Somerset 251 (Abell 59) and 193 (Lammonby 107*, Barnard 4-25) beat Worcestershire 200 (Libby 58) and 184 (Davey 3-16, Gregory 3-65) by 60 runs
Somerset have qualified for the final of the Bob Willis Trophy after completing a 60-run victory over Worcestershire at New Road.
By securing their fourth win of the campaign, Somerset finished with 97 points - the highest tally of any team in the country - and have secured a place in the final where they look, at the time of writing, set to play Essex. That would effectively amount to a re-run of last year's final round of games in the County Championship, where Essex secured the draw required to seal their second title in three seasons.
It's a deserved achievement. But for rain in Birmingham which helped Warwickshire cling on with eight second-innings wickets down, Somerset would have won all five of their matches. They conceded one batting bonus point against their bowling in all those matches and while their own batting remains a little brittle, they have been saved by their lower-order when required.
This game provided a pretty decent microcosm of their season. Somerset's four frontline seamers combined to claim all 20 wickets, creating relentless pressure and exploiting both the assistance in the surface and the benefits of a Dukes ball. Yes, in Mumbai or Melbourne, they might well not look as potent. But from London to Leeds, they look exceptionally demanding. As Alex Gidman, the Worcestershire coach put it, "they are as close to an international attack as we could probably get in county cricket at the moment."
This final day here was typical. There were times, not least when Jack Haynes was driving neatly and Brett D'Oliveira was cutting anything remotely short, when it appeared Worcestershire might go close. Equally, when Joe Leach and Ben Cox were adding 44 for the eighth wicket, you sensed the army of Somerset supporters watching remotely (at one stage during this match, John Cleese - yes, that John Cleese - called the Worcestershire offices to ask for help accessing the live stream, while other Somerset supporters had booked rooms in the hotel overlooking the ground) were growing ever more nervous. This is a club far from unfamiliar with seeing victory snatched away from them at the last moment.
But Haynes, set up by a series of outswingers, left a straight one, D'Oliveira was caught on the crease by the deserving Craig Overton and Riki Wessels mistimed a pull to midwicket; his shot looked awful, but the ball may have stuck in the surface a little. Leach was caught on the back leg by one that may have kept a fraction low before Cox was defeated by one that both left him and kept low. There's a reason Somerset haven't conceded more than 200 this season.
There is a pleasing aspect to this seam dominance. Somerset have, in recent times, been accused of benefiting disproportionately from preparing spin-friendly tracks for their spinners. But this year they were obliged to play three of their five games away from home and their spinners only contributed 14 overs between them and claimed just the one wicket. They won this match despite using England's first-choice spinner as their 12th man and their own first-choice spinner finishing wicketless. They are, in short, a well-balanced side stuffed with home-grown talent who regularly challenge for silverware.
It will be pleasing, too, that the key innings in this match was played by a locally-developed 20-year-old. Tom Lammonby's century was the difference between the sides. Over the final two innings of the game, the next highest score (after his unbeaten 107) was 32. You might expect his coach, Jason Kerr, and his captain, Tom Abell to refer to it generously. But when Gidman joined them in using exactly the same phrase - that it was, in context, "one of the best first-class innings" any of them had seen - you know it was pretty special. They're strong words, certainly, but it was an admirably mature performance. As Kerr put it, "he has a very bright future".
It does seem just a bit of a shame that Jamie Overton will not be lining up in the Somerset side at Lord's. Overton has been easily their quickest bowler in recent years - he might just be the quickest home-grown bowler they have ever produced - but he has moved on to Surrey (albeit on loan until the end of the season) in a perfectly reasonable bid to further his career. If the wicket at Lord's is flat, though, his pace could be missed. It seems regrettable he had to leave before the campaign was complete.
Whether James Hildreth is able to play at Lord's remains to be seen. He spent Wednesday - his 36th birthday - undergoing a scan on what is feared to be a hamstring tear. Bearing in mind his excellence against spin, his absence would be considerable.
Worcestershire will, naturally, be disappointed to finish their first-class season with a defeat. But having suffered two miserable years in the format - they were relegated in 2018 and finished ninth in Division Two in 2019 - this year represents a considerable step forward. Four of the other sides in their group would have been Division One sides, so to win twice - both times against Division One sides (Gloucestershire and Northants) - and to finish runners-up is encouraging.
Home-grown players have been at the heart of their improvement too, but their recruitment has also been impressive. The one player they have brought in since last year - Jake Libby; a player who so impressed the coach, Kevin Sharp, in a second XI match in 2017, he has coveted him ever since - is currently the highest run-scorer in the competition. They are a club with much to contribute and much to look forward to in 2021.
But it's Somerset who progress to Lord's. And while they will be, given the respective records of the sides - Essex have won the Championship twice in the last three years; Somerset have never won it - the underdogs, the sense is they are building something that not just can taste success but deserves to do so. At both these clubs, there is much to admire and encourage.
The same might be said about the domestic first-class competition. Few are arguing for a retention of this format - though a move to conferences seems inevitable - but, from where we were in June, this has been an excellent contingency plan. No, it's not the same without spectators and yes, the return of some overseas players would no doubt improve the quality. But we've seen some engaging, good quality cricket and, by ensuring the survival of the format and providing opportunities to home-grown players, it feels as if the game has just about kept itself relevant and viable. It has been, more or less, a perfect solution in our imperfect world and has, perhaps, provided a valuable reminder that, eventually, better days will return.