Whatever happens on the final day of the English first-class season on Sunday, Somerset – and perhaps England – can take heart from the emergence what may well prove to be a significant new talent.
In normal circumstances, there is every chance Tom Lammonby may have spent this season playing second XI cricket. He is only 20, after all, and Somerset had signed Matthew Wade as an overseas player to strengthen their top order in the Championship. Had Tom Banton been available and James Hildreth fit, it’s hard to see how space might have been made for Lammonby.
It’s too early to predict how far he can go in the game. He has faced some good bowling on tricky wickets this summer, for sure. But he’s yet to be tested by the sort of pace and bounce which might be encountered in Australia or the sort of spin which might be encountered in India. He only made his first-class debut last month.
But from the evidence we have, he can hardly have made a better impression. He’s only played six first-class games but, already, he has become the youngest Somerset player to carry their bat in a first-class game (he did that in Somerset’s previous match, at New Road; the next highest score was 21) and the first England-qualified player to make three centuries in his first six first-class games since Graham Lloyd in 1989. He has also scored three centuries in successive first-class matches and is, at this point, the only man to have scored three in the competition this season.
Oh, and in between times, picked up his first player-of-the-match award for hitting Somerset to victory in a T20 Blast match against Northamptonshire.
It’s not a bad effort for a man who had never played at Lord’s before this match – he had only visited the ground once, to watch Somerset win the Royal London One-day Cup last year – and thinks of himself as a seam-bowling, middle-order batsman. He reckons he has now opened in first-class cricket more times than he has in club cricket.
“There was a point this year I was sitting at home, probably in a mood thinking there wasn’t going to be any cricket,” he said. “So for us to get three or four months has been amazing. It wasn’t a season when I was worried about trying to get into the first team. The way I looked at it, I hoped I’d get an opportunity.
“If I’m honest, I didn’t think there was any chance I’d be opening the batting. I thought I might slot into the middle-order somewhere. But any opportunity at the start of the year was one that would have been taken with open arms.
“But it’s only 11 innings. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself. I had a few low scores early on so I want to take the positives but learn from the mistakes. I’m not an opener. I’m a No. 3 or No. 4 really, but opening is going well and I’m taking each day as it comes.”
That level-headed approach is apparent in his batting. And while his strength is clearly the leg-side – 13 of his 17 fours came on that side of the wicket – he plays admirably straight and was prepared to come down the wicket to drive Simon Harmer as well as demonstrating a neat sweep.
But perhaps the most impressive aspect of his cricket has been the versatility. In his innings at Worcester he was obliged to take a generally patient approach on a wicket of uneven bounce, here he was required to push the tempo in order to give Somerset’s bowlers enough time to bowl Essex out a second time. At one stage, he went from 63 to 92 in 13 deliveries, treating Essex’s impressive attack – Harmer included – with calm assurance and more than a little class. Really, he’s lost nothing in comparison to Alastair Cook in this match. And there’s no higher praise than that. Varun Chopra, watching on from the media area, suggested he might already be the best batsman in this Somerset side.
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“I bowled some good balls that he hit for four,” Jamie Porter, who bowled really nicely for Essex, said afterwards. “And only good players do that. The confidence he showed for a young lad to come out and score that way for such a young lad. He reminded me of Rory Burns.”
“That has to be the best attack I’ve faced,” Lammonby said. “Obviously, they’re high quality bowlers so it’s always nice to contribute to the team against the best opposition there is out there.”
While he was born in Exeter, there is an Australian influence in his life. His father, Glenn, was born in Perth and is the cousin of Ryan Campbell, the former Australia and Hong Kong batsman. And while there are hints of that background – he begins each sentence with “Ahh, look” for a start, even though it is said without a hint of the accent – he insists he has no interest at all in pursuing a career anywhere but Somerset and England. “Definitely not,” he says with feeling when asked about it.
Somerset still have it all to do on the final day. The nature of the playing regulations of this competition – awarding victory to the scorer of the most first-innings run – means they have to make all the running and it renders then vulnerable to the weather. And they are a club that has really had its fill of coming second.
But Lammonby has given them a chance. As the fourth day progressed, there were signs of more spin for Harmer and just a little more nip – and even a hint of irregular bounce – for the seamers. Lammonby, who dismissed Tom Westley with his left-arm seamers in the first innings, could yet have a role to play with the ball.
“If we can get 200 to 225 ahead, we are definitely in with a chance seeing the deterioration of the pitch,” he said. “We want to add a few and then have a right good go with the ball. The pitch definitely has some nip in it for the seamers and some spin as well.”
If Somerset – the perennial bridesmaids, of course – do pull this off, Lammonby really will have made a name for himself. It’s a long time – perhaps since the days of Marcus Trescothick and Mark Lathwell – since a homegrown opening batsman has promised so much. But whatever happens on Sunday, Somerset will take comfort in the knowledge they have a good one here. Lammonby is a young cricketer to keep your eye upon.
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