James Rew's first Taunton hundred brings hope of a new Somerset dawn

Pessimism abounds after early Lancashire wickets before Abell and Rew fashion prolonged resistance

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
James Rew has been a solid presence for Somerset, Somerset vs Lancashire, Taunton, County Championship, 1st day, April 20, 2023

James Rew produced a breakthrough innings  •  Getty Images

Somerset 311 for four (Abell 119*, Rew 114*; Anderson 2-56) vs Lancashire
Those readers familiar with the oeuvre of Chris Sandford might recall that one of his early hits, "Not too Little, Not too Much" reached No 17 in the charts nearly 60 years ago. The song's publicity was enhanced by it being included in an episode of Coronation Street the soap in which Sandford played the part of the window-cleaner, Walter Potts. Throughout the history of cricket, however, the title might have stood as an axiom for bowlers of all stripes and persuasions: move the ball too little and most idiots can play it; move it too much and only the Gods nick off.
James Anderson has delivered plenty of the latter and occasionally offered a wry smile when he did so. But given that he has bowled more than a thousand balls that strike a perfectly destructive compromise between the two extremes, he can afford to do so. The discouraging thing for Somerset's batsmen on the first morning of this game - and what made their subsequent achievement all the more memorable - is that Anderson's thirst for success shows no sign of being slaked.
Rather like Derek Underwood, who celebrated every success, Burnley's finest takes more wickets partly because he very much wants to. And so driven, he picked up two more inside the first 45 minutes at the County Ground as neither Sean Dickson, who was haplessly half-forward, nor Tom Lammonby, who failed to cover the movement off the seam, could deal with him. Nobody who watched those dismissals contemplated the likelihood of the day ending with just two more wickets falling and matters ending in a golden light with applause for two Somerset centurions.
Instead, it got worse for the locals in the first session and people merely shrugged when it did. None of the home side's specialist batsmen began this game with an aggregate of 100 runs from four innings and Somerset had lost one game and been on the wrong end of a draw in the other.
Their coach, Jason Kerr, had sought refuge in metonymy: "The dressing room is hurting," he said, and so one assumes the pain deepened when Cameron Bancroft edged Tom Bailey to George Bell and Tom Kohler-Cadmore, having made 38 runs in an hour, whipped Colin de Grandhomme off his hip and saw the ball sail into the hands of Bailey at long leg. In the context of Somerset's current needs, Kohler-Cadmore's innings resembled some of West Ham United's football in the 1970s: it was attractive but ineffectual.
Pleasingly, therefore, for most of the spectators who thronged the James Hildreth Stand and maybe also for the students whose singing enlivened the afternoon session, the home side's fortunes improved rather dramatically in the remainder of the day. Unexpected, one or two dour locals might have called it but that adjective does little honour to the batting of Tom Abell and James Rew, whose unbroken 231-run stand was studded with fine strokes. For many, the second-best moment of the partnership arrived when Abell thick-edged de Grandhomme past slip to go to the 14th first-class century of his career. There should be no surprise at this reaction. Abell's loyalties to his county go marrow-deep and that love is reciprocated by many in this ground's four pavilions.
But 19-year-old Rew also looks an exceptional prospect and appears to have more strokes around the wicket than his captain, whose gorgeous on-drive nevertheless signs his best innings. For his part, Lancashire's skipper, Keaton Jennings, was left to rotate his bowlers to a degree he might not have envisaged. For example, at 3.20, left-arm spinner Tom Hartley was given his first bowl of the day, only to be driven through the covers by Rew before being whacked over midwicket, a stroke that took the lad past fifty for the third time in a first-class career that has spanned less than a year.
Before long, the pair also set a new fifth-wicket record for Somerset against Lancashire, albeit that only vanquished the 145 set by Rew and Lewis Goldsworthy at Southport last July. More significantly, of course, the balance of the contest and the shape of their side's early season changed as well. It is easy during the first month or so of a campaign for a county's season to suffer the same fate as SpaceX and experience a "rapid, unscheduled disassembly". Had Abell's team being bundled out below 200 on this wonderful Thursday afternoon when leaves seemed to appear on the trees almost as quickly as Somerset's day improved, there was a danger that their early season would have been plagued by self-doubt and lack of confidence.
Nor have two sessions changed everything. But when Rew cover-drove de Grandhomme to the Ondaatje Pavilion boundary four overs before the close to reach his second first-class century in 18 innings and his first on this ground, one was reminded of the afternoon nearly eight years ago when Abell had made his maiden century and Marcus Trescothick, who had earlier also made a ton, admitted that he felt like a warm-up act for his young colleague. Trescothick and Abell were interviewed that day. This evening, it is Abell and Rew who are facing some kindly faces and appreciative questions.
Trescothick and Abell…Abell and Rew. "Pass it on," says Hector in Alan Bennett's play The History Boys. "That's the lesson I want you to learn."

Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications

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