Gregory takes career-best as Somerset fight back
All-rounder Lewis Gregory took a career-best seven for 84 as Somerset fought back to dismiss Nottinghamshire for 256 at Trent Bridge.
Asked to bat first, the home side had looked set for a dominant day as Ben Duckett (75) and Haseeb Hameed (65) shared an opening partnership of 125 but a partly self-inflicted collapse saw five Nottinghamshire wickets fall for 22, three of them to Gregory, who also mopped up the last four with Tom Moores (32) the next biggest contributor with the bat.
Somerset replied with 28 for two in 15 overs before the last six scheduled overs were lost to bad light, Brett Hutton taking both wickets to take his career tally to 250 in first class matches.
Gregory, familiar with this ground as the captain of The Hundred franchise Trent Rockets, will hope his performance sets up Somerset for a repeat of their 2019 innings victory here, when he took six for 68.
The day had appeared to be heading in a different direction at lunch, when Nottinghamshire were 106 without loss and Somerset skipper Tom Abell may have been wondering if his decision to field had been misguided, although he had not been well served by his bowlers to that point. It didn’t help that Craig Overton limped out of the attack after only three overs, although whatever ailed him had eased enough to permit a return in the afternoon.
Aussie veteran Peter Siddle, back on the ground where he spent the 2014 season, warranted respect, but as a collective they struggled to contain Duckett.
That said, containing Duckett these days represents a test for any bowler. The left-hander has long favoured a positive approach and his return to the England ranks has emboldened him further. He tucked into spinner Jack Leach with relish, reverse-sweeping his Test team-mate’s second ball for six to complete a 61-ball half century.
Hameed’s approach was more circumspect. While Duckett was immediately on the front foot, his partner needed 29 balls to execute a scoring shot, although the quality of his strokeplay was quickly evident in a trio of boundaries off Gregory.
Yet he struggled for fluency and was granted an escape straight after lunch, on 34, put down at first slip off the returning Overton, who understandably bowled within himself at first but made the first breakthrough with a full-pitched ball that beat Duckett to hit him in front.
That delivery broke a four-runs-per-over partnership of the kind spectators here can expect to see regularly in the weeks ahead as Duckett seeks to retain his England spot ahead of the Ashes and Hameed looks to build his own case for promotion after captaining England Lions over the winter.
Gregory struggled for consistency early on and Hameed profited again with a flurry of boundaries, albeit the one that took him to 52 off 120 balls, his ninth overall, was a fortunate slice over the slip cordon.
But Gregory exacted revenge when Hameed fell tamely on 65, his bottom-edged pull taken caught behind down the legside, after which the Somerset all-rounder struck twice with consecutive balls in his next over as Ben Slater top-edged extravagantly to mid-wicket before a peach of a delivery bowled Lyndon James first ball.
Siddle removed Joe Clarke, caught at second slip off a loose push, and Steven Mullaney, leg before to a perfect inswinger, reducing the home side to 186 for six from 164 for one to tip the balance in Somerset’s favour.
Moores and Dane Paterson (15) ensured that the home side secured a batting point but Gregory was not done. He dismissed Liam Patterson-White, Moores and Stuart Broad in the space of eight deliveries to take six in an innings for the sixth time before Paterson holed out to deep backward point to hand him his career-best.
All eyes were on Broad as he bowled his first overs of the season but there was frustration for the England man as Tom Lammonby was dropped by wicketkeeper Moores on two but the young left-hander was able to add only two more runs before a thin edge saw Moores make amends as Hutton, who had already dismissed ex-Durham opener Sean Dickson for his second duck in three innings for his new county, claimed his second wicket.
Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory, who took a career-best seven for 84, said:
“I’m not quite back to my best but there are signs. There are still things in there that I’m not quite there with but what was exciting is that there are signs. I feel pretty good physically. There is definitely more in the tank.
“I feel like I have bowled some spells over the last couple of years where I have not had a lot of luck. There were a couple of dismissals today that were a little bit out of the ordinary but you take those as a professional cricketer. The ball that bowled Lyndon James was probably my best one, but I enjoyed getting Mooresy out, with the Rockets connection.
“I think length is the key on this pitch. You saw Ben Duckett score a lot off the back foot in the first session and we need to be a fraction fuller in that second innings.
“With him being a short guy, it is hard to get Ben forward. The pitch is a bit slow out of the middle and as soon as you drop it in a bit short, he smacks it. He’s hitting the ball pretty pure and the moment but hopefully we don’t see to much of him in the second innings.
“The match is pretty balanced, I think. We weren’t at our best this morning with the new ball, but I think it showed what we are capable of as a unit that we came back in that middle session. The guys showed what we are about when we were up against it.”
Nottinghamshire’s top scorer, England opener Ben Duckett:
“It was always likely that the Somerset bowlers would have a few words at lunch and try to bowl a bit better in the afternoon than they did in the first session and that’s what happened.
“But I feel like 250 was probably above par after being stuck in. Without being negative, there was always going to be a period when they would get on top of us and take wickets and there were some really important lower-order runs there from the tail to get us that first point.
“And then having a bowl tonight and getting a couple – you put two on that tomorrow morning and we are in a great position.
“It is always nice to get the two openers out early and try to get into that middle order as well tomorrow. We can get Broady and Brett Hutton coming back at them again tomorrow morning while that ball is nice and hard.
“I believe we can have a session in the morning where we take eight wickets if we bowl well enough. It is that kind of pitch where you can take five, six, seven wickets in a session.
“It is always nice to have Broady around. Regardless of what he does, they are facing one of our best bowlers ever and fingers crossed he can get into a bit of rhythm tomorrow and have one of those crazy spells.”