Somerset v Lancashire, Taunton, 1st day

Rose looks to loan market to boost exposed Somerset

George Dobell at Taunton

April 26, 2012

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Lancashire 364 for 4 (Croft 113*, Prince 96) v Somerset

Lewis Gregory trapped Karl Brown lbw for 50, Somerset v Lancashire, County Championship, Division One, Taunton, 1st day, April 26, 2012
Lewis Gregory was part of a very young Somerset attack © Getty Images

On the ground where they secured their first outright championship title since 1934 just seven months ago, Lancashire enjoyed their best day of a season that has taken some time to flicker into life.

Starting this game bottom of the table and having failed to pass 250 in any innings, Lancashire are already on the brink of maximum batting bonus points after taking a heavy toll on an attack as green as the emerald outfield. Steven Croft, with the fourth first-class century of his career and the first by any Lancashire batsman this season, added 208 for the fourth-wicket with Ashwell Prince in just 49 overs. The pitch is unusually true for this time of year, but to concede over four an over in April says as much about the bowling as it does the batting.

This was an oddly uncompetitive day's cricket. Much of the time it resembled a fixture between a county and a university side as an injury-depleted Somerset team was exposed for its inexperience. As a result, Somerset will send for reinforcements in the coming days.

"We will look into the loan market very quickly at the end of this game," Brian Rose, Somerset's director of cricket told ESPNcricinfo. "I only have one more bowler in reserve - James Overton - so we have already started to look at some names that aren't playing. There don't seem to be many options, but it is an area we are going to explore."

Perhaps, had James Hildreth at slip, held on to a low chance offered by Prince off Peter Trego when the batsman had just seven, things might have been different. As it was, though, Prince and in particular Croft were content to put away the poor ball on a decent pitch offering little margin for error. They rarely had to wait for long. Somerset struggled with their line and length throughout, with a tendency to pitch too short punished in such easy-paced conditions.

"Our back-up bowlers let us down a bit," Hildreth, Somerset's stand-in captain, admitted afterwards. "We had simple game plans but we didn't execute them properly. It's a bit disappointing, but we have to remember that some of these bowlers are young."

If it is the hope that hurts, then Somerset supporters can take some comfort from the day's play. While the final weeks of recent seasons have been characterised by agony as the team threaten to win their maiden championship title only to fall away at the last, this year there will be no such pain. It is highly unlikely that Somerset will win the championship this year.

They do not have the depth in their bowling attack to mount a sustainable challenge. With Alfonso Thomas absent on IPL duty and Steve Kirby, Geemal Hussain and Adam Dibble injured, they have been obliged to rely too heavily on a band of talented but inexperienced bowlers. Craig Overton is barely 18, George Dockrell and Lewis Gregory are both teenagers and Craig Meschede is, aged 20, the oldest of the four. They have played just 27 first-class games between them. Indeed, Glen Chapple, the Lancashire captain, has played more first-class cricket than all six members of the Somerset attack combined. While Somerset could claim, with some justification, they have suffered some ill-fortune, they might also reflect on the wisdom of allowing Charl Willoughby to depart for Essex. Their squad is too thin.

It would be unreasonable to expect too much of their callow recruits. Overton, tall but red raw, has just a hint of Stuart Broad about him and may well develop into a fine cricketer. He also claimed his maiden first-class wicket when Prince punched one to mid-wicket. Gregory bowled horribly most of the time, but also ended Karl Brown's delightfully fluent innings with a good, full ball and has, just occasionally, a turn of pace that suggests there is plenty of untapped talent lurking within. Neither they nor Meschede are yet ready for this level, but all are worth perseverance. Somerset have simply asked a bit much of them a bit soon.

More disappointing was the performance of Vernon Philander. The South African removed Paul Horton early, leaving a straight one, but generally failed to utilise the new ball by making the batsmen play in that crucial first hour and conceded four an over throughout the day. Six no-balls underlined his lack of rhythm. Somerset, it should be noted, would have bowled had they won they toss.

This is a decent pitch, though. Croft, who scored the winning runs here when Lancashire clinched the championship, rated it the best he has seen this season. "There's nowhere better to bat," he said. "Hopefully this will kick start our season."

The way in which one delivery from left-arm spinner George Dockrell took off and leapt over the shoulder of batsman and keeper for four byes suggests that Simon Kerrigan may yet find a little more joy in the surface.

Somerset also expect to hear confirmation of Chris Gayle's availability within the next couple of days. The West Indian, signed for this season's FLt20 is believed to be on the brink of resuming national team duties and may well, as a consequence, become unavailable for Somerset as a result.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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Posted by ballonbat on (April 29, 2012, 23:27 GMT)

@ JG2704 on (April 28 2012, 18:16 PM GMT) Thanks JG for putting FatBoysCanBat (Mike Gatting? Boon? Warne?) right there. That is always the danger of using sarcasm. @ AdrianVanDenStael, I think it's called the law of diminishing returns. Philander is new on the scene and batsmen are still working him out. Of course his average will rise and his strike rate get worse. Same for batsmen - bowlers work out their weaknesses, esp now that they can analyse video footage. So, someone like Hussey had an amazing average to start with and then it dropped off. Of course the true greats aren't ever 'found out' but keep producing the runs and wickets.

Posted by JG2704 on (April 28, 2012, 18:16 GMT)

@ballonbat on (April 28 2012, 13:10 PM GMT) Full respect and I agree with you comms totally although I obviously hope the series goes to Eng. I'm not into making silly gloating predictions. I know some of our fans have been on others threads making silly comms and we've had a few of yours on ours. Truth is IMO SA are probably man for man (on paper) better than Eng (very close). I'd say we definitely have the better spinner and wk batsman and you guys definitely have the better number 5/6. I honestly think our pacers are fairly similar - maybe you guys just edge it.Alsothink SA have underachieved and still maintain that if Smith was less conservative in his declaration vs NZ in the 3rd test , you would have won that test and been number 1 outright. I'm also critical of Strauss/Flowers lack of bottle to try and change things selection wise.SA bowled Aus out for 47 in1st test and then could not defend 300+ in the next test.To me that says that they can be destructive but not invincible.

Posted by JG2704 on (April 28, 2012, 17:58 GMT)

@FatBoysCanBat on (April 28 2012, 13:17 PM GMT) Only PunchDrunkPunter actually said 3-0 for England. If you read Ballonbat's comms correctly he is actually a SA fan who started off by responding sarcastically to PDP and then predicted a 3-0 WW to SA himself - later admitting it was likely to be a close series. Yes Eng lost 3-0 to Pakistan and if they play like that at home to SA then it will be a SA win for sure. However in the previous series we beat Ind 4-0 to knock them off the top of the rankings and if we played as well vs Pak as we did in the Ind series the result would have been different . Before hand most pundits were either predicting a draw or a 2-1 win to Eng etc so you never can tell. It could go 3-0 either way but history shows SA and Eng are dead level from the last 6 series 2-2 in series 2 drawn and 8-8 in tests.

Posted by AdrianVanDenStael on (April 28, 2012, 14:58 GMT)

Both those who have praised Philander's performance on days 2 and 3, and the individual who concluded after his performance on day 1 that England would thrash South Africa this summer, might like to consider the observations made by the writer of this article, George Dobell, elsewhere. Dobell has suggested that notwithstanding his highly impressive start to his test career, Philander, while a good bowler, is neither as impressive as his test statistics suggest, nor likely to be the main threat to England's batting this summer. Dobell has suggested that Philander is unlikely to keep taking wickets in test matches at his current rate, but that England would do well not to forget the threats posed by Steyn and Morkel. No I don't know if Mr Dobell is correct or not, but I would suggest that he probably watches more cricket than some of us who post messages on these conversations.

Posted by FatBoysCanBat on (April 28, 2012, 13:17 GMT)

The day two report wouldn't let me comment so I will do it here. There were a couple of guys on here complaining about Philander's performance on day one and both went as far to say England will whitewash SA because of it [did you forget that Pakistan just smoked England?]. I would love to know your opinion now PunchDrunkPunter and Ballonbat after Philander returned 5/71 as part of Lancashire's collapse from 363/4 to 400/10 and took his economy rate from 4.13 at stumps to 2.89 at the end of the innings. One bad day does not make a season for a bowler. Just keep that in mind. I too am predicting a white-wash for the upcoming series but in favour of SA.

Posted by ballonbat on (April 28, 2012, 13:10 GMT)

@ JG2704 on (April 27 2012, 18:20 PM GMT) You're absolutely right. That's why I said in my later comment that the series should be riveting. In fact I think the English bowlers as a unit might have the edge on the Proteas and they have a more settled batting lineup and greater depth. I was just reacting with an equally absurd scoreline as PunchDrunk's. Well, neither is absurd, as I really believe any result is possible from 3-0 either way to 0-0. I doubt the latter and think a probable score will be 1-0 or 2-0. I'd really hate to say who the 1 or 2 belongs to, although obviously I hope it will be SA.

Posted by JG2704 on (April 27, 2012, 18:25 GMT)

Seems strange the lack of overs played today. I live in Plymouth and it has been really good weather all day so I'm surprised that there must have been bad weather at Taunton

Posted by JG2704 on (April 27, 2012, 18:20 GMT)

@ballonbat on (April 27 2012, 00:59 AM GMT) Agree with most of your points but not totally sure what you base the 3-0 on. SA are only beating NZ by a solitary test and SL at home by a solitary test , drawing at home vs Aus and a series of mostly drawn series , mostly at home before that.In recent years they have only beaten WI,Bang,NZ (all at home) by more than a solitary test. They haven't beaten a side 3-0 for years - unless you think Eng are that much in decline of course. I predict a close series with one test in it either way. Could well be a draw

Posted by JG2704 on (April 27, 2012, 18:11 GMT)

@PunchDrunkPunter on (April 26 2012, 18:29 PM GMT) Taunton is often known as a batsman's paradise. Wouldn't read much into VP not taking wickets on day 1 in this match

Posted by JG2704 on (April 27, 2012, 18:10 GMT)

@Yevghenny on (April 27 2012, 11:27 AM GMT) Nail on the head although some of our fans are doing similar on the Aus/WI threads

Posted by Munkeymomo on (April 27, 2012, 13:30 GMT)

@MikeHughes I didn't mean to downplay his bowling, he is very talented, I was merely saying he is quite handy with the bat, he has scored some fairly big runs in the Intercontinental Cup. A first class average of 13 isn't much but he isn't a walking wicket for sure.

Posted by ballonbat on (April 27, 2012, 12:23 GMT)

@PunchDrunkPunter. Now (Day 2, lunch) what do you say? Philander has bowled far more overs than any of your teenagers at a better economy and has four wickets to his name. Still so dismissive? English conditions suit his style of bowling perfectly and you are going to see the English batsmen struggle against him. It is possible, however, that he'll lose his form - he has been in scintillating form all year and that is unlikely to go on forever.

Also, note that when playing for SA he is bowling with a pack of topflight bowlers. Steyn, Morkel and Philander ... there will be little respite for the English batsmen. Kallis might be easier to play but if they pick an all-pace attack for some of the games, the English will have to face De Lange too. The series should be riveting.

Posted by Yevghenny on (April 27, 2012, 11:27 GMT)

personally, I'm not sure why SA fans are so arrogant about England's chances. Only a fool would believe this is going to be easy for either. If SA fans are in denial about the quality of England bowling, they won't have any choice but to accept after the 1st test

Posted by bestbuddy on (April 27, 2012, 9:43 GMT)

@PunchDrunkPunter, thank you for those sentiments - it is going to be very satisfying when an overconfident England team get hammered in the first test. And Philander is clearly underperforming isnt he - 11 wickets @22 is all rather bad. Never mind the fact he was the fastest to 50 test wickets in history in terms of balls bowled - 30% faster in fact. So averaging 22 is really bad for him, and having to carry 3 teenagers didnt hold him back in any way. I mean, he cant really bowl better and put more pressure on when he's bowling with steyn and morkel in a few months can he?

Posted by MikeHughes on (April 27, 2012, 8:27 GMT)

In fairness Munkeymomo, not even George Dockrell would consider himself a bowling all-rounder. The (young) man got Tendulkar out in a World Cup for gawd's sakes!

Posted by jmcilhinney on (April 27, 2012, 3:01 GMT)

@PunchDrunkPunter and @Andy Duckworth, it depends what you mean by "best". Philander is certainly SA's most successful bowler over the games that he's played, so his not taking too many wickets in English conditions will be encouraging to the England Test team. It is still no guarantee of anything come the Test series but I'm sure that SA fans would consider it an encouraging sign for them if he was taking lots of wickets, so England fans have a right to be encouraged by the opposite. Of course, encouraging signs don't mean a 3-0 scoreline.

Posted by ballonbat on (April 27, 2012, 0:59 GMT)

@PunchDrunkPunter. You are absolutely spot on. Brilliant insight. The Proteas should drop VP instantly after such a shocking performance. The fact that he has taken 51 wickets in seven Tests at an average a shade over 14 and 323 first class wicket at an average of 18 is really neither here nor there. I believe there is some South African teenager playing league cricket in the UK who got excellent figures in this week's game. We should encourage the SA selectors to pick him. Golden rule, I believe: always pick on current form and you're only as good as your latest game. That's why Ian Bell has quite rightly been in and out of the English team like a yo-yo. I'm just very very glad you're not a SA selector. But you're welcome to go advise Andy Flower on his team selections. By the way, please note that SA's best bowler is Dale Steyn. In fact the best bowler in the world currently is Dale Steyn. England 0- SA 3.

Posted by Munkeymomo on (April 26, 2012, 23:06 GMT)

@PunchDrunkPunter Dale Steyn is SA's best bowler, by a ways, no matter what people have been saying recently. I would have preferred to see Jamie Overton playing this game as I hear he is a better bowler and this team has no out and out bowler (Philander and Dockrell could be considered bowling allrounders), I am however pleased to see one of the Overtons getting a game, they have potential from what I hear.

I was gutted to see Charl Willoughby go, he was a crowd favourite and it shows now that decision was even worse than the decision to let Ben Phillips go. Not Somerset's worst decision but not ideal.

Posted by   on (April 26, 2012, 21:45 GMT)

Philander is not SAs best bowler!!!!

Posted by JG2704 on (April 26, 2012, 20:38 GMT)

Bad day for Somerset. Very disappointed in not being able to penetrate Lance with VP back in the side

Posted by PunchDrunkPunter on (April 26, 2012, 18:29 GMT)

So 3 teenagers outbowled Vernon Philander, who is South Africa's best bowler?! England 3-0 South Africa!

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