Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Somerset 301 (Byrom 117, Overton 66, S Cook 5-76) v Essex
As has been the practice of several Somerset cricketers down the decades - think Sammy Woods or Peter Wight - Eddie Byrom arrived in the county by way of somewhere else. Born in Harare, he pitched up in the West Country a few years ago to complete his education, cricketing and otherwise, at King's College, Taunton. Yet like many such offcomers, Byrom found the place got into his blood. So we may only imagine his deep feelings a few minutes after lunch this second afternoon when his on-drive to the Nursery End boundary off Sam Cook brought him a maiden first-class century against county opposition. And all this on his first appearance at Lord's and in the final of the Bob Willis Trophy, too.
Byrom's outward emotions were plain enough. There was the usual bat-brandishing, arm-raising and fist-pumping. So far as one could judge the pleasure was reciprocated, with many of the 23-year-old's colleagues and coaches congregating - at a distance from each other - on the dressing-room balcony or near the pavilion seating to offer their applause. Tom Banton tweeted his happiness from Dubai and one imagines John Cleese was chuffed, too.
All that was missing was the deep-throated acclamation of "Tractor", one of Somerset's most voluble supporters, or the delight of the denizens of Gimblett's Hill, some of whom would surely have made the trip to London for this match. One's mind went back to Tom Abell's maiden century at Taunton in 2015 when the County Ground erupted in joy and Marcus Trescothick declared himself no more than a warm-up act for the West Country's young champion.
But there were no paying supporters at Lord's this chilly autumnal Thursday and since Byrom is playing his sixth first-class match without crowds he is probably adjusting to their absence. Still it would have been pleasant to hear the rumbling approval of folk who followed Somerset in the tough summers as they watched Byrom and a noticeably responsible Craig Overton construct their fine partnership of 127 for the sixth wicket. That stand was ended by Jamie Porter with the new ball shortly after a three-hour rain break when he had Overton leg before wicket for 66, and the excellent Cook completed his own five-wicket return in successive overs immediately after that breakthrough. First Byrom was lbw for 119 when he moved too far across his stumps and Russell Warren then sent Lewis Gregory on his way when the batsman missed a hoick.
These three decisions refreshed Essex - Simon Harmer took the final wickets with successive balls - but the bowlers may also look back to occasions in the morning and early afternoon when things had gone nothing like so well. For example, Overton might well have been leg before wicket to Aaron Beard when he had made 22; perhaps the discourtesy of the celeb appeal spiced Rob Bailey's pleasure at rejecting it. Thus reprieved, one of Instow's finest reached his fifty off 85 balls and helped Byrom build a strong position, particularly powerful, indeed, when one remembers that this trophy will be settled on first-innings lead should both teams complete one innings and the match be drawn.
That, of course, is a satisfactory way of deciding the winners of a competition which has been a marvellous stop-gap in dark times. But to think that a similar method should resolve a County Championship final or that such a match is even necessary is to confuse an effective painkiller with a permanent cure for an illness whose existence is still disputed. No one has doubted the value of the Bob Willis Trophy this season but if a five-day game at Lord's is to end the season it should be a well-financed and well-rewarded celebration rather than a means of deciding the winners of what is still the most important competition in English domestic cricket.
The county champions should receive their pennant after five months rather than five days. To be gulled by the attractions of a showpiece occasion is to sacrifice the satisfactions of an absorbing struggle in varying conditions against different opponents for the glitz of an X Factor shindig. Should the Hundred go ahead next year we will have three finals over 16.4, 20 and 50 overs. Why do we need another?
It is almost always a bad idea to regard football as a model for cricket but no one suggested that last year's Premiership title should have been decided by a play-off between Liverpool and Manchester City. (That said, it would have been entertaining to hear the reactions on Merseyside had they done so.)
Absolutely none of which will affect Byrom's sense of pleasure this Thursday evening. His patience laid the foundations of his side's total and his boundaries were its coping stones. There were 16 fours in his 312-minute innings, three in an over off Beard in the game's very first session, a perfect straight drive off Cook to reach his half-century and then a pull and a sweep in Harmer's first over on Thursday morning. Yet Byrom never batted beyond himself; he used the depth of the crease but was not chary of getting on the front foot. Above all he never allowed the giddiness of the moment to trump his judgement. County chief-executives, please take note.