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May 9, 2012
Somerset 220 for 8 (Meschede 62, Kieswetter 60*,Thorp 4-53) lead Durham 125 (Overton 4-38) by 95 runs
This was just the sort of pitch where one might have imagined that Durham's know-how would have seen them through. Though bottom of the table, Durham have an average age of 31; Somerset, down to 11 fit players, average only 23. It was just the time for some gnarled old pros to provide a few home truths to the young shavers on a lively pitch that seamed throughout the day, but it did not turn out that way.
Somerset, fielding what must be one of the youngest sides in their history, bowled intelligently and then turned the game in their favour with some spirited counter-attacking after tea, amassing 155 in the final session at not far short of a run a ball. Peter Trego, at 30 the oldest player in their side, set the tone as he drove pretty much everything that was pitched up to make 40 from 35 balls before he was betrayed by one that kept low from Ruel Brathwaite. That is how Trego can play, but what followed was even more striking as Craig Kieswetter and Craig Meschede took the cue with half-centuries of attacking intent.
Meschede, a 20-year-old South African, twice slapped Mitchell Claydon for three boundaries in an over and included 13 fours in his 62 before Callum Thorp had him caught at first slip. Kieswetter, unbeaten on 60 at the close, has the chance to cause further damage - although judging by the weather forecast perhaps not until Friday.
Meschede set new first-class bests with the bat and ball, taking three wickets earlier in the day in a Durham innings in which he was overshadowed by the youngest player of all, Craig Overton, barely 18 and playing only his second Championship match, who returned figures of 4 for 38 and reacted with a frisson of excitement every time the ball slipped past the outside edge.
Overton, a gangling young Devonian with a nice high action, hit the seam regularly and as he and Meschede shared the last five wickets, delighted in high fives with smaller colleagues who could not quite reach. Somerset, short on resources, must steel themselves and use him wisely.
Durham, not helped by two rain-wrecked matches in London, have been so bereft of batting form that no batsman in their top six has yet reached 50. Included in a familiar crash was Paul Collingwood, whose commitment to extending his Durham career with his England days now seemingly spent is an admirable show of loyalty to a county game that needs such gestures, but who so far is struggling to gain much reward. He got off the mark with a streaky boundary against Trego, but was out third ball and now has 37 runs in five attempts. Durham needed something better, especially after Dale Benkenstein had pulled out at the last minute after dislocating a shoulder in the warm up.
Phil Mustard, coming in at 92 for 5, must suspect that he has transmuted into Chris Read, another wicketkeeper/captain who is well used to rescuing an innings on the rocks. But a spliced pull shot against Meschede ended his thoughts of a revival and Durham's last seven wickets tumbled for 35 runs in 9.3 overs. The Eleven Fit Men of Somerset, barely more than could be squeezed on to Uncle Tom Cobley's horse, were cock-a-hoop.
Celebrations looked premature when Somerset lost four wickets for 45 in return. Graham Onions, true and straight, took wickets in his first two overs with lbw decisions against Arul Suppiah, first ball, and Alex Barrow; Lewis Gregory, who had batted soundly, pulled Callum Thorp to mid-on; and James Hildreth was late on the shot as Mitch Claydon bowled him middle-and-off. At tea, it had the makings of a 20-wicket day and equality at the end of it, but Somerset's gusto changed all that.