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Hot sunshine, a cool wind, the brightest of light, and the Quantocks more beautiful than ever as the yellow swathes of rapeseed have been restored to traditional fields of hay, about half of them harvested. And Somerset on course for victory, as their captain Tom Abell hit a century and the Overton brothers left Glamorgan with only five wickets standing.
All these fine features were to be enjoyed at the Coopers Associates County Ground in Taunton, one of the homes of county cricket, or perhaps the home, on the basis that probably a higher percentage of the local population attends the county ground than even at Chelmsford, Hove or Canterbury. But not on Monday, when the crowd was limited to the players, support staff and 40 or 50 residents of the new apartments along one side.
That was the actual crowd. Yet tens of thousands of people watched this game online, on Somerset’s live stream. Shortly before 4pm on the third afternoon they chalked up 100,000 views in the day, the first time a Somerset first-class match had drawn a six-figure number of views, and 126,000 by the close.
In the UK, the average viewer logged on to Somerset’s live stream for half-an-hour. Most of their viewers come from India, about a quarter of the total, but they log on for a minute on average. After India and the UK, the majority of Somerset’s viewers come from Bangladesh and Pakistan: Pakistanis began following Somerset when Azhar Ali, now the Test captain, played for them in 2018 and Babar Azam in 2019. Somebody in a bar in Thailand was also watching to see if this could be Somerset’s year to win the Bob Willis Trophy, if not their first County Championship.
Live streaming has come a long way since counties first broadcast what their two fixed web cams, designed for their team analysts, saw. Somerset, in addition, this season have three other fixed cameras and a slow-motion camera, and a roving cameraman, all washed down with BBC local radio commentary on the game. It is a pity so many people who want to watch county cricket on a midsummer’s day cannot do so; but this glass is half-full, as never before.
The difference between these two counties on first innings was largely the swashbuckling 10th wicket stand of 107 between Steve Davies and Jack Brooks. Abell accentuated the difference with his sixth first-class century until he declared and set Glamorgan 456 to win.
Abell is a leader who plays cricket, rather than a cricketer who leads. If they do not win the Championship under his captaincy, maybe they never will. When Abell reached 95 he also demonstrated that he is a hockey player. In one over from the off-spinner Kieran Bull he scored 24 runs and got out. Dexterously, if not Dexterishly, he reverse-swept then swept fours to reach his hundred, ran down the pitch to loft two sixes, swept another four and got caught at deep mid-wicket.
Before Abell’s declaration, Ben Green made a neat 50, his highest first-class score, as the concussion replacement for George Bartlett who had been hit on the head while batting in Somerset’s first innings.
Craig Overton bowled as fast as his brother to take two more wickets at the start of Glamorgan’s second innings: since he last played for England, he has a smoother run-up and cut down on his leap at the crease. Glamorgan were rallying until Billy Root missed a reverse-sweep, not the shot his elder brother would have advised in such a game situation.