A devastating opening spell from Alfonso Thomas blew away Hampshire’s top order, setting up a Somerset bowling performance that saw the home side dismissed for 147 and forced to follow on on day two of the LV County Champioship Division One match at Southampton. Still 158 runs in arrears and already two down in their second innings, Hampshire are in danger of losing the match inside three days.
Thomas picked up three wickets for 15 runs in a pacy and unerringly accurate opening seven over spell. Consistently targeting the channel on or around off stump, Hampshire’s top three were unable to offer any resistance to the 38-year-old South African’s onslaught.
Jimmy Adams was Thomas’s first victim. Attempting to work a straight delivery through the on-side, the Hampshire skipper succeeded only in positing the ball into Tom Abell’s hands at mid-wicket off a leading edge. Adams’s accusing look towards the ground suggested he felt the ball had stuck in the pitch, but the reality was that he had been a touch early with his shot.
Michael Carberry followed in Thomas’ next over, caught behind whilst attempting to drive through mid-off, and when opener Sean Terry was adjudged LBW shouldering arms to a ball that nipped back in, Hampshire had been reduced by the veteran to 21/3 in 8.5 overs. His second and third wickets illustrated the doubt that his line had introduced to the batsmen’s minds as to whether to play or leave, with either option full of jeopardy.
Opening at the other end, Lewis Gregory bowled quickly but struggled to find the probing line and lengths that had brought Thomas his success. Marcus Trescothick’s decision to replace him in the 12th over with Jamie Overton brought immediate results, with Will Smith dismissed for four when he chased Overton’s second ball outside the off stump, succeeding only in gifting a thick outside edge to Lewis Gregory at third slip.
Liam Dawson and Adam Wheater put on 29 for the fifth wicket, scoring at over a run a ball as Dawson in particular took advantage of the gaps that Somerset’s attacking field created. Wickets soon started to tumble once more, however, with both batsman falling with the score on 65, Dawson caught behind off Overton and Wheater bowled without playing a shot to a ball from Gregory who had returned at Thomas’s end.
New men Sean Ervine and Gareth Berg saw Hampshire through to the tea interval and thereafter began to rebuild a Hampshire innings in tatters. They had some success, playing watchfully but positively in a partnership of 40, before Ervine was bowled by Jim Allenby for 23. Berg took advantage of slightly easier batting conditions as the ball softened, playing fluently for his 38 before gloving a snorting delivery – again the second ball of his spell – from Overton to a back-pedalling Peter Trego at gully.
Overton picked up one more wicket, that of Danny Briggs, to finish with a season’s best of 4/24 off his nine overs. Gregory was left to finish off the tail, bowling Jackson Bird for 11 and Hampshire were all out for 147, giving Somerset a first innings lead of 199 runs.
Keen to maximise a seaming wicket and his bowlers’ good form, Marcus Trescothick had no hesitation in inviting Hampshire to follow on. A new ball in his hand once again, Thomas dismissed Adams for a single figure score for the second time in the day, this time disturbing the left-hander’s off stump from around the wicket. Sean Terry went for 19 to Peter Trego in the penultimate over of the day, the sixth batsman to be bowled on a day on which 16 wickets fell in total.
Earlier on, overnight rain that continued into the morning had meant that no play was possible before an early lunch. With the clouds finally lifting, the players took the field at 1:45, with 25 overs lost. No doubt keen to return to the warmth of the dressing room on a day that saw both players and spectators swaddled in multiple layers of clothing, Hampshire needed only nine overs and one ball to finish off the Somerset innings that had resumed on 310/6. Both Jackson Bird and Gareth Berg were able to extract some lively bounce which Somerset’s tailenders struggled to deal with.
Lewis Gregory’s was the first wicket of the day to fall as he failed to get on top of short, wide delivery that ballooned to first slip, where Sean Ervine took a simple catch above his head. Michael Bates succumbed for 14 in the very next over to an excellent delivery from Bird which pitched on a good length, came back sharply into the right-hander, beat his defences and took the top of middle and off stump. The Somerset keeper, released by Hampshire at the end of last season having failed to convince with the bat, would have done very well to keep the ball out but will nonetheless be disappointed not to have made his former county doubt their decision to relinquish his services.
When a brief but entertaining 17 off 13 balls from Craig Overton ended, following Abdur Rehman, who had departed for a duck, in being caught off the bowling of Berg, Somerset were all out for 346, falling four runs short of a fourth batting point. Continuing his good form with the ball, Gareth Berg finished with 4/64, his best figures so far in this year’s campaign.
Hampshire’s batsmen’s enjoyment of their bowler’s quick despatch of the Somerset tail would have been tempered by the knowledge that they would soon have to face the new ball on a pitch which was offering plenty more encouragement to the bowler than it had done yesterday. Thanks largely to Alfonso Thomas, those fears were quickly realised.