Somerset return to the grim realities
Sussex 174 for 2 trail Somerset 244 (Hildreth 66, Kieswetter 55, Magoffin 4-65) by 70 runs
For Somerset, the visit of the Australians and two no-less-bumper T20 crowds have made for a pleasing diversion from the nitty-gritty reality of the LV= County Championship.
They are now not aiming to win it, as was expected of them at the start of the season, but merely looking to remain in the First Division. To that end, they were bowled out for 244 by Sussex upon winning the toss and conceded runs at a disturbingly rapid rate in reply; there was scant indication on this day at last that their survival goal would be achieved.
At least this match will not finish within five sessions, as was the case when these two sides met at Horsham earlier this summer. There were, though, plenty of additional surprises: Nick Compton out for a duck, ditto Marcus Trescothick, although, sadly, he has not scored a run in his last three innings; a smaller attendance than normal for the opening day of a Championship match; and the non-appearance of Ed Joyce, the Sussex captain, who will dip in and out of this contest.
Joyce, and George Dockrell, the Somerset spinner, are both required to play for Ireland in a World Cup qualifying match against the Netherlands. Assuming that is completed in one day, they will participate in the third day of this match - also assuming, of course, it is not over by then.
One is a first-class match and the other is not, yet the one-dayer is deemed to be of more importance. It is all unsatisfactory and only devalues county cricket.
Maybe it was inevitable that Compton, excluded by England from their party for the first Test this week, would be dismissed by an Australian. Steve Magoffin it was who gained sufficient movement to have him caught at first slip in the second over. Trescothick had already gone by then, edging a ball from James Anyon that lifted sharply outside off stump.
Normally there is assistance for the new ball bowlers only in the first hour at Taunton, but now this was to be the scenario for much of the day.
Given how swiftly Sussex bowled out Somerset at Horsham, and their respective positions in the Championship, perhaps it was not such a good idea to leave some grass on the pitch.
Jamie Overton, after tea, relished the movement off the seam this afforded him, soon having Luke Wells edging to first slip. Steve Kirby had Chris Nash caught behind, but Somerset's change bowling was far from impressive.
Mike Yardy and Matt Machan both reached half centuries rapidly, off 40 and 56 balls respectively, each with ten fours, and during a period of 12 overs added 113 runs against medium pace which constantly erred in length. Yardy was six runs short of a century by the close. Given the fine weather, there will be a positive result, for sure - perhaps before Joyce re-appears.
The two Somerset batsmen who profited were James Hildreth, who chose to take on the Sussex attack in reaching a half century at virtually a run a ball with eight fours, and Craig Kieswetter, who batted responsibly before chancing a single to mid on that could only have been born of T20 cricket; Anyon threw the wicket down from only a few feet distant.
Magoffin finished with four wickets, including that of Alviro Petersen, caught behind off a thin edge. There were useful runs at the end of the innings from Alfonso Thomas, assisted, reasonably ably, by Steve Kirby, who took 32 balls to get off the mark.