TAUNTON rounded off their season with a win away at bottom side North Perrott in the WEPL Bristol and Somerset Division last Saturday.

However, the newly-crowned champions were made to work hard for the victory by their hosts, as they snuck home with three wickets and 16 balls to spare.

For once the picture-perfect setting was matched by the late summer sunshine, as Taunton's skipper, Lee Cooper, elected to bowl first on a wicket that was never easy to score freely on.

Nevertheless, former Surrey and Somerset opening batsman, Greg Kennis, looked in good touch from the start of his innings, quickly latching on to any deliveries that were slightly mis-directed.

The introduction of Ben Richards into the attack led to the initial breakthrough for the visitors, when Tom Briggs offered a sharp return catch that the bowler safely held on to.

This brought Dean Van Blerk to the crease, who had made an excellent undefeated 88 in the reverse fixture back in June.

However, just as a partnership with Kennis was starting to blossom, De Blerk (13) nicked a ball from Jack Cooper through to Jon Todd, who took a decent catch standing up at the wicket.

In the meantime, Kennis continued to prosper and was closing in on a well-made half century, when he fell for 47, trapped leg before at the start of Chad Barrett's second spell.

The wicket represented some reward for another fine display by Taunton's young South African, who conceded only 26 runs from his 14 overs, and ended the season with 26 league wickets at a little over 16 runs apiece.

When Kennis departed, the score stood on 92-3, and thereafter it was largely down to North Perrott's experienced skipper, Dave John, that the home side were able to post a useful total of 155-7 at the close.

For Taunton, Matthew Bulbeck again showed his versatility, by claiming the last four wickets to fall with his left-arm spin, including that of John, stumped by Todd for 38, to finish with 4-40 from 12 overs. That left him with a final league tally of 34 invaluable wickets at only 12 runs each.

In response, captain Cooper opted to re-jig the visitors’ batting line-up so as to give chances to some of his team who had only rarely ventured to the middle during the course of the year, ie anyone batting below three, such has been the strength at the top of order.

This meant opening slots for Bulbeck and the veteran Jon Kerslake.

Bulbeck’s knock lasted only two balls, as he was strangled down the leg-side, gloving a bouncer from Sam Harper (2-39) through to Van Blerk.

Lee Hart (10) then began his innings brightly, only for Kennis to take a good low catch at second slip, again off the bowling of Harper.

Things got worse for the Gipsy Laners, when 17-2 quickly became 22-4, as Tom Gannaway (2-16) picked up the wickets of Todd and Jack Cooper in successive deliveries.

Carl Gazzard (14) immediately looked to stamp his authority on the proceedings with a couple of well struck boundaries, but when he edged Mark Downing into the safe hands of Kennis, Taunton had lost half their wickets with only 51 runs on the board.

The sixth wicket partnership of 67 between 1st Financial Group man of the match Kerslake and Chris Gange proved to be a crucial and, ultimately, match-winning one.

The two batsmen slowly began to seize back the initiative, with Gange punishing anything short of a length and Kerslake nudging and nurdling away in typical fashion.

When Gange (27) drove Downing to John at extra cover, Taunton were still some 38 runs adrift from their target, but with the help of Lee Cooper and then Barrett, Kerslake was determined to see his side home, driving Downing back down the ground for four to bring-up his fifty.

Taunton’s victory was secured when a wayward delivery from Downing (3-40 from 14.2 overs) scuttled away for byes, leaving Kerslake unbeaten on 54.

Thus, Taunton had claimed their eleventh victory of a highly successful campaign, with just the solitary defeat to Minehead blotting their copybook.

In addition to the wickets of Bulbeck and Barrett, Henry Carpenter had chipped in with 19 of his own at only 13 a-piece. Chris Gange finished as his side’s top run scorer in the league with 401 at over 44, followed by Jack Cooper (345 at 69), who just pipped his big brother, Lee (339 at 34) and Carl Gazzard (330 at 55).

After two tough years, Taunton’s players should enjoy the moment, safe in the knowledge that they will have to raise themselves to another level, if they are to achieve their objective of back-to-back promotions in 2009.