A mature century from Durham opener Keaton Jennings held Somerset’s seamers at bay on a curious first day of the season at the Emirates ICG, before key wickets from their stalwart seamers late on to leave Somerset in a fair amount of trouble at the end of day one.
Despite the unusually pleasant overhead conditions, Chris Rogers elected to bowl first to exploit the early morning conditions. It was Durham who started stronger, however, with Jennings and England hopeful Mark Stoneman taking advantage of anything that drifted too close to their pads.
Lewis Gregory was the more expensive of the opening bowlers and was taken off after three overs so Groenewald could change ends. It yielded immediate results as Stoneman popped a leading edge to Tom Abell at point.
Rogers’ proactive captaincy came to the fore shortly after to end Scott Borthwick’s stay at the crease as well. After Jim Allenby was taken for 12 runs off the 10th over, Rogers brought Gregory back into the attack and he pinned Borthwick lbw with a ball that stayed low.
Jennings steadied the ship in the company of teenager Jack Burnham, who showed admirable patience and resolve in the face of some disciplined bowling from Peter Trego and Josh Davey. He was rewarded in the form of two consecutive wide deliveries from Allenby shortly before lunch which he crunched to the boundary.
Jennings and Burnham consolidated Durham’s strong start with a sedate afternoon session. The former brought up his 50 from 130 balls flicking the spin of Roelof van der Merwe through the off-side field for two.
Burnham once again showed his promise with a sweetly timed off-drive for four off Davey, but was bowled by a beautiful inswinger three balls later to give the Scotland international his first Championship wicket.
Jennings was judicious in his shot-selection after lunch: He committed fully to his strokes and was usually rewarded with a loud crack from his bat and four runs on the scoreboard.
The game roared back to life when Gregory found enough movement to trap Michael Richardson lbw and then produced a stunning Yorker to dispatch Paul Collingwood for a golden duck. Durham’s recovery was further jeopardised when Ryan Pringle chipped tamely to Davey at cover.
As it became clear that Jennings needed someone to stick around with him rather than score flashy runs (Durham’s bottom three don’t inspire much confidence on paper), Usman Arshad cheerfully obliged to allow the 23-year-old to bring up his sixth first-class ton shortly after tea.
His innings could hardly be described as gritty – more than 50 of his first hundred runs came in boundaries, and many of them were aesthetically pleasing shots – but it was a feat of application and nerve that kept his team from an unnerving early-season catastrophe of the kind often seen at this time of year on this ground.
It was also a first century since 2014 for Jennings, showing the form that had led to whispers of international recognition before a lean 2015 held him back.
Arshad, playing just his 13th County Championship game since his 2013 debut, started to play a few strokes of his own as he grew in confidence until Jennings edged Davey over Marcus Trescothick’s shoulder at second slip and was comfortably caught.
Somerset’s fortunes brightened again a few balls later when debutant Brydon Carse missed a straight delivery from van der Merwe to depart lbw for 0.
Tim Groenewald added the wicket of Arshad at the end of the next over with his second consecutive lbw appeal, and Allenby took a superb one-handed catch after Trego parried a chance to end Durham’s innings on a roughly par 256.
Chris Rushworth opened his 2016 account with an inswinger that defeated Abell lbw before nightwatchman Davey misjudged the line of another ball to bring an unwilling Rogers to the crease. Graham Onions yorked Trescothick late on to leave Durham firmly in control after the first day’s play, still trailing by 226 runs.