The final of the Bob Willis Trophy took place over five days at Lord’s, with Essex and Somerset – who finished first and second in the County Championship in 2019 – battling it out for the trophy. If the match ended in a draw, then the side with a first-innings lead would be deemed champions. After a period of September sunshine and warmth, the fixture took place in a decidedly autumnal chill, with rain a factor, too.
Essex won the toss and chose to field first. At 139 for five, Somerset were struggling but a fine century (117) from Eddie Byrom, who had failed to get past 30 in any previous innings all summer, saw him and Craig Overton (66) add 127 for the sixth wicket. The Somerset tail then rather fell away, and they were all out for 301. Sam Cook, with five for 76, did most of the damage. Two days of the match has been used up in completing the 102 overs of the innings.
In reply, Essex fans were treated to a masterclass from Alastair Cook, who was determined to give his side the advantage in the match. When he was finally sixth man out for 172 the score was just 266, so dominant had he been. It was his highest score for the county since June 2017, and his 24th century for them. Essex batted out their allotted 120 overs, taking their score up to 337 for eight, with Lewis Gregory taking six for 72. By that stage, the game had moved into its fourth day, putting the pressure on Somerset to score quickly, set a target and then bowl out Essex.
Scoring fast against Essex’s attack is never easy, but 20-year-old opener Tom Lammonby proved what an exciting prospect he is, scoring his third century in successive matches in his maiden season (no other player scored as many this summer), his innings of 116 in just 151 balls was the highest of his career. Overton came in with some late belligerence, making 45 not out, as his side declared on 272 for seven to set a target of 237 in 81 overs. Jamie Porter took four for 73.
With Essex’s main priority being not to lose ten wickets, their chase of the target was a cautious one. After two early wickets fell, Cook looked less than happy when he was adjudged to have edged one to the keeper, having made 31. When Dan Lawrence fell for 35, the score was 98 for four, after which Essex decided to avoid any risks, and the scoring rate dropped below two an over. Jack Leach picked up three for 38, but it wasn’t enough as Essex saw out the game, finishing on 179 for six and were therefore declared winners of the Bob Willis Trophy.
It brought to an end a first-class season that for much of the summer seemed unlikely ever to get started, and the tournament can certainly be deemed to have been a success. Cook’s big score in the first innings helped him up to 532 runs for the season, the most by any batsman, with Zak Crawley of Kent and England the only other player to top 500 runs, reaching 522. Among the bowlers, as so often nowadays, it was Simon Harmer of Essex who led the way, with 38 wickets. Behind him, with 29, came Stuart Broad of England, Craig Overton and Darren Stevens of Kent.