Somerset entered this three-day friendly with Lancashire in decent shape, having had the better of Durham MCCU over Easter weekend and a solid pre-season so far. With an excellent forecast and a now almost-full-strength side with the inclusion of Tom Cooper and Abdur Rehman, the team would have been looking at a win over a Lancashire side missing key players.
Lancashire won the toss under overcast skies, and chose to field first. Somerset recovered well from the early loss of Johann Myburgh (10) as Marcus Trescothick and Cooper set to work under a newly-arrived blazing sun. After a slightly edgy start, Cooper found the middle of his bat and was soon hitting boundaries all around the wicket, looking particularly strong on the cut and drive.
Trescothick, meanwhile, looked in decent nick, and brought up the team’s 50 with a pulled six. However, he struggled a little before lunch, with several lbw appeals against him turned down before he was finally given out to Tom Smith for 35. But Somerset were satisfied with a score of 116 for 2 at lunch.
However, the innings went rapidly downhill after the break. James Hildreth (3) was lazy in edging Tom Smith to gully. Jim Allenby fell lbw for 1 to Kyle Jarvis. Cooper was dismissed the same way for 61. Lancashire had had several other huge lbw appeals turned down too. Then Peter Trego was run out going for a risky single by a brilliant direct hit from Ashwell Prince. Suddenly Somerset were in trouble at 126 for 6.
Alex Barrow and Lewis Gregory tried to stage a recovery, but it was in vain as the former was bowled by Jordan Clark for 9. Gregory looked to attack where possible, but he soon fell caught behind off the same bowler for 24.
Tim Groenewald and Abdur Rehman counter-attacked in a partnership of 29, with the latter playing some especially agricultural shots, but he was dismissed for 12, caught off Luke Procter to a steepler. Groenewald’s fun cameo was cut short at 29 when Jamie Overton was last out, bowled by Procter for 4. Somerset’s total was a highly underwhelming 208 all out.
After tea, Lancashire openers Paul Horton and Luis Reece were relatively untroubled. Gregory and Trego forced a few play and misses but Horton’s wicket came out of the blue to Groenewald for 29.
Despite the introduction of Rehman, Reece and number three Karl Brown were watchful and remained at the end of the day, on 63 and 24 respectively.
It was a worrying day for Somerset with both bat and ball. The middle order collapse has been a feature of Somerset’s four-day performances over the last few seasons, and today showed no evidence of the problem being rectified. The bowling, meanwhile, was fairly toothless, though the pitch was not helping a great deal. This only emphasises how poor the batting was, especially against an attack missing Glen Chapple and Nathan Buck.
But it must be remembered that this was Somerset’s first particularly bad day of preseason, and it was not without positives – Cooper was highly impressive. He told the Somerset official website, “It was nice to spend a couple of hours out there in the middle and it was good to get acclimatised to my new home ground.”
Day two saw little improvement for Somerset with the ball, as Lancashire racked up 497 runs on another warm, bright day.
Groenewald, though, did manage to make the ball talk early on. Reece (66) edged him to Trescothick at second slip. Soon after he uprooted the stumps of Prince (7) and Brown (48). Somerset could have taken another, too, had Trescothick not shelled a straightforward chance off Gregory when Smith was on 6. He and Steven Croft remained until lunch, with Lancashire already leading.
The pair extended their stand to 180 after the interval, with both batsmen almost untroubled (aside from an easy chance off Croft which Cooper shelled) until Groenewald completed his five-fer by getting rid of Smith lbw for 84.
Croft had taken his score past a century before he was finally dismissed by Trego with the score on 384, but Lancashire’s last three wickets added a further 113 as Somerset toiled away in the evening session. Allenby finally ended a tough day for Somerset by having Clark caught behind for 51.
Somerset’s day was not helped by the fact that Rehman did not field throughout. Myburgh was admirable in his bowling efforts throughout the evening session, and he was rewarded with the wicket of Alex Davies.
Once again there was a major bright spot, however, this time in the form of Groenewald. His five-fer was his first notable red ball performance since signing for the club, and it comes at a time when he will be relied upon to fill the injured Alfonso Thomas’s spot as the experienced head of the pace attack. He told the Somerset official website “It’s always nice to get a few wickets in pre-season and build up the confidence. Coming into these games it’s not necessarily about the outcomes, it’s more about getting a few overs under the belt and feeling good come the start of the season and the first proper game.”
Somerset fans will be hoping the final part of that quote comes true, because if the team plays like it has over the first two days of this match, it will struggle against a Durham side which is far superior to this Lancashire one. The immediate issue, though, is saving this match. A day of batting awaits.