Warwickshire retain hopes of glorious treble
Warwickshire 367 (Westwood 129) and 322 for 7 dec (Chopra 117*, Clarke 83) beat Somerset 286 (Abell 95, Jones 4-81, Patel 4-81) and 188 (Gordon 4-53, Patel 4-64) by 215 runs
Twenty years ago, Warwickshire won a historic treble. It is just possible that 2014 could yet rival 1994 as the finest year in Warwickshire's history.
A place in the quarterfinals of the Royal London One-Day Cup is virtually assured. On Saturday, the Edgbaston crowd will attempt to cheer Warwickshire onto glory in T20 Finals Day. And, after this victory at Taunton, Warwickshire have moved into third place in Division One of the Championship.
Few expected it on the first morning. Warwickshire's side on the scorecards sold at Taunton had a formidable look, but the names of Keith Barker, Boyd Rankin and Chris Wright all had to be rapidly scribbled out. Add in Chris Woakes being detained by England and it meant a particular onus on Jeetan Patel.
While he brings rather less razzmatazz than Brian Lara 20 years ago, Patel has unobtrusively developed into the model overseas pro for the 21st Century. His first-class record for Warwickshire is extraordinary: 173 wickets at 26.94, in addition to 1340 runs at 28.51. Though he lacks the mystery of Saeed Ajmal, Patel again bowled with wonderful control and skill.
The duel with Marcus Trescothick felt defining: Warwickshire's best bowler against Somerset's talismanic captain. Three of Somerset's four wins in this season's Championship have been underpinned by a Trescothick century, including a blazing fourth innings hundred at Taunton against Durham here in May.
Trescothick set off in rather more circumspect mood in this innings. It seems unimaginable that he can ever have begun an innings slower: his first run did not come until his 39th ball, when he cut Patel's first delivery of the day away for four.
"Last night I had two overs at him and it was disappointing not to get him - I really wanted that wicket," Patel said while nursing a well-deserved beer after play. Patel imagined that he might snare Trescothick running down the wicket, but had to settle for trapping him on the crease lbw, playing back.
Thereafter, Patel scarcely bowled a loose ball - he yielded only two runs an over - while extracting considerably more rip from the surface than George Dockrell had managed.
In a vain upset to disturb his immaculate rhythm, Somerset's batsmen attempted to use their feet. It did not work. After a foray down the wicket, James Hildreth was caught at mid-on to the third ball after lunch.
Alex Barrow did play Patel with considerable poise, playing decisively forward to negate the spin, but was eventually enticed into an injudicious drive, while an abhorrent swipe from Alfonso Thomas handed Patel his fourth wicket of the inning. Match figure of 8 for 145 took his Championship haul for 2014 to 47 wickets.
But victory would not have been without some sterling work from Warwickshire's stand-in pace attack. Oliver Hannon-Dalby has a slightly awkward action - his left arm falling away in his delivery stride - but he took two new ball wickets in both innings.
Having played superbly in the first innings - "a real joy to see," in Trescothick's words - Tom Abell appeared flustered in his second first-class innings. After Myburgh had flashed loosely against Hannon-Dalby, Abell survived a tight lbw shout first ball. To the next delivery, he made an egregious error of judgement, leaving a ball that shaped and sent his offstump cartwheeling.
Yet perhaps it was fitting that the win was sealed with a catch from Jonathan Trott off Recordo Gordon. Trott failed twice with the bat. He did not bowl. But he contributed perhaps the most memorable moment of the game.
A few minutes after being hit on the helmet by a Gordon bouncer - he was hit on the back of his helmet, turning away from the ball - Nick Compton thought he had hooked a six. But Trott, at square leg, caught the ball as he was running back into the boundary rope. He parried it up and returned from beyond the boundary to complete a magnificent catch. It could yet come to seem a pivotal moment in the title race.
Harassing the tail from around the wicket, Gordon took a career best 4 for 54, giving further notice of the depth of Warwickshire's bowling stocks. "You want your extended squad to be helping out because it comes to this time of year and guys are injured or sore or niggly or just tired," Patel said. "We play so much cricket in the season that it does become very tiring. We've played great cricket for three weeks."
Warwickshire will be grateful for the depth of their squad during the season's final dash. But what of Warwickshire's chances of matching the class of '94? "That's a long way away. That would be quite possibly the most amazing thing ever."