The hope that leads to the hurt

Michael Steele/Getty Images

They knew it was the longest of shots. The supporters in the Stragglers' Café knew it; the members in the Colin Atkinson knew it; and the players gathered in the 1875 Club knew it most of all.

But since when did knowing ever stop you hoping?

All the same it's the hoping that leads to the hurt. After the pain of 2010 Somerset supporters knew that, too. Yet, here they were at Taunton, just wondering if this could be the one.

"Nothing, like something, happens anywhere", wrote Philip Larkin, and for half a day the nothing that was happening at Lord's had meant everything to the players in their track suits and the supporters in their polo shirts or sweaters as they gathered together and took comfort from the fact that they were facing this thing together.

And when it was all done with and Middlesex were being acclaimed as county champions, there was no bitterness from the runners-up, only congratulations to the victors and recognition of what a wonderful Championship season it had been for Chris Rogers and his side.

"Declarations were part and parcel of the game years ago," said Somerset's director of cricket, Matt Maynard, as he reflected on the way Middlesex had won the title at Lord's. "Neither side were going to give us the title. They had to come to an agreement and from the outset it looked like a very fine declaration.

"It needed Tim Bresnan to carry on for another three or four overs to take it into that last over with 12 needed but unfortunately it didn't get to that stage. But fair credit to Middlesex, they've gone through the season unbeaten and a number of their players have had outstanding seasons.

"They've been very consistent and I think they are deserved champions."

Maynard's was speaking at the end of a day which Somerset loyalists will remember for one heart-breaking reason and several heart-warming ones. It had been a day which began with a good group of supporters in the ground floor of the new pavilion, although their number swelled very rapidly over lunchtime and into the early afternoon.

For a while it had seemed that nothing much was happening at Lord's, nothing at any rate to indicate that discussions had taken place between the captains. But everyone could see there was not the time necessary for a normal game to take place.

Then with the game in stalemate Alex Lees was brought on to bowl deliberate bad balls to set up a declaration and a few comments began, although not too many. Many of those watching were old enough to remember the days of regular three-day nonsense, and those who weren't received a crash course, m'dear.

The loudest protests followed the declaration and the idea that six-an-over represented much of a challenge to Yorkshire's batsmen. Then people remembered that this was a Yorkshire side without Jonny Bairstow and suddenly the declaration seemed less generous on a lifeless pitch.

Not that they prevented them hoping, of course.

By four o'clock there was hardly standing room in the Stragglers' and the members in the Colin Atkinson were trying to look vaguely dignified. They failed, God bless 'em. Some of the players couldn't watch and took a stroll on the outfield. Busy doin' nothin'.

Very quickly, though, it became clear how difficult Yorkshire were finding their run-chase People started talking about the tie and how glorious that might be. Wickets fell, although people were unsure whether this was a good or bad thing. Stalemate was needed and that was clearly the one outcome not on the cards.

Chris Rogers and some of his players watched the game on the first floor of the Somerset Pavilion. Every dot ball brought a roar of acclamation. In the press box seasoned journos acknowledged that they had seen nowt like this.

Then there was that clatter of wickets, a Toby Roland-Jones hat-trick and Middlesex players rolling on the ground in glee. Supporters dribbled out of the Colin Atkinson and others joined them on the outfield. Everyone the roped-off area in front of the Andrew Caddick pavilion - the Caddyshack they call it down here - was ringed by Somerset supporters. There were a few tears and a lot of pride.

Somerset's chairman, Andy Nash, congratulated the new champions and confirmed that Matt Maynard would have done the same as Gale and Franklin. Maynard, himself, and Rogers spoke with dignity and pride about all that had been achieved. And, yes, all that was to come.

"There was great belief in the group," said Maynard, "We played some good cricket without getting results and we then built momentum though winning games and gaining confidence from that.

"The contribution of Chris Rogers has been huge. He has been tough on the players in the middle at times and that has taken them back a little bit. You have to challenge them at times. His expectations were terrific and he's made an incredible impact.

"The biggest thing we can do for Chris is continue his legacy. I was in the Glamorgan team included Viv Richards in the latter part of his career, he was very passionate and we continued his legacy. It is now hugely important that we do the same.

"We have five youngsters who are coming through and we've also signed Steve Davies. I have a clear idea as to who I'd like as captain to take over from Chris Rogers but I'm not at liberty to say who that is yet."

Somerset supporters may take heart from Maynard's comments but they are getting tired of finishing second in the West Country. Even that most equable of men, Marcus Trescothick, who was one of those ambling on the outfield, is getting particularly tired of it.

"It's a pain in the arse to come second again and it feels just the same as it did last time," he said. "It's been such a difficult day and different to the last time we did it because we were playing all day so it has been very strange having to sit around and watch it all on television."

"It feels no different than last time to end up in second place, the only difference is that Middlesex have been top of the table for a long time and they have come out and won the competition outright, so they deserve to win.

"I think we were all disappointed to see the game set up in that fashion. It was going along and doing exactly what we wanted it to do and had it been any normal game it would have petered out with a 4.30 or five o'clock finish but those are the regulations and it's not in our control to worry about that.

It was just sad to see because from our point of view we wanted to see the best team win and I guess that Middlesex have at the end of the day, but the fashion in which it was done was disappointing."

And with that, it was done. The players drifted away, perhaps to celebrate a season in which a late charge for victory was not quite enough. The supporters, too, with whom the players have a great bond in this county, left the ground they call a home and some may not return until next April.

We also suffer who only sit and watch and wait.