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David Lloyd at Taunton
April 8, 2012
Somerset 350 (Compton 99) and 73 for 4 beat Middlesex 246 (Philander 5-43) and 175 (Dockrell 6-27) by six wickets
Vernon Philander may have been the talk of the County Ground for much of this match but friend, foe and neutral observer alike went away this evening singing the praises of spinner George Dockrell.
Fast bowler Philander played a significant role as Somerset launched their latest attempt to win a first championship title by beating Middlesex by six wickets. But it was 19-year-old Dockrell who took centre stage - and looked an absolute natural under the spotlight - when his team needed a generous helping of magic today.
Figures of 6 for 27 from 20.1 overs suggest a wizard at work. Well, there will be batsmen on the circuit who play him better than these visitors. And not all pitches are going to yield as much turn and bounce as this splendid early season offering from groundsman Simon Lee. But Dockrell's left-arm weaved a spell which was a treat to watch - unless you were something like 22 yards away, of course.
Dockrell, a tall, slim Irishman, has been gathering an army of admirers for a couple of years now, mainly while playing limited-overs cricket for his country. Indeed, people were purring about him when he appeared against England - as a 17-year-old - in the World Twenty20 tournament of 2010.
This season, though, is Dockrell's chance to play first-class cricket to his heart's desire. With Murali Kartik having left Taunton for Surrey, the way is clear for young George to fill his boots. And fill them he surely will if he keeps bowling with as much control, flight and variety as he displayed during this match.
Somerset were first alerted to Dockrell's talent when he was just 15. Last year, with Kartik on board, he appeared in only one championship contest. But this summer his development promises to be rapid and, on the evidence of today, spectacular.
Middlesex were looking more than capable of earning a draw when they reached 105 for 1 deep into the morning session. The first innings arrears had just been cleared and, with a fair amount of good fortune, admittedly, Philander had been seen off.
But Dockrell changed the game from the moment he defeated Sam Robson's attempted sweep to win a leg before decision. Chris Rogers followed, edging a cut, and the visitors knew a tricky afternoon stretched out before them.
Even so, losing their last seven wickets for 40 runs in 20 overs to be hurried out for 175 was pretty remarkable. Philander did for Neil Dexter and Dawid Malan to finish with match figures of 7 for 81. But the Dockrell show resumed with John Simpson being undone by turn and bounce before Gareth Berg, lbw pushing forward, Ollie Rayner, stumped, despite at least one fumble from Craig Kieswetter, and Toby Roland-Jones, holing out in the deep, completed the collection.
A match haul of 8 for 62 should have allowed Dockrell to sit back and relax while Somerset knocked off a victory target of 72 in 40 overs. Instead, he and a few others in the home changing room will have moved towards the edge of their seats as the hosts slipped to 44 for 4.
Having one eye on approaching dark clouds probably did not help the top order. But just when some mild panic was setting in around the ground, James Hildreth and Jos Buttler settled matters with a few hefty blows - including Buttler's reverse sweep off Joe Denly, to seal the deal.
Having lost their opening match of the last two championship campaigns, Somerset deserve to feel good about themselves after this result. As for Middlesex, they fought so hard for so much of a match in which conditions generally conspired against them that defeat will be tough to take. But in the first division one bad session is usually fatal - and the visitors had a shocker after lunch today.
No such worries for Dockrell, of course. "This should give me a lot of confidence for the rest of the season," he said. "Obviously I didn't get many opportunities last year with Murali Kartik here so I'm pleased to have started well.
"You have to go with what you've got. I'm quite tall and getting bounce seems to be a big thing for me at the moment. I'm still working on my action and I made a little change this winter while working with Ireland coach Phil Simmons and it seems to have helped because I'm getting a bit more spin."
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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