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August 15, 2014
Warwickshire 334 for 9 (Westwood 129, Overton 3-59, Gregory 3-97) v Somerset
A cursory glance at Warwickshire's score might suggest that Somerset had ample reason to cheer. This is Taunton, after all, and, though the pitch is more competitive than many recognise, a first day score of 334 for 9 is seldom one that would leave the bowling side feeling perturbed.
It is also to Somerset's great credit that, with a month to go of the season, a significant chunk of a hearty crowd felt obliged diligently to check upon the progress of the Division One leaders Yorkshire. This time last year, Somerset were rather more concerned with the fate of Derbyshire and Surrey at the other end of the table.
Yet that only made five squandered chances - three eminently catchable - all the more frustrating. On a wicket that was unusually green, explaining Marcus Trescothick's decision to insert Warwickshire, Somerset may regret their fecklessness. It has been a recurring theme of an otherwise admirable campaign: one suspects that a revised Championship table, supposing that all teams had taken every catch, would show Somerset proudly perched at the table's head.
A single moment would have given Somerset particular cause for regret. Ian Westwood, counter-punching after Varun Chopra's airy drive to the fourth ball of the day, offered a regulation catch to Lewis Gregory at gully on 24, cutting Peter Trego. Gregory spilled the chance, and then bumped into Nick Compton to compound his woe.
Westwood would not depart until he had made another 105 runs - he was eventually snared in an almost identical position, with Gregory now the bowler. In between times, Westwood had contributed an innings of skill and defiance, defending assiduously while brutally pulling anything short in length. It was a worthy way for Westwood to end a two-year wait for a first-class century.
Without it, Warwickshire would have been in a royal mess and their own Championship hopes - they began the day only four behind adrift of Somerset - swiftly evaporating. After Will Porterfield played on to Gregory, both Jonathan Trott and Sam Hain - or Trott present and Trott future, as some would have it - fell in quick succession.
Jones decides against cricket career
It was a rather uncharacteristic Trott innings. He cut his first ball for four, steered a full toss through third man for another boundary, second ball, and then scampered a quick single. If it was un-Trott like, it still felt ominous for Somerset.
But that was reckoning without Craig Overton. A brutal lifter outside offstump demanded Trott's edge - it was not a loose shot, but a ball that no batsman could refrain from playing at. Any bowler would cherish getting Trott out in that fashion - especially a player who still describes himself as a batting allrounder.
It all served as a reminder of what a tremendous prospect Overton is. His Championship tallies for the season - 306 runs at 34; 35 wickets at 27 apiece - hint as much. He is still developing pace and learning to marry it to accuracy. In time, the prospect of both Overton twins - Jamie's frustrating season continued as he was named 12th man after a spell back at Devon - bowling in tandem will be a salivating one.
Hain's dismissal, to an airy cut, was a product of pressure: he took 34 balls over his seven. When Tim Ambrose, reprieved at first slip by Trego, then flashed loosely against him - Trego was the second bowler of the day to claim the wicket of a batsman he had previously dropped - Warwickshire were 144 for 5.
Such a score rarely triggers Warwickshire panic, such is the strength of the club's lower order. But with Chris Woakes detained by England and Keith Barker missing the game with an elbow complaint, it was a lower order that felt unusually vulnerable. To deplete Warwickshire's bowling, Boyd Rankin and Chris Wright were also absent, the latter with a stress fracture in the back that will rule him out for the season.
If the situation had a whiff of crisis about it, Rikki Clarke has made an art out of crisis management. Alongside Westwood, he steered Somerset nearer a position of parity, benefiting from a tricky dropped chance by Overton at third slip.
Another venomous delivery from Overton was the cue for another exuberant celebration, but again Somerset were left frustrated. With a physique that looks as if it could be transferrable to rugby, Richard Jones biffed George Dockrell for a couple of straight sixes, benefitting from a missed chance from Marcus Trescothick off Trego. As the shadows of the evening sun lengthened, Jeetan Patel and Oliver Hannon-Dalby looted the tiring Somerset bowlers.
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