Eddie Byrom may have flattered to deceive with the bat before this match but his hundred on day two of the Bob Willis Trophy final at Lord's has put Somerset in the driving seat against Essex.
During yet another rain interrupted day, Byrom's 117 was the mainstay of Somerset's first innings total of 301 all out. Although the surface has played well thus far, it is a total which looks a very good one for two main reasons. Firstly, Essex had won the toss and asked Somerset to bat first, expecting, perhaps, to keep them down to less than 250. Secondly, Essex will have to bat last against a top-class attack primed to take advantage of any deterioration of the pitch and so will want a first innings lead. If they are to get one now, they are going to have to play fiendishly well.
The game may have been evenly poised at the start of the second day but it was Byrom and Craig Overton, who shared a 127-run partnership after the early loss of Steve Davies, which took Somerset from a position of parity to one of preeminence. After the excellent Sam Cook, who finished with five wickets in all, removed Davies caught behind, Byrom and Overton took the attack to Essex and benefited from some wayward bowling from Aaron Beard and Simon Harmer in the second hour of the first session. Somerset lost only one wicket before lunch, extinguishing any hope Essex had of running through them quickly.
Byrom, whose top score in the Bob Willis Trophy before this innings was 30, moved to his hundred shortly after lunch with a punch through mid-on off the bowling of Cook. It was the Zimbabwe born Byrom's third first-class hundred but first against another county and vindicated Somerset's decision to keep faith with him during a lean patch which saw him begin the season as an opener before being moved down to the middle order because of a lack of runs. It is too early to call this a coming of age innings but given the pressure of the occasion and match situation, it is a significant moment in the 23 year-old's career.
Byrom found good support from Overton whose half-century continued his fine first-class season with both bat and ball. The right-hander started off quickly, scoring his first 26 runs from just 31 balls, before reining himself in the more his innings wore on. He was eventually dismissed, LBW to Jamie Porter, the first of three quick Somerset wickets to fall once Essex took the new ball after a two and a half hour rain break. Overton was followed by Byrom and Lewis Gregory, both of whom fell LBW to Cook, during a spell when Somerset lost 3 for 13 in 19 deliveries. After doing so much hard work, it looked like they were in danger of failing to pass 300.
That they eventually got there was thanks to number nine Josh Davey who shepherded his side to 301. Although miserly, Harmer had gone 19 overs without a wickets at that stage but he was finally rewarded for his perseverance, dismissing Jack Leach and Jack Brooks off successive deliveries to leave himself on a hat trick in the second innings. There were three overs for Essex batsmen to navigate but when the players emerged from the pavilion, they were quickly sent back inside after the umpires decided the light was not fit. Neither Alastair Cook nor Nick Browne will have been too upset by that decision.
All told, however, Essex will be disappointed with their display on day two. They relied too heavily on Cook and Porter, who bowled 61 overs between them and took seven wickets, while the rest of the attack looked off colour, including Harmer, usually the most reliable of performers. The bowlers will get a second chance of course but for now, it's the turn of Essex's batsmen to respond to Somerset's first innings. They have quite a job ahead of them.
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