At the end of a fascinating second day, Somerset were in deep trouble. Having conceded a first-innings lead of 81 to Durham, they struggled to 54-4. The northern county were led from the front by Paul Collingwood, who followed up his five wickets in the Somerset first innings with an unbeaten century.
Somerset will have been delighted with the whole-hearted bowling performance of Lewis Gregory who took 5-99 but in the evening sunshine, the Durham bowlers found life in what had seemed a blameless pitch and had Somerset tottering like an drunk on a cobbled street. It will require some heroic batting by the middle and lower order to get Somerset back into this game, which could be all over inside three days.
Taunton is always an enjoyable place to watch county cricket. Somerset have worked hard over the last 20 years or so to maintain a sense of the history of the place while creating a ground fit for the 21st century and for staging at least minor international fixtures. Right now, Taunton is a ground in transition. The famous old press box has been demolished and, as if to punish those who complained about its very basic facilities, the gentlemen and ladies of the Press have now been housed in a Portakabin. Never mind, we are promised a brand new press box by the end of the season. It will be part of a new stand that is slowly taking shape.
At the start of the second day, the game was nicely poised, with Durham on 98-2 in reply to Somerset’s 299 all out. The pitch had a slight hint of early season greenness and offered a fair amount of pace and bounce but it also gave the batsmen full value for their shots. The overnight pair of Scott Borthwick and Michael Richardson started steadily and took the score to 157, and the partnership to 144 before the latter fell to a loose shot to give Gregory his and Somerset’s third wicket. Borthwick seemed to be progressing with comfort towards his hundred and played a couple of delightful off-drives. Somerset’s new addition James Allenby noticeably slowed the scoring rate, which was racing along at around 4.5 runs an over.
It was Jamie Overton, however, who made an important breakthrough when Borthwick played slightly across a good length ball and was lbw six short of his hundred.
Calum MacLeod was seeking to set behind him a miserable run of scores for Scotland in the World Cup and hit both Overton and Peter Trego for good-looking boundaries. Abdur Rehman, as befits an experienced campaigner, settled into a good line and length with his left arm spin. Durham went into lunch on 224-4 with MacLeod on 39 and Collingwood on 12, just 75 behind.
After lunch, Tim Groenewald trapped MacLeod lbw for a well-made 44. Durham were 238-5 and the game was back in the balance. In nickname terms at least, the Durham innings was now in the hands of the army, with Brigadier Block, aka Paul Collingwood, partnered by the Colonel (Phil) Mustard. In tune with the theme, most of the Somerset bowling struggled to rise much above military medium in pace. The pair added a useful 42 before the Colonel lost his commission, propping forward to Trego and edging to Alex Barrow.
As Durham approached the Somerset total, Barrow spilt a relatively straightforward chance offered by Collingwood. The Durham captain edged a good length ball from Gregory but Barrow, going across in front of first slip, couldn’t hold on. No disrespect to Barrow but most Somerset supporters would love to have either Craig Kieswetter or Jos Buttler back in the side, both in front of and behind the stumps. Collingwood began to exert a price for the miss by reaching his 50 off 88 balls with five fours. He took Durham into the lead and beyond 300. The new ball was taken in the 81st over with Durham on 335-5 and by Tea Durham were well placed on 347-6.
Paul Coughlin looks a promising young player but, second ball after tea, he played tentatively and edged Gregory to Trego in the gully and was gone for 18. Hastings soon followed, toe-ending an attempted pull that ended up back in bowler Groenewald’s hands – 348-8. Sensing that the end was nigh, Collingwood struck Groenewald for a straight six to go to 97. He then clubbed Gregory to the mid-wicket boundary to being up a splendid 100.
Chris Rushworth was brilliantly caught by James Hildreth, plucking the ball outof the air with his right hand at gully. It gave Gregory his fifth wicket.
When Trego bowled Graham Onions, Durham were all out for 380, securing a valuable lead of 81. Collingwood was left not out 109, made off 145 balls with 11 fours and two sixes. There was just that dropped catch to mark his innings and Barrow’s day.
Somerset made a poor start, Marcus Trescothick leaving a ball from Rushworth that clipped his off stump and sent him on his way for nought. Johann Myburgh soon followed, palpably lbw to Rushworth for 9 to leave Somerset in trouble at 10-2. Hildreth got off the mark with an edged four off Rushworth that flew head-high between the wicket-keeper and first slip. At the other end, Tom Cooper only half played at a rising delivery from Onions and was caught behind for five. Hildreth scarcely profited from his escape by playing an airy shot and being well caught by Borthwick in the slips.
By the close, Barrow and Allenby had taken Somerset to 54-4 but the alternatives for Somerset tomorrow seem to be at best a long struggle and at worst an early capitulation.