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Taunton, June 09 - 12, 2018, Specsavers County Championship Division One
(T:248) 392 & 250/4
(f/o) 134 & 505

Somerset won by 6 wickets


Matt Renshaw helps Somerset scoot top of the County Championship

This was Taunton at its finest - an engrossing finale watched with time-honoured angst by spectators emotionally wedded to the culture and history of the county game

Somerset 392 (Renshaw 106, Davies 92*, Abell 57, Carter 5-113) and 250 for 4 (Renshaw 61) beat Nottinghamshire 134 (Taylor 74, C Overton 4-53) and 505 (Moores 103, Mullaney 94, Libby 69, Nash 66, Patel 55, Davey 4-76, van der Merwe 4-138) by six wickets
Somerset moved to the top of the County Championship on a thoroughly absorbing day at Taunton as they dislodged the previous leaders, Nottinghamshire, by six wickets with just over an hour to spare. For much of the day, it felt a lot closer. This was Taunton at its finest - an engrossing finale watched with time-honoured angst by spectators emotionally wedded to the culture and history of the county game.
Ageism is never more rife than when people discuss the relevance of the Championship, the facile not to say disparaging assertion that many of its spectators are dying out rather overlooking the fact that they are being reliably replaced by those of us growing older by the day. It is a curious analysis that derides a game because of the age of those who watch it rather than the talent of those who play it. Such nonsense is rarely addressed because those who have had actual experience of old age are likely to be too dead, or too weary, or too wise to state the obvious.
The man on the mobility scooter seemed to have got it about right as Somerset's batsmen went about their business. "Their spinners look more dangerous than ours," he observed before careering off under the stand at a speed that might have been pushing it in M5 roadworks.
Hampshire's James Vince had thwarted Somerset at Taunton a month ago by batting throughout the final day for an unbeaten double century, an innings of great responsibility which nevertheless was followed by the loss of his England place.
But this surface had a better balance, showing some signs of wear late in the game, and by enforcing the follow-on, with a first-innings lead of 258, Somerset's young skipper Tom Abell had risked a fourth innings chase against the turning ball, with both Matt Carter and Samit Patel carrying a growing threat.
Suitably, it was Abell, though, who saw Somerset home in a spritely post-tea stand of 87 in only 17 overs with Steven Davies for the fifth wicket. Marcus Trescothick, the Grand Old Man, recovering from injury, had been following the final throes on the Somerset chat forum, and announced to all and sundry with nine still needed that he was going for a cider: nothing like beating the rush. As for Abell, he has matured impressively into a captaincy that last season asked so much of him that it might have broken lesser individuals.
Matt Renshaw also bade farewell to Taunton with another accomplished innings, following up his first-innings century with an accomplished 61 before Carter had him caught at slip, pushing forward. Nobody has made more first-class runs than Renshaw in 2018 and Somerset have benefited hugely from the ball-tampering tomfoolery which saw him step in as an emergency replacement for his fellow Australian, Cameron Bancroft: sandpaper boy replaced by the polished kid, a player who might soon replace him in Australia's Test side.
Renshaw does have three away Championship matches left before the departs for an Australia A tour of India and it is here, beginning with matches against fellow title contenders Surrey and Essex, that the season will reach a critical point. Whether Somerset are capable of finally winning that first title will be a lot clearer then.
It took an hour for Somerset to dislodge Nottinghamshire's last two wickets, suggesting the target of 248 was eminently achievable. Matthew Milnes was refused a good lbw shout against Renshaw, and Ed Byrom fell to Steven Mullaney, but it all felt like a precursor to the intervention of spin.
Renshaw was fortunate, on 42, to clear deep mid-on as Patel bowled with no luck - he also turned past the outside edge on several occasions - but generally he possessed a certainty that insisted while he remained a Somerset victory was inevitable.
He certainly goes about matters in a more relaxed fashion than another Australian much treasured in these parts, Justin Langer, whose four seasons at Somerset terrified them into high standards of organisation and discipline; a man with horror movie eyes. Now Australian coach, he would do well to look at Renshaw, although Renshaw would be well advised not to look straight back.
George Bartlett batted with some panache in a second-wicket stand of 96 in 28 overs, but Carter bowled him off his bat and boot as he attempted a forcing shot to leg and then added a third wicket on the stroke of tea when he had James Hildreth caught at short leg - a wicket that Patel might have felt he deserved as he beat the outside edge more than once and would have had him lbw were it not for a faint edge. At 163 for 4, with 85 still needed, the game was far from settled.
The manner in which Abell and Davies came out after tea suggests a county high on confidence, planning and spirit, rattling on at a run a ball. Three consummate boundaries in an over from Abell broke the game. The man on the mobility scooter was nowhere to be seen, but it is a fair assumption that he careered home happy.

David Hopps is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo @davidkhopps

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