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Jon Culley at New Road
June 2, 2012
Worcestershire 340 (Solanki 106) and 129 for 7 dec. drew with Somerset 298 (Compton 108)
After thwarting Nick Compton's bid to complete 1,000 runs before the end of May, the weather was the key influence in crushing the possibility of a positive result at New Road, where Worcestershire and Somerset settled for a draw after more than a quarter of the match was lost, one way or another, to rain and bad light.
Handicaps of this nature can be overcome in some circumstances, but when the players were on the field the game rarely progressed at more than a gentle pace, and it was not entirely the fault of Compton's pre-occupation with dot balls on Friday.
No one could blame the Somerset batsman for taking his time, determined as he was to get the 59 he wanted no more than a day later than he had wanted. But the indirect consequence was that Somerset began the last day still in their first innings, still 63 runs behind.
Ways to contrive a different outcome were discussed by the respective captains but it would have required a substantial volume of give-away runs to create a run chase in which both had a chance and neither wanted to indulge in joke bowling on such an unseemly scale. It was somewhat ironic that, once a draw had become inevitable, wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter revealed himself as a secret off-spinner, taking two wickets in his first bowl in professional cricket.
In the event, Somerset's last three wickets fell with only 21 added to the overnight score, Jack Shantry, who had been Worcestershire's best bowler, earning a just reward. He finished with 5 for 58.
A lead of 42 was a differential neither side could put to any use, although Somerset might have sniffed an opportunity had bad light not forced the players off for an hour in the afternoon just as the authentic left-arm spinner, George Dockrell, who is the country's leading spinner on wickets taken this season, was threatening to make inroads.
At that point, Worcestershire led only by 102 runs and Dockrell, turning the ball out of the rough, had taken three wickets in seven overs. James Cameron, a left-hander, faced only four balls from the him and played a couple of those as if he couldn't see them. When he did connect, prodding outside off stump, he edged to slip.
By then, Dockrell had already had Daryl Mitchell caught at short leg, before removing another left-hander, Philip Hughes, from the picture --- and a little more easily than Worcestershire would have liked. Whacked over midwicket for six from his first delivery, Dockrell gave the next the ball a bit more loop and induced a vertical top edge as Hughes impetuously tried to do the same again, Kieswetter waiting patiently to take the catch.
Left-handers were clearly vulnerable and Worcestershire are a little heavy with that variety of batsman. Moeen Ali and Matt Pardoe, another couple of lefties, could not wait to get off when umpires Trevor Jesty and Martin Bodenham decided it was too dark.
The interruption more or less kyboshed any possibility of a meaningful finish. Had a couple of dropped catches stuck, perhaps Somerset might have gone closer. Craig Overton, diving to his left at second slip, put down Mitchell off the first ball of the innings as Peter Trego, who has worked admirably hard in his side's cause this season, steamed in at the New Road end. It was a sharp chance, although one he should probably have taken after diving into first slip's territory. Much easier was the one he spilled later at mid-wicket when Ali, on 27, hit Dockrell in the air.
The sun broke through eventually and Worcestershire batted themselves into safe territory, although not without embarrassment for Pardoe and Gareth Andrew, both of whom fell victim to Kieswetter, the Somerset wicketkeeper, after Alfonso Thomas, the stand-in captain, decided to let Kieswetter amuse himself. Worcestershire were 164 in front and still with six wickets standing.
Kieswetter's style was uncharitably noted as slow right-arm as he propelled an innocuous opening delivery but his fifth, to his team-mates' amusement, somehow bowled Pardoe, who played all around it.
Cue hilarity in the Somerset ranks, with more to follow in Kieswetter's next over as a mix-up between the batsmen ended with Ben Scott run out. But that wasn't the end of the fun. In his third over, getting a taste for it, he trapped Andrew, on the back foot, plumb in front. Final figures: 3-0-3-2.
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