Groenewald took his match tally to nine – a career best – to make a strong case for a return to Somerset’s County Championship XI against Nottinghamshire next Sunday.
However, his good work was undone somewhat by more abject batting from his side, which saw them lose four wickets for just 19 runs.
New Zealand started the day on 149 for 3, with Mitchell Santner on 70* and Ross Taylor joining him after night-watchman Neil Wagner’s dismissal last ball of the previous day. Taylor hit two fours, but was also beaten a couple times before he was snaffled by ‘keeper Alex Barrow off Jim Allenby for 11. The same combination also got rid of Luke Ronchi for 7.
Santner, meanwhile, was closing in on a third first-class hundred, having been reprieved earlier by Tom Cooper who shelled a chance in the slips. But Craig Overton, who began his spell with two maidens, had him caught at slip by Peter Trego for an impressive 94 (151 balls, 14×4, 1×6).
Overton looked rejuvenated having shown little threat in the first innings, and the young quick accounted for Mark Craig (20) too, caught by Barrow.
Watling at the other end was solid, carrying on where he left off in the first innings. He and Bracewell put on 30 before the latter was adjudged lbw to Tim Groenewald for 16. Watling then became Groenewald’s fourth victim, and Barrow’s fourth catch, falling four short of a fifty.
With that catch the ‘keeper took his match tally to seven, a new record for Somerset against New Zealand.
The World Cup runners-up were by now nine down, but Ben Wheeler, who took a five-for the previous day, provided some fireworks to extend New Zealand’s lead. He took a Josh Davey over for 20, including three fours and a six. He smashed Groenewald for another six in the next over, which Matt Maynard had to retrieve from the top balcony of the Andy Caddick pavilion. After another four, he feathered through to Allenby at first slip for 33 to complete an impressive five-for for Groenewald, his first in Somerset colours.
New Zealand were all out for 310, to set the home side 344 to win. Somerset will have been fairly happy with their bowling performance today; from 149 for 3 New Zealand were on target for a lot more on a flattening deck.
Somerset’s reply began healthily, with Tom Abell striking several sumptuous fours through the covers. Johann Myburgh, however, failed again – he was lbw for 4 to Wheeler. In five innings since his century against Durham, his highest score is 11.
Tom Cooper and Abell survived until tea, with the score 31 for 1. But soon after the resumption the Australian batsman was dismissed by Wagner, bowled for 9 going for the drive – extraordinarily similar to his first innings wicket.
James Hildreth joined Abell, and the pair gave Somerset fans hope of challenging the target with Hildreth especially playing some sublime shots. But Abell was caught by Luke Ronchi off spinner Mark Craig (who was finding assistance) for 43, and after a partnership of 67 another Somerset collapse set in.
Allenby (4) was caught by Bracewell on the boundary off Craig. Barrow (5) was caught in the slips by Taylor off Bracewell’s bowling this time. Then Trego (2) fell to Bracewell too, caught by Ronchi.
Hildreth, though, resisted staunchly and was 62* (84 balls, 10×4) at the close, with Josh Davey unbeaten at the other end on 5.
So it was a mixed day for Somerset, who will be encouraged by impressive bowling spells from Overton, Allenby and especially Groenewald. Spinner Abdur Rehman, however, has been almost redundant during this game – he has bowled just 13 wicketless overs and was seen practising on the field under Jason Kerr’s watchful eye at lunchtime.
The batting is of course the main concern. James Hildreth appears to be Somerset’s only in-form batsman, and the stats tell their own story – none of Tom Cooper, Jim Allenby and Alex Barrow have passed fifty since the start of the season proper.
Tim Groenewald spoke after close of play, reflecting “It was nice to get a few rewards because in the first two championship games I thought I bowled well without much luck. The wicket has a little bit in it for the bowlers so it was happy days.”
He praised the tourists, saying “I have been impressed by the way that New Zealand have gone about their cricket and battled hard from the start, but I’d expect nothing less from an international side.”
The seam bowler acknowledged another mediocre Somerset batting performance, saying “I don’t know the reason for our batting collapse, but it’s obviously a confidence thing and it has happened over and over again so it’s one of those things we need to put right. This was one of those games that we had the chance to put things right but at the moment we are finding ways to get ourselves out and lose our wickets in clusters, which isn’t ideal.”
He did have praise for Abell, however, saying “He is a serious batsman and is going to be a very fine player which you can see by the way he sets himself up and the way he plays. We are all very impressed with him and he has a big future.”
Looking ahead to the final day, he said “Hildy has been in fine form all season and hopefully he cracks on and gets another hundred. Josh Davey is more than capable and Craig Overton is still to come. We have got to try to build those partnerships, bat as long as possible and see what we can do.”
Somerset will begin the final day of this tour match requiring 202 to win with four wickets in hand. It will be a tough ask but also a chance for the lower order, which has yet to significantly contribute this season, to shine.