David Hopps writes on county cricket for ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps
Somerset 389 (Abell 111, Bartlett 62, Keogh 4-99) and 337 for 4 dec (Abell 115, Lammonby 110) beat Northamptonshire 265 (Young 85, Overton 5-38) and 109 (Davey 3-25) by 352 runs
Somerset's Division One status is assured after a season of perpetual worry and how appropriate that it was two hundreds in the match from their worthiest of captains, Tom Abell, that brought relief to Taunton on their final day of home cricket this season.
Players like Abell, still ambitious to represent England for sure, but also part of the fabric of their county, are to be more treasured than ever at a time of great uncertainty for the game. Abell leads from the front; with every contribution with bat and ball, with every barked media pronouncement, his pride in the county could not be more apparent. He communicates the message from Wookey Hole to Wellington that England's professional game has as much of a place in the rural counties as the big cities.
After his sterling efforts with the bat, Abell then enjoyed one of his most blissful days in the field in his six years as Somerset captain. He had chosen to bat on for another seven overs at the start of the final day, ensuring a draw at least as Northamptonshire were set a notional 462 to win. Win-points felt like a bonus, but Somerset whipped out Northants in only 30.4 overs for a resounding 352-run win. Everything wrapped up, fine and dandy, on the sunniest of afternoons by ten past two.
Peter Trego, the former Somerset allrounder, and now one of county cricket's most entertaining in-house commentators, called the win "one of the most important wins we have had in recent seasons at Taunton" and he was not exaggerating. In early season, many felt in the West Country that Gloucestershire might finish above Somerset in the table, so brittle were their performances. Instead, Gloucestershire will go down with either Warwickshire, Kent, who take a 14-point buffer into the final week, or Yorkshire, who are a point further ahead.
The impetus for Somerset's win rested initially with Craig Overton. Perpetually on the fringe of the England side, with 15 matches and 1,500 drinks run across all formats, Overton has somehow squeezed in eight Championship matches for Somerset too. His 35 first-class wickets at 16.51 have been a vital component. He took seven in the match here, and it was fitting that the final act was an Abell/Overton combination as Jack White edged the former to second slip where Overton, stood a yard forward in typically aggressive fashion, took a fine tumbling catch.
When the entrails of Northants' innings were examined, Overton had bagged only two wickets, but he set the tone. He began with the run-out of Emilio Gay, who responded quickly enough as Will Young pushed a single a few metres into the offside, whereupon Overton sprinted voraciously to collect off his own bowling and break the wicket with a diving underarm throw.
Mid-September has brought a rush of new-ball wickets and the sense was that the run-out would be enough to get Overton onto a roll. So it proved as Luke Procter fell third ball for nought, emerging warily from his Chanderpaul-like stance to find the ball thudding into his front pad; and Will Young edged one that left him to Abell at second slip. With Josh Davey, as serviceable as Overton is inspirational, having Josh Cobb caught at the wicket, Northants were 15 for 4. Cobb has taken on the role of No.4 because of the limitations of others, but his meagre returns suggest his natural place is lower down the order, or in the shorter formats.
Abell then dutifully filled the role of emergency third seamer with Lewis Gregory off the field, injured. He had Ricardo Vasconcelos lbw before lunch; Davey, who bowled an exemplary line, on a pitch that nibbled just enough, soon added Rob Keogh and Tom Taylor, and the air of celebration became ever more apparent as Kasey Aldridge nipped in for two tail-end catches at the wicket.
Tom Abell, Craig Overton cap Somerset's escape with crucial season-saving win
Captain and senior bowler to the fore as Northants are swept aside to preserve Div One status
Unbeaten tons to Tom Abell, Tom Lammonby have Somerset in total control
Craig Overton bags five-for before hosts build on imposing lead over Northants
Craig Overton tightens Somerset's grip in bid for crucial victory
Will Young resists with 85 but hosts take control to inch away from bottom two