Somerset v Durham, Taunton, 1st day May 19, 2014

No T20 typecasting for Thomas

Somerset 51 for 2 trail Durham 155 (Borthwick 59, Thomas 5-41) by 104 runs

Alfonso Thomas is a cricketer who could have been designed for the age of the pop-up Twenty20 league. His canny bowling, a fusion of yorkers, slower balls and supreme accuracy, has enjoyed success the world over.

Thomas has thrived in the Big Bash, the Bangladeshi Premier League and the Indian Premier League, as well as in England and South Africa. There is no need for him to bother with the rigours of county championship cricket.

He evidently takes a different view. Even the morning after a T20 game, when his excelling with bat and ball could not prevent Somerset slipping to defeat, Thomas was full of vim. Bustling in with a smooth, economical run-up, Thomas retains deceptive pace: rare is the 37-year-old who can hit batsmen with his bouncer.

But it was another delivery that provided the day's defining image. With Paul Collingwood relishing firefighting duties, Thomas produced a delivery that pitched up, kissed the seam, and moved late enough to defeat a groping bat to dismantle the top of off stump.

Such sights have been familiar at Taunton since Thomas joined Somerset in 2008. His limited-overs nous is renowned - South Africa tried to persuade him to play in the 2012 World T20 but he declined in order to preserve his Kolpak status - but Thomas's virtues as a first-class performer should not be underestimated.

Into his seventh season at Somerset, he has claimed 243 first-class wickets at 26 apiece. Given that Somerset have been in Division One for the duration of his stay at the club and Taunton remains one of the best batting tracks in the country, it has been quite an effort.

Seldom will Thomas have encountered more responsive conditions than these at Taunton: a different track to one that produced a sedate draw against Nottinghamshire a fortnight ago, and copious cloud cover to boot. Even so, Taunton remains the archetypal bat first track, as Durham chose to do after winning the toss.

Thomas and Peter Trego, Somerset's opening attack, had a combined age of just 69, compared to 75 the day before. They bowled expertly. Yet Durham will reflect on some poor shot selection; Mark Stoneman was bowled playing across the line, and Michael Richardson was lbw trying to pull a ball that was not short enough for the shot.

When Phil Mustard edged his first ball to slip, Trego was on a hat-trick. That proved beyond him, but Durham were 24 for 4 on the first morning at Taunton. These things are not meant to happen.

A knack for crisis management earned Collingwood his Brigadier Block sobriquet for England. But that was not apt today, with Collingwood in counter-punching mood. With Scott Borthwick seeming to have more time than the other batsmen and drivingly pleasingly through the covers, the two targeted the Overton twins.

Both tall and powerfully built, they look identical, although they can be recognised by their bowling styles. Jamie, who earned an England ODI call-up last summer, is sharper but he was also more erratic and susceptible to bowling no balls. Nine overs from the twins yielded 47, but Thomas returned to end Durham's hopes of amassing a respectable score.

Borthwick was aghast to be caught at midwicket, and Mark Wood was trapped plumb on his back leg to give Thomas his second five-fer in consecutive Championship games.

With Somerset's leading wicket-taker Lewis Gregory ruled out for several weeks with a hamstring injury, George Dockrell played his first Championship game of the season, and bowled smartly to snare two lower-order wickets. There was turn for his left-arm spin, too, vindicating the decision of both sides to pick two spinners. Borthwick will be expected to add to the three Championship wickets he has taken in 2014, while offspinner Ryan Pringle was handed a debut.

Neither Durham spinner has yet bowled, but they did claim two wickets before showers halted the day. Collingwood, frustrated by Durham's batting flakiness resurfacing, was notably vocal as Durham took to the field, anxious for the attack to assert themselves with Graham Onions injured.

When Collingwood's old England team-mate flashed, leaden-footed, to slip to the first ball - Marcus Trescothick's second golden duck in three innings - it would have gone some way to lightening his mood, and was a reminder of Chris Rushworth's qualities on the day he signed a new three-year contract.

Resilience in conditions such as these earned Nick Compton a Test debut two years ago, but he poked rather tamely at Mark Wood's first ball. Had Johann Myburgh, promoted to open after Chris Jones was dropped, been run out by Phil Mustard's throw, Somerset would have come uncomfortably close to ruining Thomas's sterling work.

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  • Martin on May 20, 2014, 9:14 GMT

    @JG2704 Agree that this side looks much better balanced, with Trego at 7 and a full-time spinner. I still wonder whether Dockrell would have played if either Gregory or Meschede were fit. Also have to echo the comments about Thomas - he's been wonderfully consistent for us across formats and it's great to see him get the rewards for choosing the CC over IPL.

  • John on May 20, 2014, 7:30 GMT

    @whoster on (May 19, 2014, 21:00 GMT) I didn't realise Lewis got injured again. It's a shame this has happened at such a time when he looked to be kicking on in the CC game. Re Tres - He has at least scored a ton this season - and in a winning cause when it wasn't a high scoring game and vs an attack vs Magoffin and Jordan. He also scored 72 vs Notts and 100 in a pre season game vs Middx (inc Finn,Harris,Roland Jones). I think we've seen his best days but it seems his early form is at least better than last season. I much prefer the balance of the side in this game. It looks more like a side that thinks it can win games rather than a side built to draw

  • Peter on May 19, 2014, 21:00 GMT

    Nice to see due credit given to Alfonso Thomas. A bowling average of 26 over seven seasons, and with Taunton as his home ground - that's the statistic of a very good bowler, and worth repeating. Thomas is a master craftsman in all forms of the game, and he's a big reason why Somerset have been consistently strong in the Championship over that time.

    If Somerset are to challenge again this year, Thomas is going to need help - and with Lewis Gregory out for a while, Jamie Overton will need to show why he's caught the interest of the England selectors.

    I'd love to see Marcus Trescothick get back to his old batting self, but you have to wonder if age is catching up with him. It'd be a big blow to Somerset's title hopes if he has another poor season.

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