Jennings' patience trumps Overton's pace
Somerset 7 for 0 trail Durham 308 (Jennings 80, Gregory 4-59)
by 301 runsScorecard
It may be pace and big hitting that catches the eye, but it is so often patience and denial that proves more effective.
So it proved on the first day of this game at Chester-le-Street. While the bowling of Jamie Overton, a young man blessed with unusual pace, may be what lingers longest in the mind, it was the well organised batting of Keaton Jennings that proved decisive.
Put into bat on a track that is notoriously helpful for seamers, Durham achieved the second highest first innings score on the ground for two years. In 2013, six of the eight first innings total amounted to between 237 and 267 and only once did a side score above that. While the pitch may be drier than normal and carrying less grass cover, this is a total that might be considered about 40 above par.
So Somerset will be especially rueful that they donated 32 extras to the Durham total. That tally includes 30 in no-balls - each no-ball costs two runs in the Championship - with the first session accounting for 24 of them. As Somerset's vice-captain James Hildreth said afterwards: "That amount of runs can be absolutely crucial in a game here at this time of season."
While Somerset's bowlers have some excuse - shorn of the injured pair of Alfonso Thomas and Steve Kirby, this is a youthful attack with its best years well ahead of it - it does seem shoddy to concede so many extras. Nor can it reflect especially well on the disciplines that should be instilled in training.
But the extras are only part of the story. Somerset also squandered the new ball - Mark Stoneman pulled a four and a six in the first over - and conceded 42 fours and two sixes in the innings with a surfeit of short and wide bowling that allowed Durham to score at almost five-an-over for the first hour and then, just as it seemed Somerset might claw their way back into the game, counter-attack with an eighth-wicket stand of 65 in 18 overs.
Durham, in turn, might reflect that they failed to make Somerset pay as heavily as they might have done. While their total is still more than competitive, it could have been far better against an attack that lost Craig Meschede to a side strain in the evening session and contains the sort of spinner in Johann Myburgh who seems to only bowl to improve the over-rate. Somerset were also without Craig Overton, who has a side strain.
But Durham lost several soft wickets. Stoneman flashed without foot movement, Scott Borthwick was drawn into feeling for one he should have left, Phil Mustard left a straight one and Michael Richardson poked to gully the delivery after sustaining a blow to the head off Overton, who was as rapid as he was unpredictable.
That Durham were able to post such a good total was largely due to Jennings. The former South Africa Uunder-19 captain is a left-handed batsman in the accumulative mould of Alastair Cook and, while his colleagues poked and prodded at balls they could have let pass, he left well, defended with a straight bat and waited for the short ball, the leg side ball or the over-pitched ball to put away. He rarely had to wait for long. It took a delivery that bounced more than normal to take his edge and end his innings.
Overton, by contrast, looked raw. Not only did he over-step eight times, but he bowled far too short, far too often and, like Tymal Mills at Essex, provided a reminder that pace without control is a mixed blessing. But, by generating such sharp pace from a run-up that faintly resembles Steve Harmison, when everything clicked, he looked a fearsome prospect and he also struck Jamie Harrison, a much-improved batsman, a blow on the head. Tough days like this should be part of the learning process and it is not surprising that James Whitaker, the national selector, took a keen interest in him throughout the day.
Somerset improved after lunch. Lewis Gregory bowled a particularly good spell to account for Jennings, with one that bounced, and Paul Collingwod, with one that kept low, to suggest there was still plenty in the surface if the ball was put in the right areas. But when Gareth Breese, as much a batsman as a bowler these days, helped Harrison plunder a tiring attack, Durham took the game away from Somerset. Had Breese, at third slip, held on to a tough chance offered by Marcus Trescothick in the final over of the day off the deserving Chris Rushworth, they would have capitalised further.
"Anything above 250 here will be competitive," Jennings said afterwards. "Sooner or later you get a ball here that has your name on it. We have excellent new ball bowlers and if we out the ball in good areas tomorrow, that should prove a good total."
"We were disappointed with how we bowled," Hildreth said, "particularly in that first session. It is hugely frustrating when you see all those no-balls, because they are completely within our control and we have just given them extras. Durham are ahead at the moment."
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo