Journeymen go Dutch to take spoils

Warwickshire 228-8 Somerset 230-6 Somerset won by 4 wkts
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It is fashionable to disparage journeymen cricketers. They might be better respected than estate agents, lawyers and journalists, but only because there have been no recent polls. Such is their present reputation for wanting it all while contribut-ing nothing that they could easily feature in the old joke about what you call 100 lawyers sunk at the bottom of the sea. A start.

Well, the journeymen went a considerable distance to redressing the balance yesterday in the first C & G Trophy semi-final, in which Somerset defeated Warwickshire by four wickets. Somerset had fallen to 6 for 3, their star batsmen had long been consigned to the dressing room and a meagre target of 229 was turning into the unattainable. Then, with their side at 130 for 6 in the 32nd over, Keith Dutch and Rob Turner came together.

With a small element of good fortune, especially to Dutch (he is a journeyman, dammit), combined with a much greater portion of good sense ,they guided Somerset home to victory by four wickets. They shared a partnership of precisely 100 in 14.4 overs, Dutch striking the winning runs with his 12th four, with all of four overs left. They both faced 54 balls. Turner played the rapid accumulator role, Dutch went for the bad ball with venom. It was all so easy. Crisis, what crisis?

Turner perhaps deserves to be considered as more than a common-or- garden tradesman, since he was England A's vice-captain. Dutch fits exactly into the category. He is the sort of player for whom a final at Lord's on a balmy day in early September is the height of aspiration. Although he is only 28, he is fortunate still to be in the professional game. He was at Middlesex for eight seasons until last year, when he was invited to apply for the Second XI captaincy. He had more about him than that, and on being released he went west, if only in the geographical sense, as he demonstrated yesterday.

There were other consolations for the English domestic game in this match. As with most of its practitioners it is frequently belittled as meaningless and hopeless. This misses the point about its continuing endearing grip on a large (and not ageing) section of the public. The county ground in Taunton was packed full with 7,500 supporters, and there could easily have been more. Their sense of anticipation was palpable.

Under an unsettled sky it was a handy toss to win, and although Taunton has one of the truest playing surfaces in England the home county's captain, Jamie Cox, can have harboured no doubts about inviting Warwickshire to bat. Not, that is, until Warwickshire had reached 101 without loss halfway through their innings.

The early part of the game was marked by a series of short-pitched deliveries from Andrew Caddick, England's premier fast bowler, to Nick Knight, England's premier limited-overs batsman. This strategy must have been designed to prevent Knight indulging in his favourite pastime of charging down the wicket and spraying shots to both sides. In Caddick's second over he ducked into one and was clearly shaken. Although he batted on, he was never the Knight of yore. He went to hospital between innings feeling dizzy and sick but was later cleared.

The attacking in the opening stand came mostly from Mark Wagh. He drove with authority, but a mistimed one back to Keith Parsons meant things were never the same again. Knight, obviously out of sorts, looked as though he might anchor the innings. Instead he played a misjudged angled bat against Parsons after scoring an uncharacteristic 45 off 110 balls. There were important cameos from Michael Powell and Trevor Penney, both making 39, but nobody took the innings by its scruff and gave it a good shake.

Between innings, it was suggested that 228 was much too meagre a total and that with Marcus Trescothick in form, Somerset might win inside 40 overs. This notion lasted six balls; then the England left-hander, having struck one boundary through midwicket off Dougie Brown, shouldered arms and saw the ball clip the top of his off stump. Either his judgement was awry or it moved wickedly late, but either way it was mildly embarrassing.

That was not the end of the drama, and after 17 balls Somerset were 6 for 3. Cox was still there, so there was some hope, but he could never dominate as he likes. He was beginning to open his shoulders when Keith Piper executed a remarkable stumping off Sheikh's medium pace. This was offensive wicketkeeping at its best. That, however, was the limit of Warwickshire's attempt to reach their sixth final in this competition in nine years.

Somerset are having a good summer. Second in the Championship and now this. It was a good day for the little man.