Somerset 199 and 269 for 5 (Abell 62, Hildreth 58) beat Yorkshire 103 (van der Merwe 3-14, Davey 3-30) and 127 (Davey 5-21) by 298 runs
If any delivery before the last can decide the outcome of a cricket match, such a ball was bowled a few seconds before lunch at Taunton on the third day of this game. It was delivered by Jamie Overton and pitched on a good length before nipping away sharply from Gary Ballance. Not however, so sharply that it did not catch the edge of the bat and Steve Davies completed the dismissal of Yorkshire's best batsman. Needing 426 to win, the visitors were 47 for two and rocking like a punch-drunk middleweight.
Thus it was really no surprise when, at just on quarter past three, Dom Bess sprinted back from point to take the catch which had been skied off Duanne Olivier's bat and thereby completed the 298-run victory which will keep Somerset at the top of the table going into the penultimate round of matches. We will not know their exact lead until Essex have completed their business at Edgbaston
The shrewd locals at Taunton had read the signs a couple of hours before their team finished their annihilation of Yorkshire. Permitted to walk on the outfield for the first time in this game during the luncheon interval, Somerset supporters assumed a proprietorial air, perhaps pondering the possibility that in a fortnight's time the County Ground would also be the home of the County champions. The clouds curtaining distant fields parted and September sunlight scampered across the Blackdown Hills. The Quantocks, roughly quartered as ever and quilted in their early autumn finery, displayed a new abundance. "Bright robes of gold the fields adorn, / The hills with joy are ringing," wrote the hymnodist, William C Dix. "The valleys stand so thick with corn / That even they are singing."
They weren't singing in the Colin Atkinson Pavilion this lunchtime; title or no title, Somerset's mighty carvery deserves serious attention. But they were feeling even happier a couple of overs into the afternoon session when Jonny Tattersall tried to let a ball from Overton pass his bat but only edged a catch to James Hildreth at slip. The bowler's celebration was a trifle ungainly - there is a lot of young Overton to manoeuvre about the place - but he has had a fine game and had swooped smoothly to catch Adam Lyth off Josh Davey, a dismissal which began Yorkshire's decline to their fifth-heaviest defeat in terms of runs.
In the rest of what became a shortened afternoon session that decline became a headlong plummet, albeit one assisted by a cheerful shove from Davey, whose innings analysis, 5 for 21, and match figures, 8 for 51, were both career bests. He is the eighth Somerset bowler to take five wickets in a championship innings this season; the statisticians think this is the first time this has happened since 1959.
Davey stuck to a line just outside the off stump and gained further rewards when Tom Kohler-Cadmore pushed tentatively and nicked a catch to Hildreth. Harry Brook lost his stump to an arm ball from Roelof van der Merwe of which he could scarcely have made more of a horlicks and Tim Bresnan was run out by Bess's throw from backward point after a mix-up with Kohler-Cadmore.
In fairness, Yorkshire were handicapped by the fact that Ben Coad took no part in the last three days of the game and Will Fraine's knee injury prevented him batting with any freedom at all. But this was Somerset's day just as it may be Somerset's season. Injuries do not explain a 298-run thrashing.
And there was a fair bit of thrashing going on during the first hour of this morning's cricket when the home side added 60 runs in 15.2 overs for the loss of their last five wickets. At least one reassuring verity was maintained: Keshav Maharaj took five wickets against Somerset for the fourth time in six innings, thereby becoming Yorkshire's most successful bowler in championship cricket this season with 38 victims in five matches.
However, his successes cost the South African 122 runs, 12 of which came in two reverse sweeps by van der Merwe, and the South African was not the only Yorkshire bowler to be treated roughly on this third morning. Overton hit Steve Patterson for a fine straight six and then an even bigger one over long-on. He thus became the seventh Somerset batsman to clear the ropes in this innings. Arthur Wellard would be proud.
There is, of course, every chance that all current and former Somerset cricketers will be proud men in a couple of weeks' time. They will be joined by many thousands of locals for whom cricket is a part of their life. In his poem "Cricket Days" Clifford Bax recalls village matches and then muses on the extent to which the game comes to count for more than itself; the last two lines has nothing and everything to do with cricket:
"We stored a joy that would last forever - like Arab merchants that fill their gourds
With crystal water from some white city and then set forth to the desert sand."
Maybe that's the point about cricket in Somerset. The club has known fearfully rough times but most spectators have stuck with the team. The supporters have passed through puberty, grown up, graduated, got married, had children and retired - sometimes even in that order. And yet each springtime has seen them making their way down James St. for another season watching their boys. They will be taking that same walk on perhaps four autumn mornings in a fortnight's time, wondering, yet again, if this will be the year when even the combes will be singing.