Somerset 90 (Blatherwick 4-28, Bailey 3-9) and 226 for 4 (Lammonby 100, Azhar 50, Wells 3-8) trail Lancashire 373 (Bailey 63, Bohannon 50) by 57 runs
Jack Blatherwick's Lancashire career has had more false starts than a nervous sprinter. In truth the 23-year-old's signing from Nottinghamshire last November hardly prompted ructions in the Rossendale valley for it was clear that the lad would have to wait for his opportunity in an Emirates Old Trafford dressing room already packed with fast-medium bowlers. But even when chances have come along this summer something has managed to ruin them. Blatherwick got the nod for the Roses match at Headingley only for the rain-wrecked affair to contain just the single Lancashire innings. Then he played in the Royal London Cup warm-up match against Cumbria at Sedbergh and took two wickets in 23 balls before injury caused him to be led from the field in such angry distress that not even the sight of the Howgill Fells could console him.
So during a desperate first half of the day for Somerset's batsmen it was easy to feel joy for Blatherwick, who took 4 for 28 in ten overs as the home side were swept away for 90 in their first innings and asked to follow on. The loyalists on Gimblett's Hill might say with their inimitable trenchancy that their favourites' batting was spineless. Blatherwick will not care. Analysts might observe that only two of his victims were specialist batters. Blatherwick will not give a dying duck. The coaches might point out that the game is not yet won. Blatherwick will nod in agreement but in his mind's eye will be the quick outswinger that knocked back Roelof van der Merwe's off stump even as the batter sought to thrash it through midwicket. Jack Blatherwick, you may take it, has had a day out.
But the coaches are right. So much became clear during a wonderfully unexpected second half of the day when conditions eased and Tom Lammonby, who had made just one fifty in his previous 19 first-class innings, stroked his way to a century in 99 balls, only to become one of Luke Wells' three victims as the game swung Lancashire's way once again in the final hour. Perhaps Lammonby's strategy was born of anger at his team's earlier subsidence; perhaps there was something rather subtler and more powerful at work: a reliance on uncluttered ability.
There is a narrow but vital line between simply doing something and caring so much that you are unable to do it. Lammonby batted as though unshackled from concern. He placed his trust in the attacking technique that had served him well during last season's Bob Willis Trophy games and hit Matt Parkinson for two straight sixes. His 125-run second-wicket partnership with Azhar Ali gave Somerset supporters by far their happiest watching of the last fortnight and if Lancashire skipper Dane Vilas had not had the bright notion of replacing Parkinson with Wells at the River End they might have a great deal more fun ahead of them.
As it was, though, Wells turned a legspinner into Lammonby's back-foot defensive push and the left-hander was incontrovertibly leg before. Three balls later Tom Abell, whose batting and brain seem utterly scrambled at present, scooped a full toss to Vilas at midwicket and had thus managed to collect a pair in less than six hours. It is difficult to know what Abell's best remedy might be. In Season Four Episode 10 of The West Wing, Will Bailey tells Toby Ziegler, the White House's stressed-out communications chief: "You are more in need of a night in Atlantic City than any man I've ever met." Perhaps Abell should try similar relaxations although it is difficult to think where he might find them in Somerset. Weston-super-Mare, perhaps, although I confess to not having visited the place in a while?
Lancastrian delight was completed when Wells bowled a perfect legspinner to Azhar Ali, who was dragged forward on 50 and became Alex Davies' second stumping of the day. James Hildreth and Lewis Goldsworthy shepherded the innings to the close but there is still much work ahead of them if Somerset are to win this match. A draw now seems the most improbable of the four outcomes.
Yet the warmth of the reception given to Lammonby was particularly intense because it followed a morning that had revealed as much about Somerset's bowling on the first day of this game as it did about their batting on the second. It also suggested a fair amount about the various proficiencies of a Lancashire team that even after their defeat at Trent Bridge expects to win matches. That their resolve will be tested to a degree they might not have envisaged.
Indeed it was intriguing to compare the relative impotence of Vilas' seam attack after tea with their incision during the morning and early afternoon. Tom Bailey's second ball of the first innings tailed in a little before straightening and clipping off stump. A much better batter than Ben Green - little criticism intended - would have got a touch to it but no one could enjoy facing such a delivery before they had gauged the pace of the pitch. Lammonby and Azhar survived the next 40 minutes without ever suggesting permanence and their insecure 31-run stand was ended when Lammonby was leg before wicket to Bailey for 6. Abell lasted four balls before being brought forward by George Balderson and edging a catch to Davies.
But Somerset's skipper looked in good nick compared to James Hildreth for whom batting seemed something close to an alien pursuit this morning. On the day when he passed Peter Wight to become his county's third-highest run scorer in first-class cricket one of its most gifted stylists faced 19 deliveries before nicking his 20th to Wells. Watching Hildreth's first innings was like having a seat next to a dentist and being allowed to examine root canal work. Those who had seen him bat on the green and generous afternoons could take no pleasure in it. Hildreth's two fine boundaries off Balderson deep in the evening session thereby became moments to be relished. Perhaps they were a portent.
The regulars in the Colin Atkinson Stand might not have believed it but things could have been even more wretched than 46 for 4 at lunch. Graham Lloyd turned down a couple of leg-before appeals against Azhar that Vilas would have referred to DRS and even after lunch Wells twice spilled edges from Goldsworthy. It barely mattered. For Lancashire's fielders dropping catches was a bit like missing a sale at DFS. Another opportunity was sure to come along soon.
And so it did. Without adding to his 15 runs Goldsworthy played loosely at a ball from Blatherwick and Rob Jones took the catch. In the next over Steve Davies' defence was just as porous and his namesake returned the previous day's unwelcome compliment. The wickets of van der Merwe and a slashing Jack Brooks completed his haul. Twenty minutes later Somerset were batting again.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications