Day 1: Somerset v Australians
by John Ward

Scorecard:Somerset v Australians
Event:Australia in British Isles 2013

DateLine: 28th June 2013


Somerset v Australians
John Ward at Taunton, day 1

Close of play: Somerset (318) v Australians (2/0).


It is scarcely surprising that Somerset so often hosts touring teams. It plays virtually its full county side, unlike most other counties, and the crowds respond with enthusiasm – probably about six or seven thousand spectators turned up on the first day to watch the match against the Australians. They were treated to some good and eventful cricket, especially by their own side, which won the five hours of play, only for the Australians to fight back in startling fashion during the final hour.


The hero of the day was Chris Jones, who only came into the team at the last minute but played very impressively to score his maiden first-class century. He was well backed by Nick Compton but, just as it looked like being a day of humiliation for the tourists, their pacemen Mitchell Starc and James Pattinson fought back spectacularly to shatter the end of the Somerset innings.


The weather at the start was cloudy but dry, and the sun became more prominent as the day progressed. There was some green in the pitch, but Somerset chose to bat on winning the toss. Marcus Trescothick and Compton made a strong opening pair, with the latter very keen to prove a point to the England selectors after being dropped from the Test squad. There have been more visibly fired-up Australian teams, but this is ‘only’ a county match.


The Australians bowled quite well at the start: Starc was at times awry with his line, but got away with it, and Pattinson produced some fine deliveries with a bit of movement, although he was not consistent. Somerset soon lost Trescothick, who hooked at a ball from Pattinson from a rather cramped position and was well caught by Starc on the fine-leg boundary for 7; 15 for one.


This was the tourists’ last success for a long time, as Jones joined the determined Compton. They were very wary at first, but the Australian bowling was not consistent enough to keep the pressure on and they managed to keep the score moving mainly in ones and twos. James Faulkner bowled a very impressive first over, but after that was surprisingly innocuous on the whole, perhaps the most extreme example of the inconsistent Australian bowling. Although it could not be classified as poor, much of it was rather too short and/or directed on the legs, so leg-side pulls and clips were quite frequent and productive strokes. Norman Lyon, the off-spinner, was steady and troubled the batsmen with some turn at times; he had a couple of close lbw decisions go against him.


Compton reached his fifty with a stolen single off the second ball after lunch; it took him 82 balls. Not long afterwards Jones suddenly went on the attack, racing through the forties with three fours off five balls and reaching his half-century off 104 balls. He was particularly adept at squirting or edging the ball past the slips, but he also played some good drives, pulls and glances.


Compton reached 81, and then he seemed momentarily to lose concentration and edged a low catch to the left of Michael Clarke at slip, off Norman Lyon. The Australian captain took a remarkable catch, diving to his left and completing it at the third attempt while lying on the ground. It was unfortunate for Compton, as a century would have been a still stronger statement. The score was now 185 for two, the pair having given Somerset the initiative with their excellent stand of 170 for the second wicket.


Soon after tea Jones, who began the match with a career average of 18 and a highest score of 69 in 21 previous matches, reached his first-career century, which took him 188 balls. This, an impressive century against the Australians, should be the turning point of his career. He continued to grow in confidence, using his feet well to Lyons and frequently driving him with profit, including a straight six. He looked most authoritative too in facing the pace of Peter Siddle, and pulled one of his deliveries for six.


James Hildreth was now in with Jones, and he took advantage of a tired attack by running to his fifty off only 74 deliveries. The score reached 304 before the next wicket fell, Jones’s impressive innings of 130 ending as he drove at a ball from Faulkner, probably a tired stroke, and sliced a catch straight to gully. He faced 239 balls and hit 21 fours and two sixes.


This was the start of the belated and startling Australian fightback. Starc followed up in his next over by producing a fine inswinging yorker to bowl Craig Keiswetter for 4. At the other end Pattinson beat Hildreth and trapped him lbw for 66; then Starc struck again, twice in the same over, first winning an lbw decision against Alex Barrow, who was notably reluctant to depart, and then bowling Craig Meschede, both without scoring. Pattinson then drew level again – Trego (0) lbw with the first ball of his next over.


It took another two overs for the Australians to break through again, the next to go being Jamie Overton, who failed to get across to a delivery from Pattinson and lost his off stump. Six wickets had gone down without a run being scored, but the spell was broken when Gemaal Hussain flicked his first ball past square leg for four. The next ball produced four leg-byes, but then Starc won another lbw decision from the umpire to remove George Dockrell, and the innings was over. The collapse was caused by excellent bowling, aided by batting that was first perhaps complacent, and then became both unprepared and incompetent.


Somerset had gone from 304 for two to 318 all out in the space of eight overs – six wickets went down on 310 - and the Australians had fought back with a vengeance. Starc and Pattinson both finished with four wickets, for 33 and 56 respectively. Against everybody’s expectations, the Australians had to start their innings at the end of the day – a single over, off which they scored two runs.


(Article: Copyright © 2013 John Ward)


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