It was a day of contrasts at the Cooper Associates County Ground, Taunton as 17 wickets fell on the first day of the Specsavers County Championship game between Somerset and Durham.
Having chosen to bat first, Somerset were bowled out for 184 with Durham’s four man seam attack taking all 10 wickets inside 42 overs.
When Durham took to the crease, it was the Somerset spinners Roelof van der Merwe and Jack Leach who did the damage. The pair took six of the seven wickets to fall as Durham finished the day on 154 for seven.
Somerset found themselves in early trouble with the bat as Durham took the early wickets of openers Tom Abell (0) and Marcus Trescothick (6).
Captain Chris Rogers and James Hildreth did stem the tide with a 55-run stand for the third wicket. However, when Rogers drove a Paul Coughlin delivery to point, Somerset were 61 for three after 13 overs. Sadly for Somerset Hildreth (34) perished at 77 for four, bowled by Mark Wood, who finished the innings with the impressive figures of three for 24.
Thankfully for Somerset Craig Overton pitched in with a useful 42 off 51 balls with eight fours whilst Ryan Davies struck two fours and as many sixes in his 31 before he departed at 166 for eight. Overton was next to go and when Tim Groenewald became Chris Rushworth’s third victim off the first ball of the 42nd over, Somerset were all out for 184.
Durham, in reply, looked in little or no bother as Mark Stoneman (35) and Keaton Jennings put on 38 for the first wicket, off one ball short of 11 overs. However, for the visitors it was the calm before the storm. Stoneman was dismissed by Leach at 38 for one and with Somerset holding their catches, the visitors capitulated either side of tea. Scott Borthwick (16) and Jennings (14) played one or two decent shots, but with the ball turning off a length, they became van der Merwe’s first two victims of the day, at 58 and 65 respectively.
Michael Richardson fell to Leach, four runs later, for 0 and after van der Merwe had sent back Stuart Poynter (7) at 73 for five, Gordon Muchall (13), who had travelled down from Durham during the morning as a replacement for the injured Paul Collingwood, was trapped lbw by Leach. Coughlin, who bowled so well during the morning and early afternoon, batted well too. He helped himself to 30 and with Adam Hickey, added 39 for the seventh wicket before being bowled by Overton at 141 for seven.
After the match Roelof said: “I think that the pitch today was better than the 180 runs that we got. They did bowl well but we were definitely disappointed in getting the score we did on that first innings wicket. When Durham batted the wicket did take a bit of spin especially with the hard ball, which I didn’t expect.
“At the end of the day you have still got to land the ball in the right area but I’m pleased with the way it went for me today, but it’s important now that we finish them off tomorrow. The first hour tomorrow is going to be a crucial one in the game.”
Regarding Somerset’s decision to bat first on a wicket that had a touch of green about it he said: “It’s a dry wicket and I think that it has been used before this season so we always knew the last innings would be tough to bat on. After day one I think that is going to be the case if you look at how things went. It will be interesting to see how it plays tomorrow, but I think it will be better and there will be less turn but at the end of it we have still got to put it in the right areas and force them to make errors.”
Talking about his fellow spinner Jack Leach he said: “Jack has been consistent all season and done an awesome job in the four-day team. We had a good combination today in partnership.”