Somerset v Sussex, Taunton, 1st day July 8, 2013

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.

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  • Simon on July 9, 2013, 12:04 GMT

    "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"

    The fact that Joyce and Dockrell have opted to play for their country (in a match that could secure Ireland's qualification to the World Cup) is perfectly understandable and in no-way devalues the county game. Who wouldn't want to represent their nation over their club in any sport? What devalues county cricket here is the ECB's decision to allow them to re-join the match on day three.

    England's game against Essex last week lost it's first-class status because of similar substitutions. Surely the same should apply then in this instance.

  • Mark on July 9, 2013, 11:53 GMT

    @JG2704 I am gritting my teeth and hoping that Somerset will hang on. I think that they will, but it may be close.

    Derbyshire are looking doomed and more so after their debacle today (failing to avoid the follow-on when the opposition has only made 253 is pretty spectacular). I see it very hard for Surrey to avoid the drop.

  • John on July 9, 2013, 8:29 GMT

    @CricketingStargazer on (July 8, 2013, 22:30 GMT) Funny that earlier on in the season after the Warwicks defeat (draw but felt like a defeat) I wondered how crucial Tres's poor/overconservative captaincy decision might cost Somerset later in the season. I was thinking more at the top end but obviously it's more at the bottom end. I'd say Derbyshire will go down for sure. I suppose the other good thing is that Somerset now have all their batsmen available. The Sussex game is probably one we'd have been expecting to lose anyway

  • Dummy4 on July 8, 2013, 22:43 GMT

    Of course the crowd is a going to be lower than normal if you start a match on a Monday morning. As for the decision to allow Joyce and Dockerell to join in on the third day, that's the ECB further demeaning the County Championship. Sounds like a great day's play in spite of everything.

  • Mark on July 8, 2013, 22:30 GMT

    The good news: Somerset have one more batting point than Surrey from this match. The bad news: they still look set for a major cauliflower ear. The worse news: Warwickshire are looking well-positioned to push for a win.

    It looks like the relegation contest is going to turn into a three-corner fight with Derbyshire and Surrey and only the incompetance of their rivals is likely to save Somerset.

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