Somerset toil for most of day one of their key Championship match relegation battle with their West Country rivals. Gloucestershire finishing 320-6.
Having won the toss and opted to bowl in overcast conditions with rain forecast all four days, feeling forced to use four different bowlers in the first eleven overs and the local rivals finishing past 300 with four wickets still in hand is not the day one skipper Tom Abell had in mind.
Marcus Harris scored 159 and his opening partner Ben Charlesworth earlier 56 in a 126-run opening partnership. Ollie Price also scored 52, but Somerset stormed back with five quick wickets in the evening gloom.
Gloucestershire seemed almost consigned to relegation, even allowing key all-rounder Ryan Higgins to join Middlesex on loan for the rest of this season, ahead of the start of his four-year contract from 2023. 586 Championship runs scored and 28 wickets taken this season, a big loss for the bottom side.
Spinner Zafar Gohar, who sustained an elbow injury during the One-Day Cup, another key player out. The omission of former Somerset and Durham and occasional Netherland’s seamer Paul van Meekeren an odd one though, having bowled well in the 50-over competition and 29 overs for four wickets last week in the twos.
Somerset’s eleven almost picked itself bar the housemate selection dilemma for the number five spot. Tom Banton consigned to bowling offies back to the bowlers as a sub fielder at mid-off whilst the man favoured ahead of him George Bartlett dropped a tough and only real chance of the morning, Harris off debutant Pakistani spinner Sajid Khan when 33* at short leg.
The fact that Abell turned to spin nearly as early as Yorkshire and Dom Bess in the Roses game at the notoriously spin-friendly Old Trafford, after 17 overs, summed up the poor bowling on a flat pitch.
Ben Charlesworth cover drove off front and back foot regularly to reach a 79-ball half-century – his first in the Championship this summer (in only his third match).
Khan nearly provided a wicket at cover diving one handed to stop a cover drive that seemed an inevitable four, his direct hit at the non-striker’s end saw Harris only just make a risky single.
Aldridge, Davey and Brooks all having front foot no ball issues saw 11 extras bowled in the morning session, but Khan went on to bowl his eighth over of his debut morning session inside 32 overs. Thus a good over rate, 33 being bowled, 115-0 for lunch.
Curious that, for a game that Somerset must have been hoping not only to win, but to win quickly, given the weather forecast, they should have produced as flat a pitch as has been seen for red ball matches at Taunton all season.
The first seven runs of the afternoon session were extras, summing up Somerset’s poor day with the ball.
Charlesworth gave it away soon after though, spooning Aldridge up to Davey at fine leg for a fine 56 from the youngster. 126-1
Oddly the ball seemed to move more after lunch, just as Craig Overton came up to the commentary box, frustratingly not allowed to play for his county due to the next Test match starting on Thursday.
Harris continued merrily nonetheless, surpassing 600 runs for the season and reaching his half-century off 99 balls with six fours.
Ollie Price surprisingly came in ahead of James Bracey, who may not end up wicketkeeping much this week with the storm warnings around. Price continuing comfortably as the Somerset bowling looked only slightly more threatening into the afternoon.
Lewis Gregory had 0-39 from his first eight overs, continuing his struggles with the ball this season, though the ECB forcing him to still be bowling competitively with the white ball until late Saturday night clearly not the best prep for Championship cricket with a red ball by 10.30 Monday morning.
Former Somerset Straggler and Taunton CC opening bat Harris reached his fourth Championship ton off the season just prior to the tea interval which was outlandishly taken after more than the minimum 64 overs had been bowled! Somerset’s over rate being the only positive of two incredibly frustrating sessions for the home supporters.
Nelson should have cost Harris as he used his feet and hit straight back to Khan, but he could not hold on even after a couple of juggles around his midriff. 233-1.
They came off for rain at 237-1 at 15.53 with 72 overs bowled – far more than many expected from today’s wet forecast. But again it rained much less than forecast and the covers were coming off at 16.04.
Sunshine allowed Ollie Price 50 off 127 balls in 127 minutes without getting any fans off their seats, but getting the job done for his side. The 125-run stand between Price and Harris was ended by the left-armer Tom Lammonby, Price caught behind for 52.
Miles Hammond signed a two-year contract extension with Gloucestershire last week, keeping him at the club until 2024, but was not required until late in the day and did not last long. Josh Davey had him and key wicket James Bracey out in the space of three deliveries.
Lewis Gregory then got Gloucestershire skipper Graeme van Buuren to leave a delivery that moved in sharply to bowl him and three of the Glos’ middle-order had gone for single figures.
Harris could not quite make it through the day, edging Brooks to the lone slip Gregory for 159 with just eight balls remaining in the day and Somerset ended with a bit of momentum after being outplayed for the majority of the day.