Eddie Byrom’s previous visit to Lord’s was to cheer on Somerset as they picked up he Royal London One-Day Cup last season. Now, with 117 in the Bob Willis Trophy final, he has put them in a commanding position with a first innings of 301 to bring more silverware back to Taunton.
The leftie struck 16 boundaries in total, having played with the kind of clarity that belied a surface that looked tricky. Indeed, out of the context of a showpiece match, that he ranked the innings as “the most important” of a professional career is only in its fourth season of first-class cricket could be down to execution alone. No one has looked as comfortable on this surface.
He might have gone on to more had he not been undone by another 23-year old who had a day to remember. Sam Cook’s five for 76 ensured Essex were not too far adrift: a seventh five-wicket haul on what was his first competitive appearance at Lord’s, too. How they fair against one another when they meet again later this match will be an indicator of sorts to where this match will end up.
Like day one, day two featured as much Byrom as rain. By the time the first substantial downpour arrived after lunch, stealing another 35 overs from the match, the 23-year old had notched that third first-class hundred. This, though, was his first in a competitive first-class match in England.
It was brought up in a manner befitting of the innings and occasion: a straight drive producing his 15th boundary that ticked him over to 101.
Though he was born and raised in Zimbabwe, he cedes international ambitions he might have do not lie with them. Instead, England and perhaps Ireland - he travelled over on an Irish passport obtained through his grandfather - are where he sees his future at the next level.
Those 50 runs this morning to take him to three figures were perhaps the most impactful of the lot, coming in a session-and-an-over into Thursday’s play.
Steve Davies’ dismissal did not put the breaks on the scoring. Nor should it have done considering how productive Somerset’s tail have been in the competition. And though Craig Overton was scratchy for his start, Byrom picked up where he left off. Together, they piled on 114 in 33 overs before lunch, though only Overton was able to make it to his particular milestone: 85 deliveries and nine boundaries, not all of them out of the middle, for an 11th half-century in the format.
You could argue he was lucky to get there beyond the edges, with two strong leg-before appeals turned down to really hammer home just how disappointing the morning was for Essex. They arrived with 119 on the board and just six wickets to get. The idea of conceding another 182 runs by the time they managed to take them was certainly one they were not entertaining. “They were 139 for five at one point – we were looking to knock them over for under 200,” rued Essex coach Anthony McGrath.
Byrom would lunch on 97 not out, though any nerves that might have been ramped up by the wait were gone within five balls of the restart. The shot on the 181st delivery faced being greeted first with a scamper and then a punch of the air and raising of bat and helmet towards his teammates on the balcony and sat underneath on the benches in front of the Pavilion.
With 84 overs and 255 for five on the board, the weather meant play was halted at 1:55pm and only resumed at 4:30pm. That delay did not bring about a loss of concentration per se, but the new ball, taken six overs into the evening session, did bring with it a cluster of wickets that finished the first innings.
The final five would fall for just 35 runs, the first coming in the opening over of the new ball - taken after 90 overs as per this season’s Covid-19 regulations for first-class cricket - to give Jamie Porter a second when Overton was trapped in front. Byrom went a similar way, as did Lewis Gregory to give Cook his fourth and fifth. By the time Harmer got in on the act for the first time, taking the final two in consecutive deliveries to leave him on a hat-trick in Somerset’s second innings, Josh Davey’s classy 17 had shifted Somerset over the magical 300 mark.
The players would make it back out there for Essex’s first innings, with Alastair Cook and Nick Browne even making it to their creases before the umpires decided the light was too poor to continue. They were not wrong.
Still, the match has moved on, and more in Somerset’s favour than Essex expected. The defending County Champions’ first port of call is 302. As per the rules of this final, the winner is settled on first-innings scores in the event of a draw. With further rain expected over the remaining three days, the game could be decided by the weekend.