Somerset v Warwickshire, Taunton, 2nd day April 26, 2013

Somerset dominate champions


Somerset 406 (Petersen 136, Buttler 119*, Compton 52, Trescothick 51) and 46 for 1 lead Warwickshire 158 (Thomas 3-29) by 294 runs

There is much talk of players preferring the IPL to first-class or even international cricket but, in Alfonso Thomas, Somerset have a cricketer who has chosen to take the path less travelled.

Thomas, preferring the security of a new three-year deal at Somerset to another season of IPL, is contracted at Taunton for the entire season. And, on a pitch on which two of his colleagues had made batting look simple with high-class centuries, he produced a spell of bowling that might have made the crucial contribution in this match.

Thomas, playing against the club that rejected him after a brief stint in 2007, claimed three wickets in an excellent afternoon spell. Maintaining a nagging line, using the crease well and finding just enough movement to trouble all the batsmen, he had Jim Troughton feeling for one angled across him from wide at the crease, Laurie Evans edging a beauty that was angled in and left him off the pitch, and Tim Ambrose leg before despite more than an hint of inside edge. It knocked the stuffing out of the champions and has left them facing a vast first-innings deficit.

That Somerset extended their first innings beyond 400 - claiming maximum batting bonus points - for the first time this season was largely due to Jos Buttler. While it would be stretching a point to suggest that Buttler has preferred county duty to the IPL - he has not had the opportunity to participate in the IPL at this stage - he did admit that his third first-class century here meant more to him that a match-defining contribution in a T20 match. "I've made a reputation in one-day cricket" he told Sky Sports, "but under-performed in the Championship."

Warwickshire might also reflect on some sloppy batting. Varun Chopra, under the watchful eye of England batting coach Graham Thorpe, missed a straight one as he attempted to flick across the line, while Chris Woakes cut a long-hop to point and William Porterfield mistimed a drive horribly to gift a catch to mid-off.

Rikki Clarke, batting imperiously, was run out attempting a third when Marcus Trescothick's throw from 10 yards inside the boundary at fine leg hit the stumps - "he was unlucky," Trescothick admitted modestly afterwards - while, for the first time in many months, Warwickshire now have a longish tail, with three men vying for the No. 11 spot. The foundations of their success last year, built upon a relentless bowling attack and a batting order that disappeared over the horizon, have been weakened.

Perhaps we should not be surprised. Somerset were, after all, the only side to beat Warwickshire in the Championship last year - they came close to doing it twice - when they bowled them out for 124 at Taunton and they did finish second. Besides, this match is not over: Dougie Brown, Warwickshire's new director of cricket, had brave words at the close about '"chasing anything" on such a good surface.

To date, however, Somerset have outplayed Warwickshire with bat and ball. Somerset's batsmen displayed a discipline that Warwickshire's could not and Somerset's bowlers have generated more life from the surface. Had Trescothick, the Somerset captain, not declined the opportunity to enforce the follow-on - a controversial decision bearing in mind that only 13 overs remained in the day when he decided to bat again - then Warwickshire would have been obliged to follow on for the first time since August 2010, when Nottinghamshire were the opposition. As it was, Somerset extended their lead of 248 to 294 by stumps with Trescothick, out to offspin yet again (he has been dismissed by three of the last four balls he has faced from offspinners) the only victim.

"It's really important the bowlers are fresh when they have the new ball," Trescothick said afterwards, explaining his decision. "Our bowlers had already bowled 65 overs, so I wanted to give them a break. Warwickshire also look tired, so we wanted to put them back out there."

Warwickshire might consider themselves somewhat unfortunate. While the majority of England players, including the fast bowlers, have returned to action in this round of games, Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell continue to sit out this round of matches. Not only are Warwickshire much weakened by their absence, but it seems a shame that such a high-profile televised match, a match that could have been used to market the county game, has been denied such fine players.

Warwickshire are also missing Ian Westwood, who is out for around a month having turned his ankle in training, and Keith Barker, who is out for six weeks with a side strain. As a consequence, their batting is considerably weakened.

But none of that should have been unanticipated. It was always likely that Trott and Bell would be absent for vast periods and always likely that injury - and Lions call-ups - would weaken Warwickshire at other times. The likes of Darren Maddy were available for selection. There can be no excuses. These days cricket, at county and international level, is a squad game.

Besides, Somerset have issues of their own. George Dockrell was unavailable with a finger injury and Steve Kirby was rested with a view to 'workload management'. Jack Leach, the 21-year-old left-arm spinner playing only his fourth first-class match, compensated for the absence of the former with a tight spell of bowling that suggested he could have a decent future at this level, while the Overton twins, aged just 19, look prodigiously talented. Jamie found bounce and carry in the pitch that only Clarke, of the Warwickshire bowlers, could match, while Craig conceded just seven runs in 10 overs.

Things are looking up for Somerset and the club are hopeful of retaining the services of Buttler. The 22-year-old, who produced some outstandingly fluent drives to complete his century, is out of contract at the end of the season and certain to interest a host of other counties. Slightly unsettled by the uncertainty over his future as a wicketkeeper at the club - Craig Kieswetter retains the gloves and is keeping better all the time - Buttler knows his England ambitions may be better served by a move to a club that allows him to keep more often. But, having developed through the system and having a family steeped in the club, it will take some persuasion to lure him away.

Buttler remains a work in progress. He has plenty of improvement to make with his keeping and questions to answer about his ability to play the short ball and his ability to survive in bowler-friendly conditions. But the way in which he makes perfectly respectable length deliveries appear as if they are overpitched filth suggests he is a young man of rare talent who will surely find a way.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Carl on April 27, 2013, 22:38 GMT

    @JG2704 you obviously did know who I meant as you listed them!

    Your point re Thomas has no relevence whatsoever, he is an aging Kolpak player that adds nothing to the benefit of English and Wales Cricket. Trott, Craig (assume you know him well as you appear to be on first names terms!) and any other player eligable to play (and have a chance of playing) for England was not my issue.

    Of course, Bell is a poor player, just look at his average (which factually is far better than the average of Marcus but I'm sure you'll be the first to say how great he was for England and how they must miss him).

  • John on April 27, 2013, 17:46 GMT

    @Sul Mirzaon (April 27, 2013, 7:48 GMT) Maybe I'm wrong - in which case someone will correct me -but I believe Somerset have all the batting bonus points they could acquire from the 1st inns. The only further points on offer would be the 16 for a win which becomes more probable the longer Somerset bowl at Warwicks and vice versa the less lite they have to bowl them out

  • John on April 27, 2013, 13:13 GMT

    14.10 Getting fed up with this now. Somerset have had Warwicks in all sorts of trouble and following on and the way they're batting makes me think they don't actually want to win it. Eh hello Craig and Nick - 16 points on offer here

  • John on April 27, 2013, 11:24 GMT

    @Dave Brown on (April 27, 2013, 8:53 GMT) good post but what I will say about that particular example if I have the correct game ?-

    If so

    A - That game took place in India where the pitch often significantly deteriorates on the last day or 2 B - It was a 5 day game rather than a 4 day game so Aus would have had more time to play with so could have more safely chosen the option not to bat again C - The weather is more predictable over there so you usually know that if there are 3 days left to go then you're going to get exactly that amount of time

  • John on April 27, 2013, 11:24 GMT

    @SamuelH on (April 27, 2013, 9:18 GMT) One of the biggest reasons I'm dead against the decision especially in this case is the weather on the 4th day. As it stands it seems to give it as cloudy coming on gloomy and rainy late tomorrow afternoon and you know how it is with bad light etc and if Warwicks batsmen are offered bad light they'll surely come off and the game ends in a draw with Somerset maybe gaining something like 5 more points than Warwickshire. Compared to something like 18-20 more - huge difference. Not sure what the weather is like in Somerset but if it's anything like it is in South Devon and Cornwall I'd be thinking you'll get 60% play on the last day if you're lucky. The other thing is why open with Nick when faster runs are surely the order of the day?

  • Samuel on April 27, 2013, 9:18 GMT

    I personally don't agree with seemingly everyone on here that Tres has made a mistake. Leach & Patel have already shown signs of getting significant turn from the wicket so batting last chasing anything wouldn't be easy, and Jamie Overton seemed to be favouring his side at times, potentially leaving us a bowler short. Just because you can enforce the follow on doesn't mean you should. Wouldn't have minded seeing him ask Warwickshire to bat again, but can definitely understand the reasons why he didn't. Still very strong favourites to win the game with two whole days to go.

  • John on April 27, 2013, 9:00 GMT

    @CarlP on (April 26, 2013, 21:11 GMT) ECB basically rested Nick from the 1st game when we needed him most. Re the 2 Somerset SA imports , Not sure who you mean.

    I'm guessing you mean Thomas and either Craig or Alviro.

    Re Thomas - guess who he played for and was released by before Somerset? Yes it was Warwicks

    Re Craig - Trott , who you wanted to play is in the exact same boat as him asin a SA born English qualified player

    Re Alviro - every county is allowed (and most use) one overseas player. Warwicks Patel is theirs.

    As for Trott and Bell , Not sure why they're not playing. I've said before about players (esp our batsmen) being undercooked for test series and re Bell , he has had one decent series (vs WI) and 5 mediocre/bad series so I'd say he needs to be playing more than anyone.

  • Dummy4 on April 27, 2013, 8:53 GMT

    @JG2704 and Si Baker. They had an interesting stat on Sky when Tres opted to bat. Prior to 'that' test when India followed on against Oz, batted all day without losing a wicket and won in 2001 something (i cannot remember the exact figures) like 89% of sides enforced the follow on. Post that match only 65% ish have done at test level. Not that i am condoning the decision, i was surprised as well, but it does appear to be the 'modern' way. With the 13 overs to go the 'tired bowlers' excuse doesn't wash. Trego and Thomas had not bowled for a period. 4 overs each from them then a couple from both Overtons and a sneaky over of spin or two and you have managed the tiredness. Best case scenario 30 - 3. worse case scenarion 50 - 0, with the prospect of a 13 over old ball to come back out with today to try again with a 200 run cushion to play with. @ CarlP, i am fialy sure Warwickshire have a New Zealand and an Irish import.

  • John on April 27, 2013, 8:51 GMT

    @Abhishek Samal on (April 27, 2013, 7:14 GMT) Truth is it says more about IPL franchises than it does about the quality of players who don't get picked etc. Alf did better than most of his team mates when he played and yet was still dropped

  • John on April 27, 2013, 8:47 GMT

    @Si Baker - ps the other thing is that I think Somerset have all their bonus points so a draw will gather them the same points as a defeat.The only difference being that Warwicks get another win. But surely it is better to lose by playing poorly/Warwicks playing exceptionally than to draw by not allowing yourself enough time to win. Somerset have not won yet this season and the difference between drawing this game and winning it is 16 points which is massive

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