Steve Davies’ composed 87 helped Somerset recover to post a competitive first-innings total on the opening day of their derby clash against Gloucestershire.
The first West Country derby of 2021 came on the first occasion since both competitions started in the early 1890s, that the County Championship and Australia’s Sheffield Shield had matches played on the same day. Slightly akin to Brisbane, Taunton saw a fair amount of sunshine all day, though the Celsius thermometers still read single figures as Gloucestershire won the toss and opted to field.
Somerset were unchanged whilst Gloucestershire handed debuts to West Indies Test opener Kraigg Brathwaite, who averaged 59.25 in the recent Sri Lanka Test series, and to 6ft 6in Exeter University seamer Dominic Goodman. Overseas signing Dan Worrall should arrive next week.
The first over saw Tom Banton get away with two aerial flicks into the leg side: very much white-ball shots against David Payne’s left-arm in swing.
Having scored 101* alongside skipper Tom Abell in a second innings declaration knock in this game last August, Tom Lammonby fell for a duck in Ryan Higgins’ first over.
Every Banton scoring shot seemed to be a flick through the leg side or a straight drive, but it was a half-hearted backfoot defensive stroke which he could not stop from rolling back onto his off peg that brought his dismissal, Payne with his first to make it 42 for two.
Abell and James Hildreth both fell before lunch to make it Gloucestershire’s session.
When George Bartlett was lbw to Higgins second shortly after 2pm, it was down to Craig Overton, again batting ahead of Lewis Gregory, at seven, to rebuild with Davies.
Davies brought up the first 50 of the match, off 92 balls in a more calm, classy way than wannabe all-rounder Overton, who got to his 50 off 66 balls, with eight fours – a few streaky shots in there, but he clung on, crucially for the home side.
This was shortly after Somerset sealed their maiden first innings batting point of the year. A way of scoring points they are seemingly averse to, but this one was added to with aplomb by a sumptuous Davies cover drive.
Shortly after tea, Craig Overton was caught at a comfortable height at second slip off Higgins for 54, ending a very useful partnership of 116 between him and Davies. That though was still well short of the record sixth-wicket partnership in West Country derbies; 213 by ND Burns and GD Rose in 1990.
At 226 for six, last Sunday’s hero Gregory stride out in a rather different position this time thanks to that previous partnership. His innings was rather different this time too, far more watchful until he squirted Payne’s last delivery of the new ball’s first over to point to depart for 13.
Payne then joined Higgins in taking three wickets. Davies was denied a deserved century, chopping on for a fine 87.
Marchant de Lange came in and played in that ultra-unorthodox way only he knows how to play so effectively at times, while at the other end Josh Davey played the innings of the opener he once was.
The partnership between these two brought another 48 valuable runs and that key third bonus point. The two Gloucestershire debutants teamed up just before 6pm to see Goodman earn his maiden first-class wicket; Davey caught by Brathwaite at slip for 17.
Somerset were all out for 321 as De Lange’s luck ran out, skying one into the deep for a handy 37.
Debutant Brathwaite and skipper Chris Dent survived the three overs before close to leave Gloucestershire 13-0 at the close.
All in all a fairly balanced first day. Gloucestershire will be happy with how they bowled, particularly impressive was the first spell for debutant Goodman, but the late afternoon slogging of De Lange will particularly irritate Chris Dent’s side.