Kirby shows his worth for Somerset
Somerset 309 and 83 for 3 v Worcestershire 238
To further his oft-stated ambition of playing for England, Steve Kirby gave up a potentially lucrative benefit amid friends in Bristol, to say nothing of pitches more conducive to seam-up bowling than at Taunton. Thus far, he cannot be said to have made the wrong decision. Having taken wickets against Lancashire at Liverpool, he returned figures of 4 for 64 as Worcestershire collapsed to 207 for five to 238 all out
Kirby felt that if he proved he could bowl on flatter surfaces in the first division at the County Ground, he would catch the eye of the selectors, even at the age of 33. He knows he has competition - but he also knows he has a big heart. There was once again a modicum of movement in the pitch for him, Charl Willoughby and Gemaal Hussain, and he made the most of it. Somerset, who had a 71-run first innings lead, extended this to 154 for the loss of their openers and Nick Compton.
Indeed, had Vikram Solanki been held at second slip by Marcus Trescothick off Kirby before he had scored, an extremely difficult low catch at second slip, Worcestershire's innings would have been scuppered. Kirby, the flame-haired fast bowler, as fiery on the field as he is conciliatory off it, had made the initial breakthrough, having James Cameron taken low by Trescothick at second slip. His opening partner, Daryl Mitchell, went leg before to Willoughby after adding 46 with the captain.
Solanki has been short of runs in the Championship but there was no mistaking the confidence and elegance with which he drove off either foot. Anything pitched short on this pitch, still lime green in hue, was dispatched to the midwicket boundary - or over it when Peter Trego and then Lewis Gregory, an all rounder who bowls on the quicker side of medium, were on.
When Solanki was third out, leg before to an in-ducker from Willoughby when well forward, he had struck 11 fours in addition to those two sixes. Gregory, on his Championship debut, took his first wicket when he found sufficient movement to have Moeen Ali held by Craig Kieswetter, and Matt Pardoe went in similar fashion off Trego.
Then, an unknown quantity appeared. Spin. Arul Suppiah and Kirby took four wickets between them in six balls, including that of Alexei Kervezee, who had reached a seemingly understated half century with ten fours. There was even some turn in this dry square, so dry that the bowlers were kicking up dust on their approach to the stumps, although neither captain had appeared to foresee in their team selections that spinners would flourish.
When Somerset went in a second time, the cloud cover was still extant. Suppiah was soon bowled by Alan Richardson, the ball nipping back and keeping low, and Trescothick, who, despite his double century at the Rose Bowl last week does not look at his imperious best, was taken at the wicket. The shot, as with taking half an hour to get off the mark in the first innings, was uncharacteristic. At least when Compton was taken at second slip off Gareth Andrew, Kirby could return to the fray, this time as a dedicated nightwatchman.
"If I am honest, I did not bowl that well," he said. "As a team unit we bowled too many four-balls, although Lewis Gregory did magnificently well on his debut. It was very encouraging to see the ball bouncing and carrying through and a lead of 300, if we can achieve that, is going to be very challenging. I might score a hundred - but then again I might not."