Overton outdoes the old 'uns
Middlesex 293 for 8 (Dexter 73*, Rogers 57, Overton 4-65) v Somerset
Somerset supporters concerned that their talented yet unfulfilled team is growing old together can take heart from days like this: the young 'uns are coming. Foremost among the new breed is Jamie Overton whose career-best 4 for 65 challenged Middlesex's visions of supremacy at the Tractor Ground.
It is not really the Tractor Ground, of course, but "County Ground" is always so unimaginative (its only saving grace is that it is not named after an airline) and it sounded like the Tractor Ground shortly after lunch when Tractor himself - arguably Somerset's most famous fan and ill-advisedly unprotected against the unseasonable chill - was on full revs, bellowing for all he was worth for Alfonso Thomas to slow Middlesex's progress.
Thomas failed, largely because Joe Denly, whose first 10 scoring shots were boundaries, reached 40 by a mixture of good fortune, easy pickings and a decent shot or two. But what the Great Alfonso could not deliver, the Young Pretender did, finding the outside edge to take three of the first four Middlesex wickets to fall. Toby Roland-Jones made up the foursome with two for grabs on the morrow.
The Middlesex wickets that matter are those of the openers, Sam Robson and Chris Rogers. Neither particularly catch the eye, but they have an adhesive quality which is at the heart of Middlesex's championship challenge and which makes up for a flaky middle order. Overton removed then both, at which point five more wickets tumbled for 66 in 18 overs before Neil Dexter summoned a necessary response with an unbeaten 73. Rogers's Australian late coming this summer might not set the Ashes alive but England will value his wicket as much as most. Like many squat batsmen he can look frustratingly immovable.
Overton, still only 19, and still routinely confused by all but the most committed Somerset observer with his equally promising twin brother, Craig, bowled at a fair lick in his 21 overs. The first thing that strikes you about him is his robust appearance for one so young; he may need it at Taunton which is not exactly a fast bowler's dream. Somerset's skipper Marcus Trescothick put Middlesex in on a green pitch, but Rogers and Robson dealt with what limited threat there was. . Somerset recovered in the afternoon session with three wickets in as many overs. Rogers, who had not been as solid as his young fellow Australian, Robson, nicked Overton to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler. The next over saw the left-arm spinner Jack Leach bowl Denly shouldering arms and then Overton struck again when Dawid Malan was snapped up by Trescothick in the slips off Overton.
Leach, like Overton a promise of good things to come, bowled with good control and finished the day with three wickets as James Hildreth snapped up John Simpson at short-leg off Leach and Gareth Berg swept a catch to Peter Trego at mid wicket.
"Nailed on draw and you don't get many points for a draw," muttered one Somerset sage soon after lunch as Middlesex prospered. He will doubtless return with a more optimistic slant on things for the second day. At Taunton, 293 for 8 at the end of the first day suggests that stalemate should be avoided and it is Somerset who have the edge.
David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo