Ben Cox first attracted attention when he was pulled out of A’levels classes at Bromsgrove School at the tender age of 17 to make his first-class debut against Somerset at Taunton in September 2009.
Six years later it was Cox who was giving lessons of his own to Somerset’s beleaguered players today about how to play on this New Road surface as he seized the initiative and completely changed the tempo of the Worcestershire innings.
On his way to a second first-class century, Cox transformed Worcestershire’s fortunes from a parlous 135-5, still 115 runs behind, into a commanding first innings lead.
With Somerset’s attack increasingly lacking any kind of penetration, Cox made his intentions clear from the moment he came to the crease, hitting the first two balls he received from Peter Trego to the boundary for four.
He shared a 64-run partnership in the afternoon session with Will Gidman, who made a fine 78 off 166 balls before becoming the sixth man to fall when he was brilliantly caught by Myburgh at cover point off Overton to make the score 199-6 off 63 overs.
If Somerset felt they had made the crucial breakthrough, Cox found a willing new partner in Joe Leach and the pair forged an attacking partnership worth 168 in 39 overs. At times the visitors looked bereft of ideas as the match drifted up until tea, Cox and Leach looking increasingly assured.
Somerset took the new ball immediately after tea, but were soon forced onto the defensive as the Worcestershire pair accelerated still further, hitting 117 in the 20.5 overs after the interval at almost six runs an over.
If Somerset had done a good containing job earlier in the day to keep the Worcestershire batsmen under pressure, they took their foot off the pedal in second half of the day.
Although there were signs that the pitch may be beginning to flatten out and Somerset’s bowlers had little of the overhead conditions which aided Worcestershire’s bowlers on day one, this was a below par, scrappy performance from the visitors, just a few days after they had allowed Middlesex to chase down 402 to win on a final day pitch at Taunton.
The way Cox brought up his century was typical of the attacking nature of his innings as he dispatched the ball over deep backward square for six. He hit a further maximum before he eventually mistimed a delivery from Lewis Gregory and offered a simple caught and bowled chance.
He had faced 162 balls and hit 14 fours and those 2 sixes in his stay at the crease and put Worcestershire firmly on top during a chanceless innings.
Jack Shantry lasted just 10 balls before he was caught by Gregory off Thomas, but Leach, who had earlier taken two fifties off Overton to bring up his 50, continued on his merry way, and seemed set for a certain century when he was caught by Trescothick for 95. He had faced just 129 balls and hit 14 fours and 2 sixes. His wicket was the fourth for Alfonso Thomas on his return from injury and gave Somerset their third bowling point by means of consolation.
A couple of overs later Trescothick took another catch, this time off Trego, the all-rounder’s third wicket of the innings, to dismiss Sachithra Senanayake and Worcestershire went into stumps by far the happier side with a lead of 152 on first innings.
The day had started very differently with two wickets during the morning session to go with two quick wickets the night before. Captain Daryl Mitchell was trapped lbw by Thomas for 27 and Alexei Kervezee was bowled by Trego for 29.
When Whiteley was caught by Trescothick off Trego for 11 shortly after lunch, Worcestershire were 135-5, still 115 behind. But that dismissal simply brought Cox to the crease.
Reflecting on the day, Somerset Director of Cricket Matt Maynard said: “Cox and Leach both batted very well and stayed leg side giving themselves room. We then bowled a little bit too leg side and they picked us up.
“When batsmen start to attack you just have to maintain your disciplines because if you hit line and length on that wicket then there is something in it.
“The senior player Alfonso led the way for the attack throughout the day and took four wickets on his first game back by getting the basics right.
“It was great to see Alfonso back and in parts everyone bowled nicely, but again we haven’t sustained it for long enough. I thought that Peter Trego bowled very well and beat the bat consistently all day his line was immaculate throughout so fair play to him. Today he bowled really well and put the ball in the right areas.”
Maynard added: “Hopefully we can put a batting performance in tomorrow that can give us the opportunity of having something to defend and if the weather stays good for the next two days then it will be a great game of cricket.”