Broad made to work hard by twin tons
Somerset 341 for 5 v Nottinghamshire
Sometimes, county cricket's chaotic fixture list can be a blessing. The latest round of four-day games sits in peculiar isolation in the middle of a three-week block of Twenty20 matches, which is less than ideal, in particular for batsmen faced with the demands of adjusting style to suit the format. Without it, though, Stuart Broad would have to concede that his place in the England team to face India in the first Test on Thursday week would be in serious doubt.
It is in some doubt anyway, given the loss of form that led him to him being left out of Saturday's decisive fifth one-day international against Sri Lanka. But the brief resumption of Championship cricket at least gives him a chance to put in some overs for Nottinghamshire in the hope of eradicating his current shortcomings. With his card marked by the England selectors, he rang Mick Newell, Nottinghamshire's director of cricket, last Friday, emphasising his eagerness to play.
"He is certainly not playing under duress," Newell said. "He knows his place is under threat but he has responded in the right way. He has not been looking like someone who is thinking 'what am I doing here?'
"You would guess that it is a three-way race between him, Tim Bresnan and maybe Steven Finn to be third seamer at Lord's and he is eager to make that place his. For us it is a bonus because I didn't think we would see him again this year."
Newell sympathised with Broad's predicament in the face of sustained criticism in the media, which has been fanned by his disciplinary problems. Some of his team-mates suspect he has been identified as a ready scapegoat whenever the England team put in a below-par performance.
"As a cricketer he is still learning," Newell said. "But he barely plays county cricket, so he is having to learn in Test matches, on flat pitches against good players. And the way he bowls depends on what kind of bowler England want him to be."
When appropriate, Newell is as keen as anyone to see Broad to use his height to frighten batsmen, particularly the way he did in the corresponding fixture last year, when he gave Craig Kieswetter a classic 'going-over' and bowled Nottinghamshire to victory with five second-innings wickets.
Indeed, on a day that began with a fine spell with the new ball, followed by a couple of less impressive stints, Broad wound up by taking a wicket with a short-pitched delivery in a clever piece of bowling around the wicket to James Hildreth to a loaded leg-side field.
Hildreth could not resist the temptation to hook -- although he had scored 137 by then -- and duly made a hash of one. Wicketkeeper Chris Read, running full pelt towards fine leg, took a fine diving catch.
But Trent Bridge tends to encourage bowlers who pitch the ball up and let it swing, especially in the warm, muggy atmosphere that prevailed on the first day here. Nottinghamshire prepared one that was scarcely less green than its uncut neighbours, tailor made for Andre Adams, who bowled them to the title last year. Yet Broad showed he could make the conditions work for him, too, in an opening spell Newell rated as "excellent", by taking a wicket with his seventh ball, pitched up and nudged to second slip by Arul Suppiah.
It began a difficult morning for Somerset, who were put in. Luke Fletcher quickly had Nick Compton out to another fine catch by Voges, diving across Alex Hales at first slip, from a similar delivery, before Adams struck twice, uprooting Marcus Trescothick's off stump with a peach of a ball before a tricky maiden Championship innings for 20-year-old Durham University student Chris Jones ended with a wide ball edged again into the safe hands of Voges.
At 48 for 4 Somerset looked ripe for demolition. Broad took eight wickets when they ran into him here last season, in April and one wondered if he might be warming up for a timely repeat. But the remainder of the day belonged not to Broad, who had his left heel padded and has gained a sore right ankle for his troubles, but to Kieswetter and Hildreth, who have put Somerset in control with a mammoth partnership of 290 for the fifth wicket.
Given the conditions, which eased but were never without a lurking threat, it was a performance of considerable merit. Kieswetter rode his luck early, surviving a succession of edges that fell short of ride of the slip cordon, but is still there on 151, needing only three to surpass his previous highest first-class score.
Hildreth, though guilty of the odd streaky stroke, made few errors. He has not had a productive season so far, which probably explains why Somerset have fallen short of expectations, and will feel much better for this effort. He is further back in the England pecking order than Broad or Kieswetter but made good strides as England Lions captain last winter and national selector Geoff Miller, while ostensibly present on Broad-watch, cannot fail to have been impressed.