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George Dobell at Taunton
April 25, 2013
Somerset 358 for 6 (Petersen 136, Compton 52, Trescothick 51, Buttler 90*) v Warwickshire
If Alviro Petersen had his own tankard in the local pub and a cider named after him, he could hardly have taken to life with Somerset more comfortably.
Petersen, fresh from the 258 runs he scored on debut at The Oval, followed up with a century in his first game at his new home ground to help Somerset establish a commanding position by the end of the first day of this game against Warwickshire. A total of 394 runs in his first three innings does not just bear testament to some good wickets, but also a batsmen in supreme form.
Some might look at the scores and conclude that Petersen is filling his boots against soft county attacks, but it is not so. There was nothing soft about this innings. Somerset, choosing to bat on a green-looking pitch on which Warwickshire would have chosen to bowl, were up against a fast-bowling attack that contained three men pushing for an England place. And while a couple of them were not absolutely at their best, a crowd of over 2,000 was treated to a high-quality encounter between two strong teams that would not have disgraced many international matches. The standard of county cricket at the top of Division One really is impressive at present.
That Somerset have, at this stage, had the best of it is largely due to the strength of their top-order batting. A trio of Marcus Trescothick, Nick Compton and Petersen would grace many international sides and they responded to the challenging circumstances with classy displays.
While Petersen will gain the headlines - he drove beautifully, but also cut and pulled fluently - the foundations for this innings were laid by Compton and Trescothick in an opening partnership of 103. Progress was not easy - runs to third man were plentiful as Warwickshire's bowlers found the edge regularly - and Trescothick was hit a crunching blow on the side of his neck in the middle of a fierce spell from the dangerous but expensive Rikki Clarke.
Perhaps Warwickshire were a little unfortunate, too. Compton, on 2, survived an edge off Chris Woakes that flew between the slips and gully, while Trescothick, on 9, was lucky to see his slashed edged go high over the cordon. But both batsmen leave so well and allow so little margin for error that, having survived the early challenges, they gradually gained the initiative.
"Our openers did a great job seeing off the new ball," Petersen said afterwards. "That made my job easier. I'm pretty happy with where my game is going and I hope I can go from strength to strength in the next two years."
Warwickshire may also reflect that they were not absolutely at their best. Chris Wright, perhaps anxious to make an impression in front of the TV cameras and the watching selector, Ashley Giles, struggled for rhythm just a little and drifted down the leg side more than normal, while Oliver Hannon-Dalby, in for the injured Keith Barker and preferred to Boyd Rankin, struggled to maintain the pressure with a few spells of floaty medium pace. It meant an attack that usually has a relentless nature to it instead had a weak link that allowed the batsmen to settle and regroup.
Maybe Warwickshire chased the game for a while, too. After clawing their way back into contention after lunch, they seemed to strive too hard for wicket-taking deliveries rather than maintaining discipline and patience. It saw Petersen and Jos Buttler counterattack fluently in a partnership that eventually yielded 193 runs in 47.1 overs. Woakes, the pick of the bowlers, always demanded respect, but his colleagues overpitched and underpitched more than would, by their own high standards, have pleased them. Wright, in particular, improved during the day and produced several searing bouncers - one of which struck Buttler on the gloves - but with Graham Onions prospering elsewhere, may have ended the day further from the England team than he started it.
Buttler will certainly have gone in the other direction. He is an unusually gifted batsman and will resume in the morning 10 short of the third century of his first-class career. There are times, such as when he throws his hands at wide deliveries without foot movement, when you worry for his technique but, when the ball disappears for four as often as it did today, such concerns fade. For the second game in succession, he added over 100 with Petersen and, perhaps more pleasingly, for the second game in succession, he tempered his own attacking instincts for the good of the team when a break for bad light and the loss of two late wickets threatened to reverse Somerset's progress.
For a while it appeared Somerset might squander their good start. They lost four wickets for 40 runs either side of lunch as James Hildreth pulled to square leg and Craig Kieswetter's 17-ball duck ended when he fended one to slip as if providing catching practice. Earlier Compton was unfortunate to be adjudged lbw - there was more than a hint of inside edge on the ball - and Trescothick, just starting to show glimpses of his imperious best, played down the wrong line to the first ball of offspin from Jeetan Patel.
Later Petersen, slashing at a cut, was brilliantly held in the slips, before Peter Trego, in the middle of a run of batting form so grim that his last six first-class innings have garnered just 19 runs, top-edged a pull and was also athletically held by Tim Ambrose. Ambrose's days as an England player are surely gone but, on merit, he and Chris Read really should be considered among the very best of the contenders as No. 2 to Matt Prior in the Test team.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: George Dobell
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