Somerset 299 (Myburgh 118, Hildreth 53, Cooper 47; Coughlin 5-57, Onions 4-59) & 54-4 (Rushworth 3-18) trail Durham 380 (Collingwood 109*, Borthwick 94; Gregory 5-99) by 27 runs. Somerset 5pts, Durham 7pts
An abject evening batting collapse left Somerset staring down the barrel at the conclusion of day two in their opening County Championship match against Durham (Monday). Earlier in the day, Somerset performed reasonably well to limit Durham’s lead to 81, but some high quality bowling from the away side put paid to any hopes Somerset had of getting back into the game before the day’s end.
In the morning, Scott Borthwick and Michael Richardson carried on where they left off, capitalising on some loose bowling from Lewis Gregory and Tim Groenewald. It was the former who made the breakthrough, largely out of the blue, when Richardson (59) edged to ‘keeper Alex Barrow playing a loose shot.
Durham remained fairly free-scoring, however, although Jamie Overton managed to get rid of Borthwick, lbw for 94. Abdur Rehman’s introduction a few overs before lunch reined Durham in, and they went to lunch on 224 for 4.
In the sixth over after the interval, Groenewald accounted for Calum MacLeod (44) lbw, and it was this wicket that heralded a brilliant period of fast bowling from Jamie Overton. The young quick was fast and hostile, and though he went wicketless during the spell, he certainly made Paul Collingwood and Phil Mustard very uncomfortable.
It was Peter Trego who broke the partnership, having Mustard caught behind for 22. Somerset should’ve got rid of Collingwood too, a short while later, but Alex Barrow shelled a relatively simple chance off Gregory when the former England all-rounder was on 46.
Collingwood capitalised on the let-off, and he and youngster Paul Coughlin were fairly untroubled until tea, when Durham were 347 for 6.
Second ball after tea, Gregory had Coughlin (18) caught at gully thanks to a good Peter Trego catch. Then, Groenewald took the wicket of the dangerous John Hastings with an excellent reaction catch off his own bowling.
But neither of those catches were a patch on James Hildreth’s to get rid of Chris Rushworth for 7 – to complete Gregory’s five-for, the Somerset batsman dived low to his right to pouch a brilliant one-handed catch.
Collingwood, who had by now reached a brilliant century (including 11 fours and 2 sixes) to go with his five-for, attempted to farm the strike, but number 11 Graham Onions didn’t last long. Trego took out his off-stump to ensure Durham finished on 380, a lead of 81, which Somerset were fairly happy with. All they needed now was a solid finish to the day with the bat to put them right back into the game.
But they collapsed. Marcus Trescothick left an inswinger from Rushworth and was clean bowled for a duck. The umpire had little hesitation in giving Johann Myburgh lbw to the same bowler for 9. Tom Cooper edged to ‘keeper Mustard for 5, this time off Onions. Finally Hildreth (8) played an unnecessary, expansive drive to edge to Borthwick at second slip off Rushworth.
Onions and Rushworth are one of the best new-ball pairs in the division, and they showed their class and swung it both ways. But Somerset contributed to their own downfall with some poor shots.
Somerset’s slim hopes now rest on Jim Allenby and Alex Barrow. The pair were solid late on and the latter played some good shots in hitting 4 fours. But, with Somerset 27 behind, the pair must continue tomorrow morning.
There were positives to take from the day – principally Gregory’s five-wicket haul and Overton’s hostile pace. Gregory told the official Somerset website that the bowlers were “just trying to be as patient as possible”. He added “the wicket has got a little more pace and bounce than the last couple of years. It was just about getting the ball in the right areas”.
But the late collapse is a worry for Somerset, exacerbating fears that this batting line-up is weaker than previous years. Perhaps it is best to remember, though, that this is the first match of the season. We shouldn’t read too much into one game. There is plenty of time to turn things around.