Your view on today’s play will very much depend on whether you are a glass half empty or half full person. The negative approach will say that Somerset took too long to take the last six Cardiff wickets and then failed, until the latter part of the final session, to produce a dominant batting display to drive home the advantage. The positive amongst us will see this as a good pre-season work out which, contrary to yesterday, gave Somerset’s batsmen and bowlers a good workout.
Early wickets were followed by a thorough workout for the bowlers before a swift execution of Cardiff MCCU’s first innings after lunch. A disappointing performance by the top order which left Somerset at 109-5 was turned around by Eddie Byrom, Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton who added a further 144 for the loss of only one more wicket.
Somerset will, we all hope, when faced with similar scenarios in Division One, show similar character and resilience. If they do those wistful early season dreams of all Somerset fans may, just may finally be fulfilled in September.
After the first day’s play a number of cricket writers and commentators on social media were questioning whether county games against the MCCUs should be first-class. There is revisiting of this oft-repeated debate by the ECB with the likelihood being that first-class status will be removed. On this evidence that is short sighted as Cardiff acquitted them very well after a chastening first day although the fact that Leicestershire were able to declare on 453-3 and Derbyshire 398-5 doesn’t add a lot to the retention argument!
Cardiff resumed at 13-4 and were soon reduced to 38-6 with stand-in skipper Lewis Gregory taking both wickets but from that nadir in the 18thover Somerset were made to wait until the 28thover for the next breakthrough. Cardiff lunched at 114-7 having added 101 runs in the elongated first session for the loss of 3 wickets. Nevertheless, the pre-lunch session represented a good workout in early season conditions for the Somerset attack, the sort of middle time that is invaluable in March.
Whatever we are feeding the Somerset bowlers must have worked because in the space of two overs Craig Overton and Josh Davey wrapped up the tail to leave Somerset with a lead of 269. That was the sort of lead that formed Surrey’s championship template last season and one we will be hoping to emulate this year.
Gregory finished with 4-28, Brooks 3-34 and Overton 2-15.
Unsurprisingly Lewis chose not to enforce the follow on and Marcus and Azhar were soon reprising their opening combination. This time it was a complete role reversal with Tres taking the more passive role as the pair added 51 in 13 overs before Azhar was dismissed for 33.
Again the Somerset top order all got starts with Tres also falling in the 30s, Hildreth, who had caused a minor panic to us all by having to leave the field in the morning with a hand or finger injury, took his tally in the game to 178 before he was out for 20 and George Bartlett again failed to capitalise on his start falling for 16.
Steve Davies, perhaps out of empathy for his captain who was dismissed first ball in Dubai earlier, picked up a rather ignominious “golden” as Somerset were reduced to 109-5. But as was the case so many times last year the lower middle order proved what depth Somerset’s batting has.
Lewis Gregory made a breezy 26 off 38 balls including a six onto the roof of the Colin Atkinson Pavilion adding 65 with Eddie Byrom before Byrom was joined by Craig Overton who did Craig Overton things making an unbeaten 52 off 54 balls including six 4s and two 6s adding 79 with Byrom for the seventh wicket.
Eddie Byrom, again coming in at 6 strongly staked his claim to the final batting position for next week’s championship opener. He made a stylish, confident and competent unbeaten 59 off 99 balls
Somerset ended the day on 253-6 a lead of 522. Expect half an hour of batting tomorrow morning and then a good test for Somerset’s bowlers in a situation we hope they will face many times this season in the Championship, the target of taking 10 wickets to complete a victory.
A final thought. We are all aware that the ECB sees County Cricket as the unwanted child and does as little as possible to promote it. But Somerset are leading the way in bringing their coverage to a wider audience with an already enhanced live stream linked to the BBC commentary with cameras at both ends and on-screen stats.
On the first day of this game Somerset had 34,000 people watching the live stream a phenomenal number when you consider that this is effectively a pre-season friendly. ECB take note!