Somerset v Sussex, Taunton, 3rd day

Thomas takes four in four as Somerset soar

George Dobell at Taunton

June 10, 2014

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Somerset 289 (Overton 86, Kieswetter 65, Magoffin 6-60) and 107 for 4 beat Sussex 214 (Joyce 103) and 178 (Thomas 5-40) by six wickets
Scorecard


Alfonso Thomas celebrates his fourth wicket in four balls, Somerset v Sussex, County Championship, Division One, Taunton, 3rd day, June 10, 2014
Alfonso Thomas became the first bowler to take four wickets in four balls in the Championship since 2000 © Getty Images
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Four wickets in four balls from Alfonso Thomas powered Somerset to victory in three days over Sussex. The result leaves Somerset, who have never won the County Championship, top at the halfway point of their campaign (barring an unlikely win for Yorkshire). Some supporters are beginning to whisper that this might be their year.

The result was all but assured after Thomas, the 37-year-old South African, became the first Somerset bowler to complete the feat of four wickets in four balls in first-class cricket as he sparked a collapse that saw Sussex lose five wickets in 10 deliveries without scoring a run. He also became the first man to take four in four at Taunton.

In the sixth over of day Thomas, bowling full and gaining sharp swing, first had the left-handed nightwatchman Jimmy Anyon bowled off the inside edge after attempting a push at one that swung in lavishly from around the wicket, before Rory Hamilton-Brown was struck on the boot by a full one delivered from over the wicket next ball. Ed Joyce, the form batsman in the county game right now, completed the hat-trick when he was caught behind poking at a good one, again delivered from around the wicket, that nipped into him and demanded a stroke. It was top-quality bowling.

That ended Thomas' over but, four balls later, Chris Nash attempted to cut a wide ball from Peter Trego, maintaining the pressure as he bowled without complaint into the wind, without moving his feet and edged to first slip.

Then Thomas, starting a new over, had Matt Machan bowled off the inside edge as the batsman attempted another loose drive to one he could have left. Thomas celebrated, in his words, like "a nut case" and ran down to supporters in the Marcus Trescothick Stand. "Do you think they'll name it after me now?" he joked.

Thomas is the first man to claim four wickets in four balls in first-class cricket in English cricket since 2000, when Gary Butcher was the unlikely destroyer of Derbyshire, and the first man to achieve it in any first-class cricket since 2011, when Neil Wagner did it for Otago against Wellington.

Thomas, bowling better than ever with the passing years, eventually finished with his third five-wicket haul in three successive Championship matches at Taunton as Sussex were bowled out for 178. It left Somerset requiring only 104 for victory and, although they lost three wickets for one run after a bright start, Nick Compton thrashed three sixes off Will Beer to make sure there would be no mistake.

For the vast majority of Somerset's history, a Championship title has been a distant dream. Even now, after a decade stuffed with near misses in all competitions, players and supporters are unwilling to imagine success for fear of the pain that disappointment can bring. They have had their fill of that.

But, with a battling line-up stuffed with class and experience and a bowling line-up that has a blend of youth and experience that seems to be combining nicely, confidence is rising at the club. Somerset lack neither investment nor ambition - few clubs have a higher salary bill - and Alviro Petersen will be replaced by an overseas batsman, almost certainly a South African, while he is away on international duty. An announcement is expected shortly.

While Thomas puts his sustained performance down to a large stock of anti-inflammatory pain killers - "I'll have to stock up," he said with a smile afterwards - and an ice machine that he applies to his back, shoulders, ankles and knees every day - "Just don't tell my wife how much it cost, she'd kill me" - he considers the defining moment of his career, the time in the winter of 2007-08 when Brian Rose persuaded him to join Somerset. While Rose moved on from his position as director of cricket at the end of 2012 his influence remains on the club he served so well for so long.

And while Thomas admits he considered retiring from red-ball cricket before the season - "It was the shoulder, then it was the back, and you lie in bed at night and think 'Is this the end?'" - he has plenty to play on for now.

"This could be the year," Thomas said. "I'm starting to believe. Taunton is home now for me and my family don't want to go anywhere.

"That was the first hat-trick of my professional career and has to be right up with the highlights. But yes, the turning point of my career came when a man called Brian Rose showed belief in me. I love Somerset."

If Somerset do win the Championship - and a final game away against Yorkshire already looks tantalising - it would be a popular success for most cricket lovers simply due to the affection in which Marcus Trescothick is held. No-one symbolises the spirit of Somerset more than Trescothick.

While his powers as a batsman may be dimming and he will undergo a scan on his groin after pulling up sharply while batting in the second innings, there is a sense that, after an excellent career touched by sadness, he deserves the success that has eluded him and every Somerset cricketer before him.

And if you needed one moment to sum up Trescothick's commitment, his desire, his selflessness and his humility, it is the sight of him, over after over, perched under the helmet at short leg. "Someone has to do it," he says matter of factly. Not many 38-year-old captains would take such a view.

For Sussex this was a worrying performance. They look over-reliant upon a couple of key individuals - Joyce with the bat and Steve Magoffin with the ball - and, with England calls biting hard, appear to lack depth in their squad. Such is the absence of a quality spin bowler - though Will Beer bowled better in the second innings - that Ashar Zaidi looks set to be recalled.

To rub salt in the wound, Sussex also learned that they will be without Michael Yardy for another six to eight weeks after it emerged that he is to undergo surgery on his bicep injury. With Matt Prior and Chris Jordan also likely to be absent for long periods on England duty, it leaves Sussex scouring the loan market for possible reinforcements.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by JG2704 on (June 13, 2014, 7:24 GMT)

Montlaur - pt 3 - Teams do get fined etc for deemed dodgy pitches but at least the dodgy pitch is the same for both sides. I remember dad telling me (re conditions) that Sussex could be a mare to bat on due to the dew factor but then you'd have to win the toss to get the benefit. If a team won all their matches in such circumstances and the toss win was pretty even then fair enough. Obviously if the home side won the toss all the time then it would start to look dodgy

Posted by JG2704 on (June 12, 2014, 6:49 GMT)

@Montlaur ctd - So if in cricket you get a situation where team A is bowled out for 243 and then team B is bowled out for 257 in the 1st inns and then team A scores 300 in the 2nd inns and team B is on 120-8 in the 2nd inns do you think it's fair that team A gets more bonus points because of what happened purely in the 1st inns? Vs Yorks we actually had a 1st inns lead of 100 but because we didn't score them as quickly Yorks got the better of the bonus points. Yes I'm sure it has worked in our favour at some point in the past but that still doesn't make it right IMO whoever the bonus points favour

Posted by JG2704 on (June 12, 2014, 6:49 GMT)

@Montlaur on (June 12, 2014, 6:07 GMT) No - it's not because Somerset have started poorly. It's because in ANY sport the result should reflect the whole game/event. Imagine if golf or football had the same problems and matches were called off. In football team A is 1-0 up at half time but team B is 3-1 up when it is called off or in gold Player A is 5- after round 1 with player B 4- but player B is 6- when play is halted and player then who is in front? It's like in boxing - if one boxer wins the 1st 3 rounds and then the 2nd boxer wins the next 5 and the bout is stopped on an accidental butt cut and it goes to the scorecards who wins the fight?

Posted by Montlaur on (June 12, 2014, 6:07 GMT)

Well done Somerset. You have exceeded my expectations this season. Lets hope you can hold the form through the next 3 matches.

Re; bonus points; I don't think there is much wrong with the batting and bowling points. The suggestion that it should be reflective of both innings simply because Somerset haven't always made a good fist of the first innings seems like wishful thinking. Play the rules as they are not how you want them to be.

I do have a problem with the number of points for a win though. Its disproportionate. It rewards teams that produce dodgy result pitches-Lancs for example. They have been dreadful this season but the weather has rescued them several times and a couple of flukey wins and they would be mid-table. Currently they are above Durham who are a MUCH better team. Because of this system Somerset must seek wins because being unbeaten won't be enough...

Posted by JG2704 on (June 11, 2014, 19:36 GMT)

@Paul_Somerset - Hello.Re bonus points I believe there has to be a bonus points system to reflect the game but one that reflects the whole game. Compare to football - all games are completed in a league season so there can be no doubt that each team deserves to finish exactly where it does. I don't think it's necessarily fair in cricket re "If a team can't force a win..." because there are so often games where you get only around 2 days of play and it's unreasonable to expect any team to force a result when there is so little play. I must admit I was peeved when rain ruled out the Lancs win last week but would have been worse if both teams got exactly the same points. I've loads of ideas re a fairer way of allocating the bonus points but maybe all a bit difficalt to explain but basically I'd like the bonus points to fully reflect the final scorecard after 4 days and reflects how each teams fair against each other.300 on one pitch may be harder than 400 on another ...

Posted by Paul_Somerset on (June 11, 2014, 14:28 GMT)

@JG2704 If nothing else, Durham and Sussex look weak through not having a spinner. (Well, they do each have a leg spinner to whom you wouldn't really want to have to throw the ball: something which they have in common with Yorkshire oddly enough, which may cause the latter problems in the second half of the summer.)

I've racked my brains for an answer to the bonus-points conundrum, and the solution to which I always return is to abolish them and award three points for a win and one for a draw. We're almost there anyway with 16 for a win and 5 for a draw, so why bother with the distraction of bonus points? If a team dominates a game, yet can't force a win, then I'm afraid that is how sport is - one point each and a reminder that life is both cruel and unfair. If nothing else, it might encourage teams to play a spinner for his bowling rather than his ability to nick batting points (cf Borthwick and Rashid).

Posted by JG2704 on (June 11, 2014, 10:35 GMT)

@Paul_Somerset - Would you call Durham a weaker side. I know they are low in the table but have only lost 1 game. I'm not sure re all their draws if they were on top or behind in those games? Sometimes the table can lie.Look at Middx who are 2nd and have lost 2 games. Yes - credit to them for winning the games they won but you will always score more for a win and a defeat than 2 draws and if you get bad weather it limits your chances of winning - no matter how well you play. IMO the points system is unjust re bonus points.Vs Yorks we came out on the wrong end despite having a 1st inns lead of 100 and vs Durham we came out on the wrong end of the bonus points depite looking the most likely winners had anoth 2-3 hours of play been possible. The way it stands is that 1 team can have a narrow 1st inns lead and then the other dominate the rest of the game and unless they win the other team will have more bonus points.Surely the bonus points should reflect the whole game?

Posted by Paul_Somerset on (June 11, 2014, 9:57 GMT)

It's 5 points for a draw now, siltbreeze. Those points have helped Somerset to top the table.

Having seen all the games at Taunton this year, I'm wondering whether the pitches have been prepared with a deliberate policy of avoiding defeat against the strong teams such as Yorkshire and Notts, while going for the jugular against the weak sides such as Durham and Sussex.

Somerset have the most straightforward second half of the season of any County, with three games still to come against the two Second-Division teams: two against Northants and a visit from Lancs. Yorkshire, by contrast, have only a visit to Old Trafford to look forward to.

A bowling attack of Steve Kirby, Lewis Gregory, Jamie Overton and Jack Leach/Max Waller would look quite attractive, yet none of them was even playing in this game.

Posted by JG2704 on (June 11, 2014, 9:45 GMT)

Very pleased with the result and hopefully Yorks and other rival teams will get some weather which denies them nailed on win points.

I'm wondering if Kirby will get another game for Somerset? He certainly won't find it easy getting back in the side

@siltbreeze on (June 11, 2014, 8:26 GMT) I think you were actually right re the formation. The Sussex game I think was played with a 6/1/4 formation but ever since they have played the 5/1/5 formation which I much prefer. Especially when you notice that all our bowlers are chipping in with the wickets and I believe the 5th bowler would add more value with the ball than Jones or Barrow would with the bat. Maybe they got it right by getting a couple of draws against 2 of the tougher sides by playing the 6/1/4 and now have found confidence in the 5/1/5. And we seem to have a lower middle order that can pitch in with some runs too. Maybe elimination from the T20 may end up being a blessing in disguise?

Posted by siltbreeze on (June 11, 2014, 8:26 GMT)

I was critical of Somerset earlier in the season, when it seemed we were playing for draws, and thought we might be in for a relegation battle. Very happy to be proved wrong now! With Dockrell in and several of our front line bowlers (Trego, Meschede, C Overton, Gregory) useful batsmen, we look so well balanced.

One thing I did get right was that Sussex were in for an almighty struggle this season. As Dobell says, they're far too reliant on a few players (and Magoffin might get less effective as the season goes on). Can someone explain to me how Hamilton-Brown still gets a game?

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