Kyle Abbott ripped through Somerset’s top four inside the first hour after Somerset won the toss and opted to bat first.
Somerset fans won’t need reminding how in 2019 he virtually single-handedly denied them the County Championship by taking 17-86 in their penultimate game of the season at the Ageas Bowl.
But between rain delays in the afternoon, James Rew (77*) and Kasey Aldridge (55*) fought back well against the Kookaburra ball putting on 116 in 27 overs.
Rain at Blackpool CC (just 4.4 overs of play possible on the opening day at Stanley Park) kept Tom Westley from adding many to his total meanwhile Rew overtook him to regain his title as the leading run-scorer in Division One. Rew already has five first-class centuries, and he is still 19 years old remember.
Somerset gave former North Perrott, now Bridgwater CC left armer Alfie Ogborne a first-class debut to provide foot holes outside the right-handers’ off-stump for Shoaib Bashir and returning loan signing Dom Bess to target. Somerset winning the toss and opting to bat, more due to wanting to bowl in the fourth innings, than wanting to give the best attack in the country a new ball in overcast conditions this morning. With Craig Overton, Matt Henry and Lewis Gregory rested, Kasey Aldridge and Jack Brooks played, as the seamers expected to play lesser roles at Edgbaston on Saturday.
Hampshire were unchanged from their innings and 61 run victory v Middlesex. Only four of their side (Joe Weatherley, James Vince, Liam Dawson and James Fuller) are expected to play in T20 Finals Day on Saturday.
Lammonby capitalised on a couple of Abbas long hops early on but was first to go. Abbott’s fourth ball, having come on first change for Keith Barker, saw the lefthander caught behind by Ben Brown. His 500th catch in first class cricket.
Barker switched to the River End having seen Abbas go for 20 off four overs as he oh so surprisingly could not get his length right. Sean Dickson had been cashing in particularly, taking 20 off 18 balls in overcast conditions against the best Championship attack.
Tom Abell gave Abbott one of two surprising dismissals for such a quality seamer with a new ball in overcast conditions. Abell (5) inexplicably chipped one back to Abbott then George Bartlett went the worst way in cricket.
Dickson nailed another straight drive, and Hampshire’s 12th fielder-no not their twelfth man from Exeter University John Turner who was busy signing hundreds of schoolkids’ autographs, nor American allrounder Ian Holland, not the non-strikers’ end’s stumps saved four. And to make matters worse for Somerset, Abbott had managed to get a fingertip to it-whether a mis field, deliberate or not, or great work is up for debate, but what was clear was Bartlett being a foot out of his ground-gone for a duck.
Former Clevedon cricketer Abbott did then get current Clevedon CC man Dickson lbw for 21. A Somerset wicket falling in each of Abbott’s first four overs (3-5).
Once Umeed and Rew settled things down for 50-4, Liam Dawson came into the attack from the River End. Last match vs Middlesex, Dawson earnt career-best match figures of 12-130 and scored 141 in Hampshire’s only innings.
His first ball today turned massively, the most turn I have seen on a first morning pitch in Taunton since the Ciderabad days. Ominous signs, remember both sides have two frontline spinners in this match.
Rew and Umeed did make it through to a 12.55 lunch, at 74-4 as the first shower hit.
Only seven balls were possible after lunch before the rain returned and kept the players off until 15.30.
After all the hard work getting his eye in for 55 balls, Umeed pulled Abbott straight to Felix Organ at midwicket, a good low catch, 80-5. Abbott’s 54th wicket v Somerset, including two 10-fers.
Kasey Aldridge came in at seven ahead of Dom Bess. Aldridge should have been Abbott’s five-fer scalp, but Vince dropped a regulation, nice height chance at first slip in the 37th over.
Vince then decided to set a bizarrely defensive field to James Fuller for a while, who of course went against his surname and bowled shorter. Then a Fuller full toss and half volley in the 45th helped Rew pass 50. Fuller’s first six overs going for 39. Aldridge and Rew put on 88 in less than 18 overs to change the complexion of this game.
Rew surpassed 800 first-class runs for the season shortly after a late tea interval, followed by the 100 partnership just before 5.30 as Abbas amusingly attempted a bumper. Even more amusing was the next ball though as Aldridge edged short of Vince at slip who then through the ball for four overthrows to earn Aldridge his third first-class 50! Reminding me of taking a last-minute day off work to watch Alastair Cook reach 100 in his final test innings at the Oval with buzzers, Jasprit Bumrah the generous thrower for four on that occasion!
196-5 the eventual close.
Hampshire’s last Championship title was 50 years ago this year and they do have some way to catch Surrey at the top of the tree still, but a depleted Somerset side will still be firmly in their sights if they can break this partnership early tomorrow.