Somerset 312 (J Allenby 64, C Overton 55, JG Myburgh 49, PD Trego 41, JC Hildreth 32; VD Philander 4-56, SJ Mullaney 3-44); Nottinghamshire 57-2. Nottinghamshire trail by 255 runs with 8 wickets remaining.
Somerset’s previously vulnerable middle order led a stirring fightback to put their side back on top at the end of an action-packed first day of their LV=County Championship match against Nottinghamshire at Trent Bridge.
For once this season it was the top order who collapsed against some extremely testing seam bowling on a green wicket in helpful overcast conditions, led by one-time Somerset overseas player Vernon Philander.
In the 11 balls before lunch, the visitors lost three wickets for two runs, going into the interval on a precarious 101-5, having been 99-2 just minutes before.
But any doubts about the strength of Somerset’s middle order to pick up the baton were soon dispelled after the break. A maiden Championship half-century in Somerset colours from Jim Allenby, a belligerent 55 off just 31 balls from Craig Overton, 41 from Peter Trego and an encouraging cameo from Alex Barrow helped take Somerset past 300 and to a third bonus point.
Nottinghamshire could face some criticism for losing focus as the bowlers tired later in the day, and bowling too many short, wide deliveries as they did so. Philander admitted at close of play that they had let Somerset off the hook and allowed the visitors to score 80 runs too many.
However this was a resolute and determined performance from a Somerset middle order which has been under fire this season for its tendency to squander potentially match-winning platforms established by the top order.
With Somerset picking up two wickets before the close, Nottinghamshire are 255 runs in arrears overnight and Somerset will feel they have had the better of an eventful day.
Trego sets the tone
Trego set the tone for Somerset’s fightback immediately after lunch, taking the attack to Philander by playing a glorious cover drive for four off his former teammate’s first over of the afternoon.
The Weston-born all-rounder lived dangerously to start with and could have been out three times in quick succession – firstly pushing at a ball which looped up and missed the despairing dive of the man running in from midwicket, then almost running himself out before surviving a loud shout for lbw.
But he kept the scoreboard ticking over and responded in true Trego fashion by smashing the next delivery from Philander after the lbw appeal through the vacant gully area for a boundary.
In the South African’s next over, Trego rocked back and chopped him through backward point for four more and then repeated the same shot two balls later to move onto 26* and see Philander out of the attack.
Trego survived another chance as he was put down off a delivery from Jake Ball which had been hit extremely hard to gully. Trego made up for the lapse in concentration by dispatching the bowler for another boundary later in the same over.
Meanwhile Allenby, who had been watchful in defence at the other end brought up the 50 partnership by on-driving Mullaney for four. The pair had faced 62 balls and done an excellent job in seizing back the initiative post lunch. As a measure of how much Trego had dominated since the break, Trego, unbeaten on 30, had outscored Allenby by exactly two to one by this stage.
As the sun started to push through the clouds for a brief time, Allenby and Trego both unleashed a string of boundaries. Harry Gurney was hit for two fours in one over and Allenby took three more off the next from Ball.
On a green pitch, designed to encourage movement and under overcast skies, there was still plenty of assistance for the Nottinghamshire bowlers in the afternoon – when they put the ball in the right areas. However, Somerset were showing a willingness to boss the game and punish anything short or wide, of which there was more than enough to capitalise on.
Trego’s resistance finally ended as Steven Mullaney switched to the Radcliffe Road End and got one to nip back and clean bowl him for 41. He had faced 53 balls and hit eight fours with Somerset now 186-6.
Lewis Gregory, promoted ahead of Alex Barrow came out to join Allenby on 34* and opened his account with a beautiful cover drive for four off Mullaney to bring up Somerset’s 200 and their first batting bonus point before flashing Wood over the top of the despairing slips for another boundary in the next over.
Debut Championship half-century for Allenby
Nottinghamshire skipper Chris Read brought back Philander to try to break the nascent partnership but Allenby hit the first ball of his new spell to the cover point boundary for his eighth four to bring up his half century off 61 balls, his first in any form of cricket since the match against Durham MCCU at the very beginning of the season.
Allenby continued to mix defence with attack, including crunching Philander through cover point for four, punishing anything wide and playing conditions well. In all he took four boundaries off this latest spell from the South African.
Gregory played a gorgeous drive to the cover point boundary off Wood before the same bowler got one to nip away and knock the Somerset all-rounder’s off-stump out of the ground. He had put on 43 with Allenby in just 10.5 overs to take Somerset to 229-7 off 55.2 overs.
The demoted Alex Barrow came to the crease at number eight and was almost caught off the leading edge second ball before settling.
Soon afterwards, Philander finally picked up the wicket of Allenby who nicked him to second slip. He had played a fine knock of 64 from 85 balls with 11 fours. It’s to be hoped that this will do Allenby’s confidence a lot of good, especially coming on a bowler’s wicket like this.
At 241-8, Somerset were still some way short of a competitive total, but perhaps in a sign of growing confidence, Barrow unfurled a lovely square drive for four off Wood to bring up Somerset’s 250 in the 62nd over and then ended the over with another handsome shot, an on drive to the boundary for four more.
Overton goes on the offensive
As the floodlights came on before tea, Overton started his offensive, hitting three fours in the final over before the break from Mullaney – one upishly through cover point, followed by two classic cover drives.
Somerset went into tea on 270-8 after a highly encouraging session in which they had scored 169 for the loss of three wickets.
Overton continued where he left off and took two boundaries off the first over he faced after the interval from Ball, punishing one that sat up outside off and dispatching it to the cover point boundary and then hitting another upishly over backward point for four more.
In Ball’s next over, Overton turned one off his legs to the midwicket boundary to bring up the 50 partnership off 41 balls, hit four more off the next ball through backward point to take Somerset to 298-4 and then drove the bowler for four more to bring up Somerset’s 300 and third batting point in the 68th over.
For good measure, Overton finished by hooking Ball for the fourth boundary of the over, to bring up his 50 off just 28 balls with 10 boundaries.
Since tea, Overton had faced 15 deliveries and hit 31 runs.
Overton kept up the momentum by smashing Gurney through the covers for four more but then went for one big drive too many as Gurney took out his middle stump. He had scored 55 off just 31 balls with 10 fours. It’s fair to say his contribution had firmly dragged Somerset back in front.
Last man Tim Groenewald didn’t last long, playing on to Wood without scoring, leaving Somerset all out for 312 off 69.4 overs.
There were some encouraging signs from Alex Barrow who played some nice shots to finish unbeaten on 23. He did well to see off Philander’s spell before tea and to hang around after the break to keep Overton company during his onslaught.
This was an excellent performance by Somerset to post a score in excess of 300 after the calamitous few minutes before lunch.
Seam-bowling masterclass from Philander
That mini collapse was all the more disappointing, coming as it did after 90 minutes of hard work by Johann Myburgh and James Hildreth, who had rebuilt solidly after Somerset had lost Marcus Trescothick and Tom Abell early on.
The Somerset skipper had been bowled without scoring by Philander in the first over of the day. Abell had looked in good touch for a while, hitting the first ball he faced from Wood off his toes square of the wicket for four and then guiding another boundary through third man. But he got a beautiful delivery from Philander which shaped away & took the edge of the bat and was caught behind by Read for 10 to leave Somerset on 21-2.
Philander was treating the sparse crowd to a masterclass in seam bowling, persistently getting the ball to move through the air and off the pitch. His first spell produced excellent figures of 7-5-6-2.
Myburgh and Hildreth did extremely well to see off the threat of the new ball and in those conditions and had eventually found runs slightly easier to come by as they built a partnership worth 78 in 21.2 overs.
But on the cusp of lunch, Read brought on Mullaney, who’s renowned as a partnership breaker, from the pavilion end to have his first bowl of the morning with Myburgh on strike on 49*.
Mullaney duly got one to come back and clean bowl Myburgh after a 77-ball innings, which included nine fours. He had survived a couple of chances early on, but deserved his 50.
If Somerset were disappointed at losing a wicket so close to the interval, things were about to get worse as Hildreth, the country’s leading run-scorer, was caught in a moment of indecision. He half left one that nipped back from Philander & was bowled for 32. Then Tom Cooper’s woes continued as he got a leading edge off a ball from Mullaney which looped up to James Taylor at point and Somerset went into lunch in the uncomfortable position of 101-5.
Nottinghamshire had taken three wickets for just two runs in 11 balls, two of them falling to Mullaney in five balls without conceding a run.
Ten minutes earlier it was had been honours even as Somerset survived a testing period against a swinging, seaming ball. Nottinghamshire were now in the driving seat. Thankfully the middle order changed the script.
Two wickets for Somerset before the close
In the evening session, Gregory, Groenewald and Trego got through 24 overs, picking up two Nottinghamshire wickets before close of play.
Gregory was close to unplayable at times, getting the ball to shape away late and completely beating the batsman. He deserved to end the day with two or three wickets, but picked up just the one as he trapped Mullaney lbw for 19 with Notts 36-1 in the 11th over.
Groenewald, who was getting more pronounced movement, so much so that he was called for a few wides, got the second wicket, trapping former Leicestershire batsman Greg Smith lbw for 8 with Nottinghamshire 48-2 at the end of the 17th over.
Somerset kept things very tight, bowling three maidens on the trot at one stage, as their hosts closed on 57-2. With bad weather forecast over the next few days and plenty of interruptions likely, Somerset will be hoping to make early inroads in the morning.
Afterwards a delighted Craig Overton spoke exclusively to The Incider and said the team were happy with their eventual score.
“It’s done a little bit all day,” he said, “but you’ve just got to try and cash in when you can. Obviously the bowlers were getting a tired towards the end and I got a bit of bat on ball and there’s a quick outfield – you can get four quite easily here.
“And obviously when new batters are coming hard at you as a bowler, as I know, it’s very hard to bowl at. So I was trying to get some quick runs and we got to 300 which we see as a good score, so we’re pretty happy at the moment.”
Overton said there had been no specific plan to take the attack to Nottinghamshire. “It’s the way I play to try and get as many as possible and the way I played it was ideal for that track and we got to 300 which we’re happy with.
“We’re quite an aggressive side when we bat so, we’re positive and we look to score quickly, which showed we scored at almost four an over. So we want to play our game, we don’t want to go too far from that. If we go into our shells, we struggle, so make sure we play our game and we normally do alright.”
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Overton said: “It’s definitely doing a bit, we just need to hit the right areas and if a batter comes in like I did, we just need to keep it simple, hit the stumps and hopefully we’ll get the rewards.”
Speaking afterwards, Allenby paid tribute to the contribution made by Hildreth and Myburgh before lunch: “After we lost two early wickets on a green wicket for James Hildreth and Johann Myburgh to bat almost until lunch set the day up for us at the end. If the middle order had been exposed to Philander with the new ball we might have struggled.
“However Hildy and Johann, the two guys who have had decent years so far batted brilliantly on one of the greenest wickets I have ever seen.
“We had a bit of a wobble which was a shame but to come out after lunch and share in a good partnership with Tregs and have a couple more lower down the order as well to reach 312 is over par on that pitch.
“I thought I played a decent innings and if I get a bad ball I do like to put it away. My natural game is to keep the good ball out but look to score runs so I was pleased to go back to my way of playing today.
“Matt and Marcus made a couple of changes to the structure of the order and I think today it has really worked, and to have Baz batting the way he did lower down the order and Craig to 50 off 30 odd balls really gave us a nice push at the end.
“When we have been on top in other games we have let sides back in but we showed today that we can take advantage when the bowlers start to spray it a bit. As a batting group we will learn quite a lot from today.
“To be honest the way that our guys bowled tonight it could have been anything. They played and missed at least once an over. Tregs bowled into a very strong wind and went past the bat a lot but not been rewarded.”
Looking ahead Allenby said: “If we can carry on like this in the morning and bowl somewhere near the stumps and we should be ok because there is plenty of grass there.”
Philander said: “We found it well in the morning. After lunch we bowled a bit short and let them get away with it. They probably got about 80 too much. Peter Trego played well and so did Craig Overton.
“It frustrates when a lower order guy makes runs but he did well. We’d probably have taken bowling them out for 300 and maximum bowling points.
“The wicket played a bit slower when the ball got older and hopefully that happens for us.”