Somerset roar back into the contest
by John Ward

Ground:County Ground, Taunton
Scorecard:Somerset v Kent
Player:ME Trescothick, M Kartik, AC Thomas
Event:LV County Championship 2010

DateLine: 22nd July 2010


The first day’s play at Taunton belonged to Kent, but on the second it was Somerset all the way. Their tail-end batting saved them from disaster, and then a fine bowling performance, especially by the off-spinner Murali Kartik but aided by poor Kent batting, gave them a lead of 33 on the first innings. Much improved batting in their second innings saw them finish the eventful second day well ahead with a score of 128 for two wickets.


Somerset resumed at their overnight score of 122 for seven, and immediately started to bat with more positive purpose than they had shown during their collapse of the first day. In the first over of the day Zander de Bruyns hammered a fine straight drive for four off Darren Stevens, who had done most of the damage with the ball, and Alfie Thomas responded with a handsome four through the covers when his turn came. Both showed some confident strokeplay, though occasionally beaten. They put on 36 before Thomas, jabbing outside the off stump at a ball from Amjad Khan, was given out caught at second slip, although he maintained he had chopped it into the ground.


De Bruyn continued to dominate, mostly through boundaries, with drives, flicks and pulls, some lofted. He hit nine fours and his score was 44 when he finally slashed at a ball from Simon Cook outside his off stump and was caught at the wicket for 44. Murali Kartik played a mixture of awkward defensive strokes against the short stuff and firm attacking strokes when it was pitched further up, and their partnership had added 38. Charl Willoughby is not the ideal last man to secure eight more runs for a batting point, but he did the job, standing well clear of the stumps against the pace of Khan and using his long reach to slash the resulting off-stump yorkers through the covers. He had some assistance from four overthrows, and had 11 to his credit when Kartik (15) slashed and was caught at the wicket when Kent finally resorted to the spin of James Tredwell.


So Somerset had recovered well enough to reach a total of 205. Stevens had his figures damaged to read four for 38, while Khan had three for 63. Rain briefly came on during the interval between innings, and when it stopped Kent had just four overs to bat before lunch. They made a flying start, with Sam Northeast hitting fluently and powerfully on the leg side to make 19 of the 29 scored in that time without loss.


Northeast was less fluent after lunch, and fell for 24 when he edged a ball from Willoughby that moved away into the slips, the first wicket falling for 35. Joe Denly had started much more slowly, but began to come to life with two impressive fours in an over from Peter Trego. Geraint Jones wanted to join the party, hitting Kartik, who replaced Trego, straight for the first six of the match, but was then apparently surprised to receive a low full toss, which he popped back for a return catch; out for 16 and the score 76 for two.


Martin van Jaarsveld did not last long, walking in front of a straight ball from his fellow South African Thomas for 4. Joe Denly survived a confident appeal for a catch at the wicket off Khan, but in the next over Kartik struck again, trapping him lbw for 34. Kent were 87 for four, and the innings was now in the balance. Alex Blake looked all at sea, but Stevens, apart from almost playing a ball on to his stumps, batted with confidence. Blake did play one or two good strokes on his way to 15, but might have been out half a dozen times before he finally pushed a ball from Kartik straight at short leg; 114 for five.


Kent’s position worsened further as Stevens fell next for 22, trying to play a ball from Willoughby to leg, but instead slicing it off the outside edge to point; 126 for six. James Tredwell, though, looked in quite impressive form, especially driving Kartik through the covers, while Matt Coles showed himself a powerful leg-side hitter, pulling both Willoughby and Kartik for sixes. Kartik took his revenge in the end, pushing through a very good delivery that knocked Coles’ off stump out of the ground and removed him for 23, after a stand of 33. Tredwell (14) quickly followed; Kartik took his fifth wicket when he made once bounce and the batsmen fended it into the leg trap. At 164 for eight tea was now taken, with Somerset now able to claim they had their noses in front.


The end of the innings was not long delayed in the final session. Malinga Bandara edged a ball from Thomas to the keeper for 5, while in the same over Khan edged to first slip and the innings was over for 172. Kent found themselves, no doubt to their surprise, 33 runs behind on first innings. Kartik had his five wickets, while Thomas took three and Willoughby two. It had been a fine display by Somerset in the field; the seamers found enough movement, though it was the spinner who had the most success on a green pitch. But Kent, although their middle-order collapse had been less spectacular than that of Somerset on the first day, had shown little fight. Seven batsmen reached double figures, but the highest was 34 by Denly.


Somerset’s second innings quickly showed both positive spirit and application, with for once Arul Suppiah leading the way while Marcus Trescothick allowed him his head. When on 24, though, he pushed at a ball from Matt Coles that he could have left and was caught at the wicket; 45 for one. With Jos Buttler joining him, Trescothick kept his cool, waiting for the loose ball and then powerfully and ruthlessly thumping it to the boundary. Buttler drove Tredwell straight for six, and later Trescothick helped two loose balls from Coles over the leg boundary in successive overs.


The 100 came up after 23 overs, and not long afterwards Trescothick became the first batsman to reach a fifty in the match, reached off 70 balls. Buttler, playing forward to Malinga Bandara, was adjudged lbw for 42 just before the close, and Somerset finished the day in a healthy position, 161 runs ahead with only two wickets down.


This was a midweek day in a relatively small town with uncertain weather and the home side starting the day in an inferior position, hardly a day to attract spectators, one would think. Yet there were nearly a thousand at the ground, giving the lie to the false myth about two men and a dog, and they had good value for their money.