Somerset Over 60's have once again made it through to the knockout phase of the National Championship which they won in 2016.
Team Captain Norman Botton has written the following on thier season so far.
After a pleasing win in the friendly with Oxford we surprised Gloucestershire with a fine all round performance based on the commanding opening stand of 150 by stalwarts Graham Poulton and Dave Stephenson. They capitulated 60 runs short of our 230 in the face of disciplined bowling from all the attack.
The Wiltshire game was a real nail biter. At 41-7 we were struggling but the tail wagged, Mike Smith top scoring with 27, so at least 106 was competitive. We fielded and bowled well, led in particular by Tony Scott(2-2) and Norman Botton(5-27), and won by 8 runs- never in doubt!
Two defeats then followed. Attacking batting and poor fielding allowed Wales to overtake our 166 with three wickets to spare. We had let the battling, consistent Simon Hopkinson (86*) down. Worse was to follow in Devon as we had no answer to the hard hitting opener who plundered 158 against us to enable them to set us 260 to win and we fell 100 runs short. At least we turned the corner by the half way stage with the narrow but deserved win at home to Hampshire. Our score of 224-4 was achieved thanks to Stephenson (61) and that man Hopkinson again(86 no). We restricted them to 208-9 with Norman Botton(4-54) the most successful of the bowlers thanks mainly to four excellent stumpings by Rich Gatton.
This West group is always a competitive one and we needed to win the majority of the five return fixtures if we were to qualify and qualify with a home game in the last 16 national knockout phase. A key result came against the then group leaders Gloucestershire. At 82-1 we were in control on a difficult wicket with the returning Paul Ashton (30) finding his form. At 88-5 we had lost that control but Neil Johnson(21) and Botton (36) restored a semblance of respectability as we posted 166, perhaps 15 runs short. However Gloucester also imploded as Mike Smith(4-21) reduced them from 40-0 to 52-7 and they could only muster 119.
We did field badly at Potterne in Wiltshire allowing them to total 215, forty runs more than they should have got. The game was in the balance at 146-5 but Simon Hopkinson again(46), Norman Botton (45no) and extras (48) saw us home after Graham Poulton (45) had given us such a good start.
Another top of the table clash followed at home to Wales. It was not a popular toss to lose in the searing heat but Tony Scott (3-19) and the evergreen Brian Brogden (3-34, he has bowled well all season) restricted them to 157. We won convincingly by 6 wickets thanks to Paul Ashton (62, and two fine slip catches) and that man Simon Hopkinson (51no) yet again.
Another win followed against Devon and with it came an element of revenge. Again the game was in the balance as we were only 112-5 before Neil Johnson (31) and Norman Botton (61) got the total to 228-7. Would their opener spoil the party again? No for our plan to bowl outside off worked perfectly as he was caught first ball. Ian Locke, who had just batted with a flourish and had opened the bowling well all season, now stole the show. At 9-4 he had destroyed Devon and ended his superb spell with 4-22. They were all out for 97.
The final game in Hampshire did not go to plan for at 140-2 we were well placed but could only score 191 as they bowled and fielded well in the last ten overs. We needed two bowling points to finish top of the group but at 97-1 we were not threatening to do so. However Brian B (3-27) and Norman B (3-16) secured the points( with the help of 4 stumpings by reserve keeper Neil J) although we lost the match by 4 wickets.
So after a competitive and exhausting series of group fixtures we face Oxford at home in the knockout phase of the National competition.