Somerset finished the first day of a Championship game for the second time this season reflecting on what might have been despite scoring over 400 runs and gaining maximum batting points. The cider county were well placed on 377 for 3 with James Hildreth and Jim Allenby looking settled at the crease and a big score well in excess of 500 looked likely. But a dramatic batting collapse saw the home side score just 37 more runs whilst losing 7 wickets in the process to finish their first innings on 408 allowing visitors Middlesex back into the game.
It was a return to action for Somerset following a weekend with no game last week with the team looking to kick start their campaign after the Durham defeat two weeks ago. It was grey, gloomy and overcast skies that greeted everyone at Taunton and it was also very chilly and breezy as the two captains tossed up. Middlesex captain Adam Voges called correctly and promptly put the home side in to bat to commence the game that saw the return to the County Ground of Nick Compton following his departure for London at the end of last season.
Somerset made one change to the team that lost the first game with Tom Abell named to open the innings with skipper Marcus Trescothick to replace Johann Myburgh, who was absent due as his wife expecting the arrival of their second child.
The start was steady as the two opened with a 50 partnership in the 13th over. Abell then opened his shoulders to a delivery from Tim Murtagh and lost his off peg and his promising start ended for 16. Somerset were 50 for 1.
Tom Cooper came and went quickly having been judged LBW off James Harris with his first ball faced off the 3rd ball of the 14thover. There were strong suggestions some bat may have been involved but the decision was made and two wickets fell in four balls and Somerset were 51 for 2.
This prompted a magnificent partnership between skipper Trescothick and James Hildreth with the two adding 261 runs to form the backbone of the Somerset innings.
They both had some fortune; Hildreth was dropped by gully off Dexter before scoring with the score on 56 for 2 and Trescothick survived a big shout for LBW but umpire Kettleborough showed little interest. Soon after he moved on to his 50 off 74 balls including 11 x 4’s.
The 100 came up after 24.2 overs with an edge from Hildreth through the hands of gully and to the boundary. At lunch Somerset were 148 for 2 off 30 overs with Trescothick 81* and Hildreth 42*
It was a torrid morning for Finn whose 7 overs cost 42 runs.
The 150 and 100 partnership were negotiated off the first ball after lunch when Hildreth cut Murtagh to the boundary. The partnership had taken exactly 100 balls and was very much what Somerset needed.
Hildreth had more fortune when he skied one on 49 but a comical drop from the unfortunate Nick Gubbins meant the boy from Milton Keynes survived and he eventually passed 50 with a cut from Finn after 57 balls hitting 7 four’s and 1 six in the process.
By now both batsmen were dominating the bowlers and the runs flowed freely.
Trescothick moved into the 90’s and survived a drop at first slip on 95 but moved carefully to his 56th first class hundred after 42.2 overs and 129 balls, a 42nd for Somerset. He hit 19 four’s and 1 six. The score was 198 for 2 at this stage.
Soon after the 200 was passed with the last ball of the 44th over when Hildreth cut Finn for a glorious boundary and the 250 was negotiated in the 50th when Trescothick swept Rayner for a beautiful four and this also completed the 200 partnership between the two off 225 balls.
Hildreth was in glorious form showing his full repertoire of shots as he worked his way to a well-deserved century when he drove Harris on the onside for two. It was a fabulous knock off 119 balls and his 30th century for Somerset which included 14 x 4’s and 2 x 6’s. He has now hit 32 hundreds in all cricket.
Trescothick finally succumbed to Adam Voges when he was caught by Harris with the score on 312. He scored a quite magnificent 140 in 190 minutes striking 24 x 4’s and 2 x 6’s.
Jim Allenby joined Hildreth and the two saw Somerset to tea at 317 for 3.
After the break the two scored freely and Hildreth passed the 150 mark after 180 balls in 220 minutes striking 20 x 4’s and 2 x 6’s.
Allenby made a cautious start but finally started to interest the scorers with a single followed soon after by a six over the keeper’s head. The two added 65 when Allenby was caught Simpson bowled Harris for 23 and the team score 377 for 4.
And that’s when the collapse started.
Barrow was in for a short time and was caught at second slip by Rayner off Harris without troubling the scorers when the score was 391.
Peter Trego was next to come and go without adding any runs to the total when he became Harris’s fourth victim just before Hildreth became the Welshman’s fifth wicket with the score on 400 with 7 wickets down now.
Lewis Gregory scored 5 but was out to a shot that will probably give him nightmares for weeks when he effectively lobbed one up to give Steven Finn catching practice while Abdur Rehman and Tim Groenewald became the 4th and 5th Somerset batsmen to record ducks. Jamie Overton was stranded on 4 not out at the end.
Harris was the outstanding bowler bowling 18 overs, 1 maiden, 5 wickets for 83 runs.
Middlesex openers Gubbins and Sam Robson safely saw out the remaining four overs as Middlesex finished 10 for 0, 398 runs behind Somerset with all wickets in hand.
Mixed emotions for Somerset batting heroes
By Jeremy Blackmore
Somerset centurions Marcus Trescothick and James Hildreth admitted to mixed emotions after their 261-run partnership was followed by a collapse which saw the side lose six wickets for 31 runs.
But both batsmen agreed that there was plenty of assistance in the pitch for the bowlers and 400 was probably a good score at this stage of the game.
Trescothick was pleased to score his first century of the season after a stop-start schedule, which meant no cricket for 10 days after the defeat to Durham earlier this month.
“It’s always nice to get going and get on a good pitch and score some runs,” he said. “It’s been quite disjointed up until now, only playing that one game and then having another week off to prepare and get ready for this one.
“Losing the toss on the first morning, you’re always looking to get into the game. It was a real challenge. You had some good bowlers out there. Steven Finn obviously bowled quick at times. It wasn’t particularly easy at times, but I managed to fight through and get a 100. Delighted to get a hundred.”
The Somerset captain said he and Hildreth had adopted a positive mindset throughout their partnership.
“The pitches are pretty good, as we know here, but in general we’re a fairly positive team and we want to try and push it on sometimes and today was a good day.
“We got a little bit lucky, played and missed a few times and we both got dropped, but I think we’re still naturally aggressive players and you want to try to keep the scoreboard moving.”
Hildreth agreed the pair complimented each other well and both took the attack to the Middlesex bowlers.
“Tres started playing some ridiculous shots and I can’t help having a flap every now and then, so it worked quite well,” he smiled. “Our strike rates when we’re playing alright are always going to be quite high, so I imagine it was probably quite an entertaining session.
“We scored quite quickly and they served up some balls which allowed us to score as well in between some good ones, so I think we’re quite pleased with how we played.”
Was there frustration at the way wickets fell away?
“We could probably have been batting a bit longer than we have done and batted into tomorrow,” admitted Trescothick, “but at the same time, I still think you can see if you get the ball in the right place, there’re an element of something there, which makes it pretty tricky.
“If you bowl poorly on this type of pitch you will get punished because there’s a bit more pace in it than normal and you’ve got a quick outfield, so you can score quickly. But there were definitely times during the innings that James and I were putting together that balls in the right place were quite tricky to play.”
Hildreth agreed it was a good wicket.
“I think it’s similar to the last game (against Durham) in that actually it offers pretty much everyone something. As a batsman, if you get in and apply yourself there’s an opportunity to score big runs and score quickly and you certainly feel like there’s runs to be had on it, but if the seamers are putting it in the right place, there’s definitely some assistance there for them.
“It’s swung quite continuously throughout the day, which was encouraging for us going forward and then there was spin as well, so all in all it was a pretty good wicket. Hopefully it will carry on like that for the rest of the game.”
Hildreth shared his skipper’s frustration at the way the innings fell away, but said the team were also pleased to reach 400 and take the maximum batting points.
“There’s elements of frustration because of the partnership Tres and I had,” he said. “You want to kick on and get that big score, bat once, get them batting last and then hopefully it spins a bit more.
“But then you go into every game with this target of trying to get the maximum batting bonus points, so you’ve also got to think we’re quite pleased with getting to the 400.
“So it’s pleasing in that regard, but you always want more, you always want more runs, you always want to win a game as best as you can and it would have been to get 500 plus and then bowl them out twice on a wicket that’s hopefully spinning a bit.
“So mixed emotions at the moment, but I think tonight we’ll kind of reflect and be quite happy with where we are.”
Does Trescothick have concerns about another first-innings collapse from a strong position, so soon after the game with Durham?
He acknowledges that it’s a work in progress.
“I think always when that happens there’s elements you’ve got to improve on. It’s something we talked about between the last game and going into this game.
“I’m hoping it’s partly down to the pitch. There’s some good balls and because there’s more pace in it, you’ll nick them and it will carry to slips, whereas last year potentially that didn’t happen.
“It’s always something to keep addressing. You can’t get yourself into that position too often and keep letting it slip. You’ve got to keep improving and getting better.
“Somewhere along the line, as you probably saw in the last game, that really hurt us, being 200-2 and being shot out for 299.
“We’ve got 400 on the board today. I’m not really sure whether that’s a good score or whether we’ve missed an opportunity to get 500-600. Tomorrow will probably indicate the rest of the game because if it’s anything like the last game, 400 is probably a pretty good score at this stage.”
Having given Abdur Rehman a solitary over at the end of the day, Trescothick expected the Pakistan bowler would be bowling a lot more during Monday.
“You’re always going to throw an international spinner into the mix at that point to see how much it’s going to spin.
“Ollie Rayner (of Middlesex) got quite a lot of spin and bounce. I’m sure he’ll (Rehman) be doing a lot more bowling tomorrow.”