England boost for Hampshire as they seek rare Championship victory at Somerset

One of English cricket’s leading wicket-takers will be absent as Hampshire attempt to claim a rare first class victory at Taunton.

Wednesday, 2nd June 2021, 6:43 pm
Craig Overton will miss Somerset's home Championship game with Hampshire starting at Taunton tomorrow. Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images.

Somerset’s Craig Overton has claimed 36 wickets in this summer’s County Championship, including seven in his side’s recent win at The Ageas Bowl.

But, along with colleague Jack Leach, he is unavailable for the return fixture in the west country, starting tomorrow, having been named in the England squad for the first Test against New Zealand.

Even though neither Overton or Leach are in the XI facing the Black Caps at Lord’s, they are remaining with the England team ‘bubble’ at headquarters.

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That is good news for Hampshire who know victory at Taunton would see them leapfrog their hosts into the top two in Group C with two matches remaining.

Only Durham’s Chris Rushworth, with 37 wickets at 15.27, has taken more Championship wickets in 2021 than Overton. Notts’ Luke Fletcher has also taken 36, but his 13.33 average is higher than Overton’s 12.86.

Hampshire have only won three Championship matches at Taunton since an extraordinary partnership between tailenders Tim Tremlett and Kevan James set up a win in 1985.

Back then, No 8 James (124) and No 9 Tremlett (102 not out) put on 224 for Hampshire’s eighth wicket in the first innings, before Chris Smith’s 121 helped the visitors chase 325 for victory in their second.

Hampshire’s last first class win at Somerset came four years ago when spinners Mason Crane (5-40) and Liam Dawson (4-66) combined to bowl the hosts out for 168 in their second innings, giving their side a 90-run victory.

Four of the six counties in Hampshire’s group can still realistically qualify for Division 1 cricket in the second round of first class fixtures starting at the end of August.

Gloucestershire, Somerset and Surrey are all currently above Hampshire, but the top four are separated by just 13 points.