Somerset enjoyed mixed fortunes on the opening day of the Tourist Match against Pakistan at the Cooper Associates County Ground where by the close the tourists had scored 324 for five.
Early honours went to the home bowlers with both new boy Paul van Meekeren and Tim Groenewald claiming two wickets apiece, but as the day wore on Pakistan took control thanks to a fifth wicket partnership of 179 between Younis Khan and Asad Safiq.
Josh Davey opened the bowling from the Somerset Pavilion End and created a number of problems for both the openers Mohammad Hafeez and Shan Masood. At the opposite end Paul van Meekeren opened the attack and quickly dropped into his rhythm. Hafeez showed the first signs of aggression and hit two sixes on the bounce off Davey in the ninth over, the first over long leg off a shorter delivery and the second over mid wicket.
Davey continued to create difficulties and was unlucky not to hold onto a sharp caught and bowled chance off Shan Masood when he was on 16 in the 13th. Somerset’s newest signing van Meekeren broke the deadlock when he bowled Hafeez for 20 with the score on 44. As lunch approached Captain Peter Trego brought debutant Dom Bess into the attack at the Somerset Pavilion End and the 18 year old off spinner obliged by bowling two maiden overs and by the time the players left the field Pakistan had moved onto 79 for one off 30 overs.
In the 10th over after lunch with the score on 100, Azhar Ali, on 26, was caught by Alex Barrow diving across in front of first slip off van Meekeren. Shan Masood continued to accumulate his runs but on 62 he was lbw to Tim Groenewald who had returned at the Somerset Pavilion End. Two balls later Groenewald struck again when he had Misbah-ul-Haq looking to drive a ball swinging away and he was well caught by debutant Tim Rouse at third slip which made Pakistan 132 for four off 47 overs.
Asad Shafiq came in to join Younis Khan and the pair remained together until tea, by which time they had added 50 and at the break Pakistan were 182 for four off 61 overs, Younis Khan unbeaten on 32 and Asad Shafiq not out 20.
The final session of the day was dominated by the fifth wicket pair who both deservedly went to their half centuries. Younis Khan swept Bess for four in the 71st over to see up his 50 off 105 balls with seven fours, and three overs later his partner went to his half century with a late cut to the boundary off Leach. The partnership was worth 179 when in the dying overs Asad Shafiq was well caught by Bess off Leach for 80 with the score on 311.
By the end of the day Younis Khan had moved on to 99 not out while Sarfraz Ahmed was unbeaten on six as Pakistan ended on 324 for five off 92 overs.
Afterwards van Meekeren said: “It was a very special experience today. It has always been a dream to join an English county so to sign and get straight into the team is a special occasion and picking up two wickets is always nice. It has been a good day all round so I am happy. I have just comeback after being involved in the World Cup and have joined Bennell Hill Cricket Club (Newcastle) and they have been very good to me by allowing me to play in some Second XI games which has brought me here so I am very grateful.”
“I would never have expected to play in the same team as Trescothick and Trego and the other big names, but I played for the Seconds with Trescothick and Rogers recently so that helped. To walk in to a dressing room like this and see guys like Josh Davey and Roelof van der Merwe who I know helps you to settle in and now I look forward to the next three months.”
Paul added: “Ten years ago I was here in Taunton playing at the Kings College Festival for the Under 12′s and 13′s and now I am up with the big guys and I am delighted to be here.”
Groenewald, who claimed two wickets in three balls, including the Pakistan captain said: “I wasn’t expecting that but there wasn’t a great deal going on at the time, so I came back for a spell and picked up the two. There is a little bit of swing and the pitch is quite slow but there is a little with the new ball off the deck. They are very good players and know how to grind it out when required and when they get themselves in they tend to go big. They batted nicely and got away a little bit. However, I thought that the boys stuck to it well.”
Summing up Tim said: “I think that the Somerset guys stuck at it pretty well for a relatively young side, and something we pride ourselves on is giving the tourists a bit of a challenge and not putting it on a plate for them. The guys struck at it all the way through and were diving around at the end so all in all it was a good day for the Club.”