Somerset v Worcestershire, Taunton, 4th day September 19, 2009

Phillips and Thomas deny Worcestershire

The Bulletin by John Ward at Taunton

Worcestershire 571 (Mitchell 298) drew with Somerset 280 and 523 for 8 (de Bruyn 106, Kieswetter 90, Phillips 84, Suppiah 83, Langer 64, Thomas 54*, Andrew 5-117)

The sun shone for much of the day at Taunton, but it did not shine for Worcestershire. They finished the third day with the match almost within their grasp, their first victory of the season assured unless remarkable events took place. Unfortunately for them that was exactly what did happen. Three South Africans in Zander de Bruyn, Craig Kieswetter and Alfonso Thomas, and one peripatetic Englishman in Ben Phillips combined to score 334 fighting runs between them and snatch victory cruelly from the visitors.

Somerset began the day on 203 in their second innings, their four top batsmen all gone, still 88 runs behind Worcestershire's first innings and needing a remarkable fightback to save themselves from defeat. Holding the fort were de Bruyn and Kieswetter. To their credit, they approached their gigantic task in a positive spirit, but without the carelessness or recklessness that had characterized so many of the Somerset innings hitherto in this match.

Worcestershire's bowling attack is but a shadow of itself last season, and the batsmen were soon taking 15 off an over from Richard Jones, mostly by Kieswetter. Perhaps the most impressive feature of the partnership was the way the pair kept pushing the ball neatly through the gaps in the field for four; it was extremely well-judged batting. Kieswetter was the first to his 50, which came off 78 balls; de Bruyn reached his own off the very next ball, his 77th. de Bruyn now launched into Moeen Ali, hitting him for a six over square leg and a lofted four in the same over.

Kieswetter survived a stumping chance on 53, and then joined the assault, hitting a ball from Jones for an effortless flat six over the covers. But they did not exceed themselves, until with 90 to his credit Kieswetter forgot which end of the ground he was batting on and sliced a catch to the fielder at deep point just inside the long boundary.

At lunch Somerset were 71 ahead on 362 for 5, with de Bruyn on 87 and the team daring to hope for a draw. But there was another period of uncertainty to come soon after the interval. First Gareth Andrew, the most consistent of the Worcestershire bowlers, moved a ball back to trap Peter Trego lbw for 9. de Bruyn, after being stuck some time on 99, reached his century off 151 balls, but on 106 he flashed rashly outside the off stump to a ball from Jack Shantry and was caught at first slip. At 398 for 7, the match was right back in the melting pot.

Centre stage was now taken by two bowling all-rounders, Phillips and Thomas. Both have seriously underperformed for Somerset with the bat but now, when the team needed them, they came good at last. Phillips in particular showed that he is a batsman of great natural ability who seldom manages to put it together. He drove with real power and authority, and an effortless sweep off Ali would have even cleared the long boundary, as it landed on a balcony of the new block of flats beyond the stands.

The minutes ticked away for Worcestershire, as they saw their hopes of just one victory for the season steadily ebbing away, and the batsmen thrived without showing any sign of pressure. Phillips' 50 came off 72 balls, and by tea Somerset were 480 for 7, with the game almost safe. The first few overs after tea were critical for Worcestershire if they were to retain any hopes of victory - but the two batsmen were clearly aware of their responsibilities and played safely and soundly.

By the time Thomas reached his 50 with an edged hook for four the match was safe, and all that remained was Phillips' century, which would have been the second of his career. He certainly deserved it, but on 84 he slashed and was caught at slip off Andrew. This ended a most worthy stand of 125 runs which had finally destroyed Worcestershire's hopes. Minutes later, the players agreed on an early finish and a bitterly disappointed Worcestershire team trooped off the field, denied just one small comfort at the end of a dismal season. Andrew was their player of the second innings, with five hard-earned wickets.