|Ground:||County Ground, Taunton|
|Scorecard:||Somerset v Lancashire|
|Event:||LV County Championship 2014|
DateLine: 29th June 2014
Match Report: SOMERSET v LANCASHIRE, Day 1
From John Ward at Taunton
Close of play: Lancashire 221/6 v Somerset.
Lancashire would have been in a bad way today without Paul Horton. While batsmen two to six scored a mere 58 runs between them, Horton held the fort at the other end with great skill and solidity, except for a couple of difficult chances that cost Somerset dearly. His 140 so dominated the Lancashire innings that none of his partners reached 20, against bowling that was often testing but not consistent enough on the whole, with Alfonso Thomas the best of them overall.
Light rain delayed the start for an hour, after which Lancashire won the toss and decided to bat on a pitch which was quite green in colour, and under continued cloud cover, which began to lift around lunch time. Horton, in poor form recently, guided the first ball of the match neatly past the slips to the (as usual) vacant third-man boundary, but otherwise the early period was not easy for Lancashire’s fragile batting.
Thomas, who took four wickets in four balls during his last championship match on this ground, was in good form; Craig Overton was testing at times; Luke Gregory was eager to impress on his return to the team after injury. This made runs hard to get for the visitors. Alex Davies struggled to get off the mark, but survived until the 16th over for 8 off 39 deliveries; at this point he lashed out at a ball from Peter Trego, who has just changed ends, and edged a sharp neck-high catch to third slip.
Lancashire were 30 for one, and before lunch two runs an over proved to be about the going rate, although the intensity of the challenge kept the interest there. Lancashire did well to reach lunch on 47 for one wicket, with Horton on 9 and Usman Khawaja 9.
The sun came out after lunch, but Lancashire then began to struggle. Khawaja did not add to his score, choosing the wrong ball from Thomas to pull and spooning a catch to mid-on. Ashwell Prince only made 5, trapped lbw on the back foot by Thomas for 5, and Lancashire were now 71 for three.
Thomas was overall the best of the Somerset seamers, but Craig Overton produced some very testing deliveries, although he was not consistent enough to keep a sustained pressure on the batsmen. Horton was fighting his way back to form, rarely in trouble but always watchful, and he reached his fifty off 115 balls with two successive boundaries off Overton. Soon afterwards he survived a difficult low slip chance to James Hildreth. Steven Croft, though, fell for 18 at 112, trying to sweep a delivery from George Dockrell, and the wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter, standing up, held on to a very sharp chance.
Joseph Buttler came in to a very warm reception from his former home crowd, and soon hit an effortless six over wide long off, from the bowling of Dockrell. When tea came Lancashire had reached 130 for four, with Horton on 73 and Buttler 11.
After the interval Buttler hit Dockrell for another six, this one being virtually one-handed; the ball bounced just inside the wall round the ground, over the top and into the River Tone. On 81 Horton survived another low slip chance to Hildreth. Buttler now became strangely becalmed, and when he reached 18 off 58 balls he was suddenly beaten by a good ball from Gregory – his 50th first-class wicket - and had his off stump knocked out of the ground. Lancashire were 165 for five and would have been in serious trouble without Horton, who was now on 99.
A bad ball from Dockrell gave Horton a leg-side boundary and his century, off 209 balls. After reaching the landmark he stepped up his scoring rate, while at the other end big Tom Smith as usual looked like a batsman ready to knock the cover off the ball while in actuality playing merely a steady supportive game.
Then, with just four overs remaining in the day’s play, Horton’s fine innings came to a close, adjudged lbw to Gregory for 140 off 256 balls, an innings that included 21 fours. The score was 219 for six, and his partners at this stage had scored 71 runs between them (excluding extras, but including only three fours and two sixes), so he had scored very nearly two-thirds of the runs off the bat. Smith (13 not out off 67 balls) and Wayne White saw Lancashire through to the close, without encouraging hopes of their adding greatly to their score on the morrow.
(Article: Copyright © 2014 John Ward)