Somerset collapse hands Derbs advantage
Derbyshire 220 for 5 (Johnson 55*, Poynton 53*, Chawla 4-87) lead Somerset 103 (Chawla 27, Groenewald 5-33, Palladino 4-34) by 117 runs
These are deeply worrying times for Somerset. They are in serious bother on the field after the first day of this relegation dogfight - and they could yet be in big trouble off it because of official concern over a dry pitch that turned and bounced significantly from the moment the home spinners set to work.
"It is being monitored," umpire David Millns confirmed, adding that ECB pitch inspector Bill Hughes had been in attendance throughout three spell-binding sessions. Presumably, Hughes wants to see more on Wednesday but even the hint of a points deduction will alarm home supporters.
Not that Somerset's followers are sitting anything like comfortably anyway after Derbyshire had deservedly earned a handy advantage through their diligent seamers and determined batsmen. If momentum means anything (and events here suggest that idea is overrated) then the hosts should have been on a high from the outset after their terrific win against Middlesex last week, while the visitors were surely downcast following a defeat by Surrey that dumped them to the foot of the table.
Forget all that, though. Revitalised by the return of leading pace bowler Tim Groenewald, who missed the Surrey match because of paternity leave, and strengthened further by the arguably overdue recall of Tony Palladino, Derbyshire's pacemen feasted on some all-too-familiar frailties in the Somerset batting department to claim nine wickets between them.
New dad Groenewald picked up his third five-for during another super-consistent season while Palladino - who has battled side and abdominal injuries this year but was then left out during the second half of August when fit - removed three of Somerset's top four in his 4 for 34.
From scoring 449 last week, Somerset were bundled out for barely 100 just after lunch. When Derbyshire then laboured to 127 for 5, and both Piyush Chawla and fellow spinner Jack Leach were causing big problems with turn and bounce, Somerset's total did not look quite so feeble. Richard Johnson and Tom Poynton broke free from the shackles, though, to earn their team an already significant advantage with a splendid unbeaten stand of 93 for the sixth wicket.
Marcus Trescothick has had a nightmare or two with the toss this summer, most obviously when he chose to bat first at Horsham and his team were bowled out for 76. But although this pitch is green-tinged for most of its length, there was no reason for the home captain not to take first use - especially as both ends are dry and made for spinners.
Trouble was, Somerset failed horribly to build the big first innings they had set their sights on. The new ball appeared to do next to nothing for eight overs. Then, as morning cloud rolled in, it did start to move around a little off the seam but, even so, there were too many gifts going Derbyshire's way.
Trescothick, edging a back of a length delivery to third slip, Nick Compton - nicking one that left him late - and Chris Jones, well taken low down by keeper Poynton, could be said to have been 'got out' to a greater or lesser extent. But, thereafter, good judgement was in short supply.
Craig Kieswetter inexplicably drove flamboyantly to mid-off, having just sliced a boundary and offered a sharp return catch off the previous two balls. Alex Barrow did not offer a shot of any kind to lose his off stump and James Hildreth went lbw, trying to work to leg when he should have been playing straight.
Despite those bloopers, and a couple more than soon followed, it would be wrong not to give Groenewald and Palladino - aided and abetted by Mark Footitt - huge credit for keeping foot firmly on throat. Their only tiny disappointment was in not limiting Somerset to two figures, but Chawla takes a bit of containing and Groenewald did the trick before much damage was done.
In what may yet be a low-scoring game, an opening stand of 52 between Ben Slater and Paul Borrington looks good from a Derbyshire perspective - and depressing for Somerset, given that Borrington offered a difficult, high chance to keeper Kieswetter before there was a run on the board.
It did not appear too costly, however, once Chawla began to make the ball turn and bounce - something both he and Leach did from the moment they were set loose. Whether the assistance they gained was excessive for the first afternoon of a Championship match, the officials must decide. But, in any event, Johnson and Poynton started to take matters into their own hands with increasingly aggressive innings.
Their fightback started, really, once Johnson hoisted Chawla for a straight six - a shot which put the ball out of the ground and meant that a replacement had to be summoned. From then on, the spinners seemed to lose their magic and both batsmen celebrated half-centuries before the close.