Bowlers dominate on the opening day


Somerset’s bowlers made the most of Lewis Gregory’s decision to field first whilst their Essex counterparts enjoyed equal success as 20 wickets fell on the opening day of this Vitality County Championship match against Essex at the Cooper Associates County Ground.

After inviting the visitors to bat, the Somerset attack set about their task mercilessly and dismissed the 2019 County Champions for just 156 within the opening two sessions of the day.

On what appears to be a bowler-friendly surface, the wickets were shared between the five seamers who were thrown the ball, and Migael Pretorius was the pick of the attack, claiming the best figures of his Somerset career to date by finishing with four for 36. Craig Overton and Jake Ball both took two wickets and there was a wicket apiece for Josh Davey and Lewis Gregory.

Not to be outdone, Sam Cook and Jamie Porter claimed five wickets each to bowl the hosts out for only 128 to give Essex a first innings lead of 28.

Essex were left with one over to face at the end of the day and posted six without loss, Cook opening with Dean Elgar.

The carnage began with the Essex score on 14, Elgar lbw to Josh Davey falling across his stumps. Four runs later Nick Browne was bowled off an inside edge by Overton and it was 28 for three when Jordan Cox fell to the same bowler, Lammonby holding a sharp catch at second slip.

It was the prelude to some excellent fielding by Somerset. Matt Critchley was snapped up at third slip by Sean Dickson off Pretorius to make it 45 for four in the 14th over. Noah Thain contributed 14 before departing to a brilliant low catch by Overton diving forward at second slip off Ball and at lunch Essex were in trouble at 97 for five.

Duke brought the hundred up with a superb extra cover drive for four off Lewis Gregory and also off-drove Overton for a boundary before the sixth wicket went down on 111. Westley had looked more comfortable than most facing 84 balls and hitting six fours before allowing a full delivery from Gregory to sneak between bat and pad onto his stumps.

Simon Harmer helped Duke take the total 132 before driving at a wide ball from Pretorius and edging through to wicketkeeper James Rew. With 13 more added, Duke’s watchful 79-ball innings ended in similar fashion, caught behind off Pretorius driving.

Cook fell for a duck, Rew diving to his right to hold a fine low catch off Ball and the innings ended with Shane Snater skying a catch to give Pretorius his fourth scalp.

Tea was taken and it did not take Essex long to fight back as the eighth ball of the Somerset innings saw Matt Renshaw caught at mid-off, getting a leading edge to a delivery from Cook. Dickson hit a defiant six over wide long-on off Cook but shortly afterwards he was caught at second slip driving loosely at Porter.

Andy Umeed looked to attack, pulling a six over square leg off Porter and repeating the dose off Snater, while Lammonby played in more orthodox fashion.

It was a defensive shot that cost Umeed his wicket, edging Cook to Harmer at second slip on 31 with the total 53. Tom Banton had made only four when another edge to third slip off Cook cost him his wicket.

Somerset were in a hole at 66 for five when Rew, also on four, was pinned lbw by Porter trapped on the crease. Skipper Gregory then survived a huge appeal for a catch behind off the very next ball.

Cook and Porter bowled 23 of the first 28 overs of the innings between them, Cook returning three for 23 from 11 and Porter two for 24 from 12. After a brief rest, both returned and Porter added Gregory to his victims, lbw on the back foot playing across the line.

Lammonby had fought resolutely for 116 balls when caught at first slip driving to give Porter a five-for. Overton managed a few lusty blows before edging Porter to third slip for the 17th wicket of the day. Somerset still trailed by 35. Pretorius went in the same manner to Cook and when Ball was caught behind Cook also celebrated his fifth wicket.