Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Somerset 171 (Claydon 5-46, Milnes 3-40) and 243 (Bartlett 63; Claydon 4-66, Stevens 3-34) beat Kent 209 (Gregory 3-26, Overton 3-46) and 131 (Gregory 5-18) by 74 runs
This story shall the good man tell his son. At least, he will in Chewton Mendip and Glastonbury; in Sevenoaks or Margate he may not be so keen. For after a couple of days in which they had toyed outrageously with their supporters' deep and fragile love, Somerset's cricketers rewarded the wyverns who had kept the faith with a 74-run victory, a margin which is absurdly deceptive and does not for a second reflect the part Kent played in a fine contest.
The final act of the engrossing drama began at 12.07pm with the visitors needing 206, one fewer than they had scored in their first innings, to mark their return to Division One with a well-earned triumph. Those who anticipated an even battle probably overlooked the impact of a 62-run last-wicket partnership between George Bartlett and Jack Brooks which had frustrated Kent's bowlers and made their top-order wait to begin their work. They also underestimated the difficulty which almost all the batsmen in this match had encountered on a juicy pitch which had spent days under cover and therefore required a tighter technique than most of them displayed.
As early as 12.08pm Kent's problems were clear. Sean Dickson played a shade too far from his body at Lewis Gregory's first ball of the innings and gave a catch to Craig Overton at third slip. Immediately the balance of the game shifted; Gregory's ecstasy proclaimed as much and by the end of the match he had added four more wickets, two of them taken in three balls before lunch, by which time Kent's innings was neck-deep in ordure at 43 for 5.
Gregory first nipped one back off the seam to have Daniel Bell-Drummond leg before and with the first ball of his next over found a tight enough line and enough bounce to take the edge of Zak Crawley's bat. In between those successes Heino Kuhn had been leg before wicket to Craig Overton for nought, though there was evidence to suggest the ball hit him outside the line. Such things ensure it will not be your day.
But if Gregory's five wickets in this innings guaranteed he took the honours from these last sessions, the day will also be memorable for the effusions of a 34-year-old Somerset debutant whose extrovert nature was twice shown to good effect in the morning session.
Brooks signed for Somerset late last season and he therefore enjoyed a full pre-season programme with his new colleagues. But he did not arrive at the County Ground until just after midday on this fourth day when he bowled a full-length delivery, just outside off stump, to Matt Renshaw. Fatally tempted, the batsman poked at the delivery and edged a catch to third slip where Gregory pouched the catch. And at once Brooks was off. He sprinted towards the Marcus Trescothick Stand and was followed a la Hamelin by the rest of the Somerset team in their celebration of the prize wicket.
Brooks had already had a fine day. His unbeaten 35 had helped Bartlett extend Somerset's overall advantage from 143, which Kent would have fancied getting, to a total which proved too stiff for them. Kuhn's bowlers gave Brooks room to swing his arms at the ball and he accepted their invitation with considerable pleasure. The ball flew through the covers, beyond the slips third man and, on one occasion off Harry Podmore, over midwicket for six. At the other end Bartlett, who would not have been playing in this match had Jack Leach been needed, batted within himself and passed fifty for the second time in his first-team career. His partnerships with Overton and Brooks were the largest of the match, so it was only fitting they went a long way towards deciding the outcome. Bartlett already has a Championship century at Old Trafford to his name but his 63 against Kent will count for more in his development.
The afternoon's cricket was less dramatic. Somerset's bowlers were made to work for their win, mostly by the patience of Darren Stevens, who finished the match unbeaten on 43. But at no time did it seem likely Kent's lower-order batsmen could change the direction of the game. Gregory picked up two more wickets and Overton his second. Brooks had Harry Podmore lbw, a wicket he celebrated with a major fist pump and skipper Tom Abell marked by yelling triumphantly in his bowler's earhole. Josh Davey ended matters when he had Mitch Claydon taken at slip and Somerset's players celebrated a victory which until mid-morning was always in doubt. Brooks, of course, will probably have had to learn "Blackbird", his new team's famous song. What's the betting that, within a month, he will be leading his colleagues in a gurt big rendition?