Yorkshire 450 all out (Rashid 108, C Overton 3-72, Meschede 3-105); Somerset 530-9 (Myburgh 91, Jones 75, Gregory 69, Hildreth 67, Kieswetter 73, Meschede 45 not out, Plunkett 4-108).
Somerset rounded off an excellent all-round batting performance today by carving out a solid lead of eighty by close of play, provoking hopes of an unlikely victory among the Somerset faithful.
After last season’s disappointments with the bat, this was an extremely encouraging performance, with Somerset batting through the entire day and most of the team making sizeable contributions.
Johann Myburgh, making his championship debut for the club, top scored with 91, his highest score in county cricket, while there were fifties for Gregory, Hildreth and Kieswetter to go with Chris Jones’ 75 from yesterday. Craig Meschede weighed in with a gutsy 45 not out just before the close to extend the lead still further.
Last season, Somerset were prone to too many batting collapses, the nadir coming with 76 and 103 in the match against Sussex at Horsham. We only passed 400 on three occasions in 2013 and didn’t reach 500 all season.
New batting coach Dave Hougthon will therefore take great satisfaction from this display. On a stereotypical Taunton wicket, Somerset still had to negotiate an extremely disciplined Yorkshire bowling attack and a great deal of application and determination was required. At 166-3 overnight, an early collapse could have led to the follow-on and precipitated a possible Yorkshire victory.
Hildreth started off with intent first thing this morning and soon dangerman Plunkett was taken out of the attack by Gale, who used his pacemen in short bursts to try to mix things up and try to extract something from an increasingly benign surface.
There was a bonus for Yorkshire just before the new ball was due, when part-time spinner Kane Williamson finally broke the Petersen-Hildreth partnership. The South African’s long vigil ended when he edged Williamson behind to the keeper for 24 off 94 balls.
Hildreth moved past 50 before lunch, easing past 11,000 first class runs in the process, and looked in little difficulty before falling lbw, trying to whip a straight ball from Brooks through leg. He was possibly getting frustrated by being tied down and was trying to force the pace. Yorkshire coach Jason Gillespie admitted on comms what a big wicket for Yorkshire that was. Hildreth, though had made an important contribution, hitting eight fours in his 104-ball stay at the crease.
Kieswetter came to the wicket, knowing he needed to play a responsible innings and avoid some of the more rash shots he played last summer. And he did just that, applying himself well and getting his head down in partnership with Myburgh, who was playing his first championship innings for the club.
The pair put on 112, determined to see out a Yorkshire bowling attack who were giving nothing away despite little assistance from the surface. They scored just one leg bye in the first six overs after the lunch break. Indeed the first hour of the afternoon session saw just 28 runs scored as Kieswetter and Myburgh took the score to 300 and secured the third batting bonus point.
With just six overs left to get another 50 runs, the chances of a fourth bonus point seemed remote, until Myburgh stroked a couple of boundaries and Kieswetter unleashed an attack on Rashid, including a straight six into the Sir Ian Botham Stand and a four which brought up his half century. Yorkshire reasserted themselves with a couple of tighter overs, and to the surprise of many, Somerset declined to go for the eight runs required to bring up the extra bonus point. Survival was obviously key in the batsmen’s minds and a rash stroke could also have given Yorkshire a wicket and an extra bonus point of their own.
Finally after 167 minutes and 129 balls, Kieswetter had a slight rush of blood and tried to square cut a quicker ball from Williamson and was caught at slip. This, though, was a really responsible knock from the Somerset keeper, who showed real application, particularly early on and played some wonderful strokes which entertained the crowd after the quiet period post lunch.
Lewis Gregory came to the crease and immediately made his own intentions clear, hitting an enormous six and two fours off the spinners. A little skittish early on, he soon settled and played a wonderful innings, striking 10 fours and two sixes, playing real cricket strokes in the process. One huge six into the Sir Ian Botham Stand bounced over the wall into the River Tone.
Myburgh meanwhile was advancing nicely towards his highest score in the county championship. He was let off on 80 when Adam Lyth dropped him low down at slip. Sadly, after moving into the 90s and with a maiden championship 100 within his sights, Rashid got one to come back into him and Myburgh was adjudged lbw for 91 (153 balls, 10 fours). He will have been disappointed, but it was a very fine innings and he received warm applause from another decent sized Somerset crowd as he made his way back to the pavilion.
Myburgh and Gregory had put on exactly 100 runs together in just 21 overs, a middle order pairing that holds much promise for the summer.
Craig Meschede joined Gregory in entertaining the fans with some more big hitting, including two huge sixes of his own. Late in the day he struck Yorkshire’s quickest bowler Plunkett for three consecutive fours, before rewarded with four bouncers in as many balls in response!
Gregory’s marvellous innings ended with the first ball of Plunkett’s spell when he got a very faint edge down the legside which was caught by wicketkeeper Hodd. Gregory turned to make sure it had been taken and walked without waiting for the umpire. He scored his runs off just 91 balls with 10 fours and two sixes and was another Somerset batsman who recorded their highest championship score in this innings. Lewis is clearly developing into a fine all-rounder.
Reports that Craig Overton’s back was still causing concern seemed borne out when Thomas came in ahead of him at number 10. Thomas stayed with Meschede for a little while, but when he was out for 1, a rather stiff looking Overton made his way to the crease. He stuck around with Meschede though, despite some hostile short pitched bowling from Plunkett, to add an unbeaten 34 for the final wicket.
The romantics in the Somerset camp will be hoping for an unlikely victory tomorrow. But in reality, that’s extremely unlikely with a depleted bowling attack and a pitch offering next to nothing for the bowlers. But the fact that Somerset are in a position where that’s even a remote possibility is a huge achievement.
One swallow doesn’t make a summer, but on this showing, this is a side which has learnt its lessons from last year and is determined to apply itself and score big runs in 2014. We showed some real backbone today and the lads can be very satisfied with their efforts.