Somerset 3pts, Durham 0 pts.
by Jeremy Blackmore
Alfonso Thomas produced two spells of deadly accurate seam bowling to rip through Durham’s batting line-up at the County Ground today. With Pete Trego also picking up two wickets in two balls, Durham were on the ropes inside 12 overs at 24-4, after skipper Collingwood had won the toss and elected to bat.
On a humid day, under cloudy skies, Thomas made full use of conditions, getting the ball to swing, bounce and move off the pitch, giving the batsmen nothing throughout his 15 overs. Only Scott Borthwick really got to grips with how to bat in the circumstances, patiently compiling 59 runs off 103 deliveries.
With Collingwood and Muchall, both making thirties, the only other batsmen to reach double figures, Durham were all out for just 155 inside 47 overs, giving Somerset maximum bowling points.
Somerset’s reply stuttered as we lost Marcus to the first ball and Compton for seven, but Myburgh and Petersen rallied before rain brought a premature end to the day’s play.
Thomas and Trego opened the bowling this morning, with changes to the side enforced by the hamstring injury sustained by Lewis Gregory during yesterday’s T20 defeat to Surrey. George Dockrell came into the side to replace Gregory and make his first championship appearance of the summer. Meanwhile Chris Jones gave way for an extra bowler in the shape of Craig Overton.
Mark Stoneman was Alf’s first victim of the day in only his second over, the ball swinging back in to hit the stumps. Then in his very next over, Thomas got one to lift on a length, only for Keaton Jennings to fend the ball to James Hildreth at first slip – an excellent catch high above his head. Durham were then 11-2 in the fifth over.
But things were about to get worse for the visitors, as Peter Trego picked up two wickets with two balls (reaching 300 first class wickets in the process) at the end of the 12th over, reducing Durham to 24-4. Richardson was the first of Pete’s two victims, trapped lbw, swiftly followed by Mustard who was caught by Hildreth in the slips.
Trego and Thomas had bowled unchanged for the first hour and five minutes of the day and had Durham in all sorts of trouble.
But the visitors then started to build a slender recovery, with Borthwick and Collingwood putting on a stand of 73 either side of lunch, against the Overton twins who bowled in tandem for nine overs and George Dockrell.
But in the first over after lunch, after being hit for two boundaries by Collingwood, Thomas picked up his third wicket, hitting the Durham captain’s off stump – 97-5.
Borthwick continued to offer resistance, moving to his 50 off 88 balls with 10 boundaries, before pulling a rare long hop from Thomas to Myburgh on the boundary – 116-6.
Dockrell then got in on the act, getting Durham’s debutant spinner Ryan Pringle to balloon one up to Nick Compton, who took a low catch at cover – 127-7.
Alf was rewarded for an excellent spell of bowling with the 23rd five-fer of his first-class career when he got one to nip back into Wood and trapped him lbw -134-8.
With only tailenders left, Gordon Muchall decided to go out swinging the bat and hit three fours and a six in a brief frustrating last show of resistance before Dockrell had him caught at slip by Petersen. Finally Craig Overton wrapped the innings up by having Chris Rushworth caught behind by Kieswetter.
Durham had lost their last six wickets for 66 runs since lunch.
After dismissing Durham for such a low total, Somerset’s aim was to bat long and to bat once, but they got off to a bad start, losing Tres caught at third slip off the first ball.
Myburgh, promoted to opener, and Compo moved things along to 32-1, before Nick nicked one behind to wicket-keeper Mustard for 7.
Myburgh and Petersen then started to build a partnership, bringing up Somerset’s 50, before the rains came and brought a close to proceedings with Somerset 104 runs behind.
Our verdict: This was an excellent day for Somerset, despite the loss of two late wickets. To dismiss last year’s county champions for such a low total was a huge achievement, showing they had managed to put yesterday’s T20 defeat to Surrey behind them immediately.
Alfonso Thomas, yet again, showed that even at the age of 37 he remains one of the best signings the club has made. He was extremely accurate, put all the batsmen under pressure and made every bit of the helpful conditions and could easily have picked up all 10 wickets. On top of the swing and seam movement he achieved, he also got some real bounce, notably the one that lifted off a length to remove Jennings.
Trego too played a typical full-hearted role, stepping up to open the bowling with Alf in the absence of Lewis Gregory and picking up two key top order wickets.
With plenty of showers forecast tomorrow (Tuesday) and Thursday, this match may yet end in a draw, but Somerset have put themselves in a position where they should expect to press for a home win here.
At close of play, Alf told the club website: “It was a good day and it was definitely the type of wicket which had a bit more pace in it.
“We talked beforehand that we had to get our length right which is what we did and we took four before lunch which was good which put them on the back foot. Then we came back after lunch and bowled quite nicely.
“The atmosphere was quite humid so I think that the weather was a bit of a factor, but at the same time we had to use the conditions, which is exactly what we did.
“We would have taken getting them out for 155 especially on the back of our T20 match on Sunday. Now we have got to bat well and we have got to bat long and try to only bat once.”
BBC Radio Newcastle’s Martin Emmerson told the BBC website:
“Durham chose to bat but were in trouble from the off as the ball swung around under humid skies, certainly not the batsman’s paradise that captain Paul Collingwood had envisaged.
“Things would have been a lot worse had Scott Borthwick and Collingwood not put on 73 for the fifth wicket, but Durham still lost the last six wickets for 66 runs, with Alfonso Thomas impressive.
“There was a glimmer of hope that all is not lost when Marcus Trescothick edged the first ball from Chris Rushworth to third slip – a dismissal planned, said the catcher (Gordon Muchall), on the team bus on the M5 on the way down on Sunday.
“Nick Compton’s dismissal for 7 could also be key. He has scored 100s in his last two matches against Durham and has four against them in total.”
Finally Alex Barrow tweeted his congratulations to two bowlers who achieved milestones today: “Congratulations to @georgedockrell & @tregs140 who took their 100th and 300th first class wickets respectively today #MilestoneMonday”
Congratulations to George and Pete – and to Alf on his five-fer – from all of us at The InCider too.
Somerset: Trescothick, Myburgh, Compton, Petersen, Hildreth, Kieswetter, Trego, C Overton, Thomas, Dockrell, J Overton (first time we’ve fielded a full five-man bowling attack this season, plus Myburgh’s part-time spin)
Durham: Stoneman, Jennings, Borthwick, Richardson, Mustard, Collingwood, Muchall, Pringle, Wood, Harrison, Rushworth (Durham including two spinners – Borthwick and the debutant Pringle).