nd day September 25, 2013

Hildreth ton defends Somerset status


Somerset 183 for 2 (Hildreth 102*, Compton 62*) trail Nottinghamshire 406 (Hussey 125, Lumb 107, Thomas 4-103) by 223 runs

Sometimes in late season you can become so obsessed with the intricacies of promotion and relegation - how this bonus point lost will affect this bonus point gained - that something dreamily proficient can almost pass you by. James Hildreth's unbeaten hundred at Trent Bridge felt like that.

Hildreth batted beautifully, scoring at roughly a run a ball for his entire innings, and soothed talk of a possible Somerset relegation, yet did it in a manner which made no grand statement, a west country lad protecting their Division One status in understated fashion. Like many Somerset batsmen this season, he has been short of his best, but here was a reminder of his mellifluous talent.

Given a Derbyshire win 20 miles or so down the A52, the side that loses at Trent Bridge could be relegated. If that sounds unlikely now thanks to Derbyshire's struggles, it was not the case in early afternoon. Nottinghamshire's total of more than 400 had left them feeling comfortable. Attention was very much on Somerset.

Notepads were grabbed, calculations hastily scribbled. Finally, after many crossings out, everybody concurred: Derbyshire would have to manage one more batting point than Somerset as well as beating Warwickshire. Somerset would have to lose. Given that scenario, Somerset would be relegated.

Somerset were 11 for 2 in as many overs when Hildreth came to the crease - Marcus Trescothick lbw to a decent delivery from Harry Gurney, Chris Jones caught at the wicket off Luke Fletcher. They seemed destined for an afternoon of pain. Pessimistic talk abounded about how they would be relieved just to avoid the follow-on and collect a couple of batting bonus points to put Derbyshire under pressure.

It is doubtful that Hildreth busied himself with working out the Division One table. He has had a largely unproductive season and, even though he has nearly 11,000 Somerset runs to his name, England have stopped looking. But in most situations he bats agreeably and then when the day is done he often slopes modestly away.

Hildreth dealt with Notts' attack in wristy fashion from the outset, reminding onlookers that his talents deserve this stage. He made his move just before tea: three boundaries in an over by Paul Franks, repeated by Nick Compton off Brett Hutton in the next over.

Compton also played with certainty in a third-wicket stand that had swollen to 172 in 33 overs when bad light brought a premature end to a day restricted to 51.5 overs. Considering the unsettled weather, the odds on a draw that would automatically spare both sides from the drop are shortening - with Tony Pigott, the ECB pitch inspector, on hand to ensure there is no hint of collusion.

Nobody much believes the national selector, Geoff Miller, when he says the door is not closed on Compton - it feels made of foot-thick English oak, with sentries stood above it with vats of boiling oil - but Compton is within range of 1000 Championship runs for the season nonetheless. He reached his 50 with an emphatic straight six off the left-arm spin of Samit Patel.

Such meagre rewards were less than Notts must have expected after vigorous new-ball spells from Gurney and Fletcher. Charles Dickens, who liked names to give a clue to his characters would have named the Notts pace attack the other way round. Harry Gurney would have been the big, broad-beamed fast bowler, whilst Luke Fletcher would have been the slim whip of a lad. But we're not in Dickens country - more DH Lawrence around here.

As for Hildreth, in a Dickens novel, he would have been a bank clerk, unassuming , perhaps ill-treated at times, never entirely achieving the fortune he deserved, but with enough talent to ensure that his end was a happy one.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • andrew on September 26, 2013, 9:23 GMT

    On this "if your face fits..." issue. Over the last couple of years I've got to know the father of an upcoming young England player who's been in various age group and development squads and now plays county cricket. What's surprised me is the sheer level of monitoring and involvement in his career of the central ECB set-up. Right down to details of when he can and can't play, diet, training regime and so on. I think what happens is that these young players who are identified early as potential international players have their technique and mental approach examined in such depth by the powers that be - from the point of view of how suitable they might be for international cricket - that what they actually achieve at county level is of secondary importance. So in a sense "if your face fits..." is true, but it's the result of a process that largely bypasses the county game.

  • John on September 26, 2013, 8:22 GMT

    @L. Graham Smith on (September 25, 2013, 21:10 GMT) To be fair I think Hildreth went off the boil just as he was ready to be selected. Re Craig/Nick - I have my doubts re Eng ever selecting either. It also seems to me (re Eng) "If your face fits" ...I don't like to think of this division within the county game but it is starting to look that way. In a way I'm quite happy when Somerset players get ignored by Eng because then they remain Somerset players , but I suppose there comes a time when the player starts hearing things that if he moves on it'll improve his chances. I read somewhere that Warwicks were trying to sign Jos and Nick (when Nick was out of contract) but fair play to Nick for not jumping ship. Certainly England have not been too considerate with Somerset's needs this year. We'll see how J Overton progresses and if we get the usual suspects sniffing around.

  • John on September 26, 2013, 8:08 GMT

    @landl47 - It's debatable who is the better keeper but re

    "I can't understand why Somerset persist in using Kieswetter as WK instead of Buttler"

    It's a thing called values and loyalty and treating your players well.It was only this year that CK was England WK in shorter formats and Jos was coming through as a batsman/reserve WK.In previous seasons there was no inclin that Jos wanted to keep full time. So the way I see it is that the main reason he wants to keep full time is because folk have put ideas in his head that it's the best/only avenue into the England side. If Jos was told that he'd stand no more chance of getting into the Eng side by keeping wicket I'm sure he'd be happy to keep going as he is. Somerset have accomodated Jos by agreeing that he keeps in SF games near to when Eng play. Maybe they can eek out a deal with Jos and Craig so they don't lose him but there are 2 players to consider here and it is Jos who Somerset are moving the goalposts for

  • andy on September 26, 2013, 6:43 GMT

    Hildy bats very well in good batting conditions only :( , and he is from milton keynes which is not in the west country

  • John on September 26, 2013, 3:43 GMT

    I can't understand why Somerset persist in using Kieswetter as WK instead of Buttler. Having seen them both, Buttler is easily the better keeper. If he has (as surely he must) ambitions to replace Prior in England's test team eventually, he must play as WK, either in Somerset or, if they want to keep Kies in that spot, with another county.

    Hildreth is a fine player, but after several good seasons this year was a disappointment. With excellent young players like Ballance and Vince coming through, his time has probably passed. Ironically, he would walk into the current Australian side, which is crying out for a batsmen with his record in the middle order.

  • John on September 25, 2013, 21:55 GMT

    @andybu on (September 25, 2013, 19:53 GMT) Tres himself said captaincy wasn't hindering him and something like he loved the captaincy as much as the club itself. I wondered whether it may be eyesight/reflexes but was informed by a regular that he was still sharp in the slips. Also wonder if the Jos/Craig issue must be a strain as I'm sure he desperately wants to keep both at the club still

  • John on September 25, 2013, 21:51 GMT

    @markatnotts on (September 25, 2013, 20:19 GMT) Hildreth was looking nailed on for an Eng place in 2010 start of 2011. But then in 2011 he totally lost his way. 2012 was better but 2013 by and large has been poor. The frustrating thing is that he's often got to double figures but rarely this season has he even converted up to 50s. I wonder if there's been a concentration issue

  • Mark on September 25, 2013, 21:22 GMT

    Another thing, Compton should really have been the reserve opener for the Ashes squad, rather than Carberry. That is something most England fans will surely agree on.

  • Dummy4 on September 25, 2013, 21:10 GMT

    remember Hildreth also was the successful captain for the Lions on a tour. Don't think either he, Compton not Kieswetter will get another England look to be honest, CC form doesn't factor in anymore, its all about if/how your face fits and who you play for. Buttler being encouraged, advised and coaxed elsewhere will be repeated with JOverton in a couple of years. Seems the present national set-up does not care nor build the County game anymore. Moreover, the counties are clearly divided into those with Test grounds and those without. Irrespective of division or form, test ground teams see their players picked regardless of form or season's performance.

  • Mark on September 25, 2013, 20:19 GMT

    Much as I predicted for today, someone would get runs for Somerset, indeed both Compton and Hildreth could still get big scores. Regarding Hildreth and England, they seriously looked at him around 2009/10, but the overriding feeling was, his style was perhaps relying too much on a good eye. It was definitely mentioned on cricket writers as the reason for the snub. Much like certain Notts players. Also I distinctly remember around that time he never looked like getting big runs at Trent Bridge when Notts had a better bowling attack and games were hard fought between the two sides All in a damn fine first class batsmen though.

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