Somerset's season gets back on track
Somerset 309 and 185 beat Worcestershire 238 and 165 by 92 runs
In the wake of two defeats, two notable triumphs. Such is Somerset's start to the season as they seek - with renewed conviction - to justify their billing as favourites to win the Championship for the first time. Worcestershire needed 257 on this, the third day, which in the past would have been quite feasible at Taunton. The pitch, though, was still giving assistance to the medium pacers and there was some swing under the cloud cover. Ultimately it was no contest, Gemaal Hussain finishing with career best figures of 6 for 33.
Poor Worcestershire have now played four, lost four. Talking of conviction, there is precious little about their batting. Their bowlers, particularly Damien Wright, who took 6 for 56, had done notably well in dismissing Somerset for 185, but a first innings lead of 71, coupled with the accuracy of Somerset's attack and some fine slip catching resulted ultimately in a straightforward triumph.
"It was a different type of game to what is customary at Taunton," said Hussain, who left Gloucestershire in the winter in the hope his England ambitions would come to pass. "There was some assistance in the pitch but we still had to bowl in the right areas. Length was the key. Which is my favourite end? That is a challenge for me. I enjoyed the pitch - and the whole match."
Somerset had begun the day with a lead of 154, seven wickets intact, which was sufficiently ominous for their opponents. The fact that James Hildreth, nightwatchman Steve Kirby, Craig Kieswetter and Peter Trego went in quick succession, three of them to slip catches, told of the continuing dominance of ball over bat. Or, it might be added, the lack of sufficiently resolute technique.
Lewis Gregory also went cheaply, likewise caught in the slips, which left Somerset greatly dependent on Jos Buttler to ensure they would reach a lead of getting on for 300, which was what Kirby had emphasised would be needed. Wright utilised the conditions extremely well, maintaining an accurate line from the Old Pavilion End, but he could not make this all-important breakthrough.
Buttler may be short of runs this season, but evidently not of self-belief. On several occasions he moved down the pitch to Alan Richardson's quickish medium, flat-batting him for four and then swinging him over the square leg boundary. This was altogether too much for the old stager, who on his 36th birthday was spoken to by umpire John Steele for too much 'lip' towards the precocious batsman.
At lunch, Buttler was four short of a half century, having struck nine fours and that six. Charl Willoughby was his one surviving partner, but batting is not his strong suit. He was held at third man in the first over upon resumption, leaving Worcestershire the best part of five sessions to gain a rare victory. It was swiftly apparent that there was scant chance of that.
Daryl Mitchell went to an in-ducker from Willoughby and James Cameron edged Hussain to second slip off the bottom of the bat. Then, the former Gloucestershire seamer effectively won the match with two wickets in an over: Moeen Ali, who had just survived a strong appeal, edged him to second slip, where Marcus Trescothick held a sharp catch. Three balls later, Alexei Kervezee was taken at the wicket off one that Hussain cut the other way.
Matt Pardoe followed, bowled by Trego and, when Vikram Solanki drove Hussain too ppishly to extra cover, Worcestershire's fleeting chances had gone. Gareth Andrew went to the first ball after tea, leg before to Kirby, Wright was very well taken at first slip by Hildreth off Willoughby, and, when Hussain changed ends, he had Jack Shantry leg before. And that was just about that.