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June 5, 2012
Somerset 130 for 4 (Hildreth 58, Kieswetter 48*) v Middlesex
If the Queen's Diamond Jubilee weekend had coaxed out the most curmudgeonly of English summer weather, then Middlesex and Somerset were grateful for a momentary break in the overhead "festivities" at Lord's. Friendlier skies allowed for 48.5 overs on day one, the visitors scrapping to 130 for 4 by the time rain turned up in mid-afternoon to prevent any further play.
The covers had not been down for long when the RAF fly-past skirted the ground, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight able to salute Elizabeth II because the weather was kind enough for a plane's take-off as well as a bowler's run-up. The sight of the venerable Lancaster bomber made for majestic viewing, somewhat more so than the battling of Somerset's top six against a seaming and occasionally swinging ball in the hands of Corey Collymore, Tim Murtagh, Toby Roland-Jones and Gareth Berg.
Collymore was typically austere in the rations he afforded the batsmen, but he did not see out the day, complaining of what the captain Chris Rogers termed "knee pain that he hadn't felt before" after bowling the first ball of his 12th over. Collymore's fitness will be monitored closely, for Middlesex have only four specialist bowlers among their XI, and none with the West Indian's breadth of experience. Berg was summoned to complete the over, and was rewarded for his readiness by claiming Somerset's acting captain James Hildreth, pushing at a ball that bent subtly away and edging behind.
Jos Buttler had only one ball to survive before the showers set in around 3pm, more or less on the forecast cue. They began so gently that Rogers was visibly irritated at having to go off and he debated the point with the umpires as they marched for the pavilion. This is a pivotal fixture for both sides, Middlesex having the chance to vault above Somerset into third, while victory for the visitors would keep their promoted opponents at bay and close the gap on Nottinghamshire and Warwickshire at the top.
Hildreth and the wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter had fared best of the batsmen, mounting an 80-run stand either side of lunch after the new ball had accounted for the top three with only 45 runs collected. Alex Barrow's stay was particularly brief, squared up by Collymore and edging behind for a third-ball duck.
After reaching 1,000 first-class runs at the start of June, Nick Compton has faltered a touch. Having made 7 against Notts in the CB40 fixture at Trent Bridge on Monday, here he shouldered arms and gave Murtagh free passage to bowl him for a single, leaving Somerset 1 for 2 in the third over. Arul Suppiah at least managed to stave off the worst excesses of the early movement, but his stern occupation was ended by the first-change bowler Roland-Jones. Unsure whether to play or leave, Suppiah was ultimately too late on one that seamed back and clipped off stump.
That brought Kieswetter to the wicket with Hildreth, and together they repaired some of the damage, helped by the ball ageing a little and Roland-Jones offering greater latitude for scoring than Murtagh or Collymore had done. Kieswetter was 20 when he survived a beseeching lbw appeal by Berg, but otherwise played some handsome strokes through the offside. He also took advantage of the short boundary in front of the Tavern and Mound Stands, the match strip on the south-eastern side of the square compelling Rogers to place two men on the fence at times even as the ball continued to seam.
Hildreth's was a composed, steady innings in challenging circumstances but Collymore's exit took his mind from the task sufficiently to let Berg claim his outside edge. Rogers' annoyance at exiting the field soon after will be compounded by the weather outlook for the next three days, which promises about as much rain as was dumped upon the Thames Jubilee pageant.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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