Keaton Jennings' untimely tear hands Somerset a lifeline after run-spree

Rain frustrates Lancashire as hosts hope to escape with draw after chastening day two

Paul Edwards
Paul Edwards
Keaton Jennings made 189 before retiring hurt, Somerset vs Lancashire, County Championship, Division One, Taunton, April 22, 2023

Keaton Jennings made 189 before retiring hurt with a torn hamstring  •  Getty Images

Somerset 441 and 41 for 0 trail Lancashire 554 (Jennings 189*, Bohannon 85, Wells 82, Gregory 3- 81, Siddle 3-97) by 72 runs
Wickets, which retains its status as the best breakfast shop on the circuit, seemed to be thronged with Lancastrians this morning. "Hope you enjoyed yesterday," was the general tenor of their conversation and you can imagine the sort of response that might have received from Somerset supporters with the scoreboard informing us that the visitors were 302 for 1. Even more to the point, Keaton Jennings was unbeaten on 124 having taken his aggregate in two innings against one of his favourite opponents to 442.
There was, therefore, every good reason for the locals to be gloomy before play began and even the omens were hardly propitious. For example, it was Emergency Services Day at the County Ground, which seemed something of an overreaction to the home team's unimpressive draw and its loss at Trent Bridge. But maybe seeing Jack Leach hit for five sixes and going for 103 runs in 17 overs had decided things.
And so cricket, like the lovely old witch she is, served up two sessions to pickle expectations. After a day on which the fall of a single Lancashire wicket seemed a rude aberration, the visitors lost nine batsmen, eight of them to the bowlers and the other to a torn hamstring which Jennings suffered when completing a single at around 12.30pm and which the ministrations of physio, Sam Byrne, could not calm. Luke Wells came out to serve as runner but it turned out that Jennings could not complete the most gentle of defensive shots without pain. After facing two balls from Leach, he hobbled off for the day with 189 high-quality runs against his name.
This mattered partly because it occurred in the 80th over. Four deliveries after Jennings had left the field, Tom Abell took the new ball and Lewis Gregory bowled an excellent over with it. His first delivery shaded away from Dane Vilas, who nicked a catch to James Rew; his fourth had Colin de Grandhomme driving loosely but only edging another catch to the keeper. At this point, Somerset supporters could see Lancashire batters leaving the field with pleasingly unexpected regularity and with the score reading 413 for very few, the locals didn't give a monkey's what had prompted their departures. There are times when you pick apples from the tree and times when they drop of their own accord but they all go into the pie.
The day got better for Somerset's seamers and better for Rew, who had taken six catches and dropped none by the time Lancashire were bowled out for 554. Yes, a deficit of 113 left them on the sharp end of affairs but it was rather better than had seemed probable when Jennings, Wells and Josh Bohannon were scampering along at six an over on Friday afternoon. The cloudy conditions helped, of course, but so did the simple common sense of Gregory and Peter Siddle, who shared six wickets by keeping the ball up to the bat. For the plain truth was that the bowlers who stuck to the disciplines of line and length on or around off stump enjoyed success. That probably sounds like something one might have found in The Daily Telegraph when E W Swanton was in the pulpit but it happens to be the bald truth. Having made 85, Bohannon had been beaten when fencing at Siddle and George Balderson was to depart when cutting at Gregory half an hour after lunch. George Bell made a pleasing 36 before falling to Siddle but Lancashire's innings was now composed of such modest contributions and the change in tempo after Friday's carnage was obvious, even to those spectators getting stuck into the cider on Thatchers Terrace
The weather was closing in as well. Russell Warren and Richard Illingworth took the players off in mid-afternoon and we needed folklore to help us weigh up the likelihood of a resumption. One local made use of St James' weather vane, a Taunton pavilion and a range of local hills: "If the cock's arse is facing the Colin Atkinson and you can't see the Blackdowns, you can put your feet up for a couple of hours," he said.. The first of these conditions was met in mid-afternoon in Taunton but not quite the second, so we came back for the one ball that Leach needed to bowl James Anderson, who was trying to reverse sweep.
It would be eleven overs before the rain returned and that brief session brought further comfort to Somerset. Rather than lose their top order to Anderson and Tom Bailey, as they had done on Thursday morning, they reached what became close of play without mishap, Tom Lammonby batted competently, as the locals know he can, and Sean Dickson made an unbeaten 15 which might seem like manna to him after scores of 5, 0, 0 and 14. At the very least, home supporters can arrive at the County Ground on the final morning with reason to hope their team can avoid a second defeat in three games. The rest of us will have to be mummy's little soldiers and cope with the fact that Wickets doesn't open on Sundays.

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

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