Somerset’s bowlers persevered well in overcast, seaming conditions, reducing the World Cup runners-up to 202 for 7 at the close. Only stand-in captain BJ Watling seemed to find any fluency as a line-up missing stars such as Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Tim Southee and Trent Boult to IPL commitments struggled.
The forecast seemed to progressively worsen in the days leading up to the match, and there was an inevitability about the delayed start. But after a morning of drizzle the skies cleared enough for the toss to be made around midday, with stand-in Somerset captain Peter Trego inserting the visitors. After a well-observed minute’s silence for the 70th anniversary of VE Day, play duly commenced at 12:30.
Under cloudy skies, Peter Trego and Tim Groenewald induced a couple of false shots early on from New Zealand openers Tom Latham and Hamish Rutherford. But the latter soon raced ahead, and was on 24 when Latham (6) was caught by wicket-keeper Alex Barrow off Davey’s third ball.
The Scotland all-rounder continued to impress, causing new batsman Mitchell Santner, not part of the test squad but one of three playing the warm-up matches in place of New Zealand’s IPL players, to play and miss four times in his opening two overs. In his third he got rid of Rutherford for a quick-scoring 37, including six fours, with Jim Allenby taking the catch at first slip.
Ross Taylor joined Santner and the pair survived until lunch, both men hitting several fours each but without ever really convincing. Somerset were much more accurate than in previous games this season, and both men played false shots.
After a delayed restart, the pair took their partnership to 55 before Santner fell for 27 from 70 balls including five fours. Tim Groenewald took a stunning reaction catch off his own bowling to get rid of him, sticking out his right hand to a forceful drive.
Luke Ronchi fell to the same bowler for 8, with more excellent fielding to complete the dismissal – this time Tom Abell dived forward at cover to take the catch.
Taylor, meanwhile, looking to find form after an indifferent World Cup, became the next casualty when he fell for 32 off 47 balls (5×4). He was caught by Barrow off Jim Allenby, who finally acquired his first Somerset scalp in his fifth first-class game for the county. It must be said that the ball was not the best that Allenby will bowl – it was fairly wide – but he soon got rid of Mark Craig too, lbw for 7. New Zealand were reeling by now at 133 for 6.
BJ Watling and Doug Bracewell, however, took the score onto 190 before the latter was dismissed by Groenewald to an Alex Barrow catch for 20. The captain looked in good touch at the other end, and ended the day on 52* from 96 balls including nine fours. Neil Wagner was the other not out batsman, with 9 to his name, when the umpires brought the day to an early close after taking the players off for bad light just after six o’clock.
Despite only 59 overs being bowled, Somerset were satisfied with their day’s work. Josh Davey said afterwards that “The wicket offered some assistance and the ball swung. It offered some assistance throughout the day and if you hit a good line and length consistently you could get the batsmen moving forward and there was always a chance.”
Regarding his own performance he said “I just tried to stick to the basics. I tried to keep it simple and get a good line and length, and the pitch offered movement.”
Looking ahead to day two, he said that “We need to get those three remaining wickets as quickly as we can and put them under pressure when we bat.”
New Zealand’s Neil Wagner, meanwhile, praised Somerset’s bowlers, telling New Zealand’s official website that “They were bowling in really good areas and getting some good movement off the seam. You could tell they have been playing a lot of cricket and were up for today.”
Matthew Maynard’s men will take heart from probably their best bowling day of the season so far, and the goal now is to show similar improvement with the bat. Lacking Marcus Trescothick, the cider county will be looking to players like Tom Cooper, Jim Allenby and Alex Barrow to stand up and be counted after Somerset’s poor start to the season.