Kieswetter puts career fears behind him
Somerset 266 for 5 (Hildreth 70, Kieswetter 69, Abell 50) v Middlesex
It might be pushing the truth a little to claim that Craig Kieswetter was blind but now can see, but the Somerset keeper has admitted he feared his career might be over after sustaining a serious eye injury a little over two months ago.
Kieswetter sustained a broken nose and fractured orbital socket after he was struck by a short ball from David Willey on July 12. For three weeks it was unclear whether he would regain the level of sight required to pursue a career in cricket. But now, with the double-vision having cleared, Kieswetter regards the whole experience as positive and claims it gave him not only a fuller appreciation of his position as a professional sportsman, but also of the affection in which players are held at a friendly, well-supported club like Somerset.
"Once the extent of the injury became clear, I was panicking," Kieswetter said. "There was a week before the surgery and two weeks after that I was worried that I might not play again.
"For the first 90 minutes I was full of adrenalin. But then, as I was passed from surgeon to surgeon and it became clear there was an issue with my optical floor, I was panicking. But my surgeon did a fantastic job and I have been overwhelmed and humbled by the support I have received.
"I had double vision in one eye for a couple of weeks after surgery and, even now, it is not 100% when I look directly up. It takes time to get over the injury and the trauma.
"Sometimes as players, we can be a bit aloof towards supporters. But the care I had showed what a special club this is to be around. It is a special thing for a player to feel that sense of belonging.
"I might be walking down the street or out for dinner and people I didn't know would come up and ask how I was. Even the reception when I walked out to bat today gave me goose-bumps. It's important I return the favour. I was delighted to give something back today."
Kieswetter "gave something back" by providing the most fluent batting of a day which ended with Somerset having edged Middlesex a little closer to relegation. Contributing 70 at little less than a run-a-ball, he made light of an unusually green wicket and, when greeted with the inevitable short ball near the start of his innings by Toby Roland-Jones, responded by pulling it for six. No matter that there was something of the top-edge in the stroke, he played it with conviction and was soon timing the ball sweetly through the covers.
With Tom Abell and James Hildreth also contributing patient half-centuries, Middlesex, were restricted to one bowling bonus point despite inserting Somerset in overcast conditions.
Middlesex have another 14 overs on the second day in order to claim more bonus points - they require a maximum of 13 more points from their final two games to ensure Division One survival - but are now in an uncomfortable position ahead of their final game against the other relegation candidates, Lancashire, next week. After winning four of their first six matches, Middlesex have failed to win any of their last eight, with the last victory coming on May 21.
They were a little unfortunate here, though. Ball beat bat regularly in the first session and, with 17 of the first 34 overs maidens, batting became a pretty desperate fight for survival.
"We didn't get out rewards today," Richard Johnson, the Middlesex bowling coach, said. "We reckon they must have played and missed 50 or 60 times, but it was just one of those days."
But Middlesex also squandered at least two chances. Abell was reprieved on 4, when Eoin Morgan put down a sharp chance at third slip, and 28 - Dawid Malan, at second slip, the guilty man on this occasion. A couple of other chances dropped just short of the cordon on a surface which, despite the grass covering, remains slow and dry.
There were moments when it appeared Middlesex might capitalise. Certainly after Marcus Trescothick guided one to gully and Nick Compton was bowled by one that nipped back, and then when Abell was run-out backing-up off Neil Dexter's boot, it seemed Somerset might subside. But each time they found a player to dig them out of trouble, first Abell, with a 123-ball half-century, and then Hildreth, with a 130-ball half-century.
Only Kieswetter looked comfortable, though. After returning to the nets a couple of weeks ago with batting coach, David Houghton, Kiesweeter regained his confidence against tennis balls and has gradually built up the pace and intensity of net sessions. He still retains hopes of winning a late call to the England World Cup squad, but aims to play in the Big Bash if that proves beyond him.
"I wouldn't be playing if I didn't think I could still play at that level," he said. "And my personality is such that I always like I should be playing for England. But having had this time to reflect on everything - the injury, being dropped by England and everything else - I realise I am one of those lucky people who earns a living doing something they truly love. It's the game I fell in love with as a kid.
"A lot of players forget that perspective check. I'm not saying I'm perfect, but I have seen the bigger picture. Hopefully the whole experience has made me mature. I hope I've improved as a person and as a cricketer."
Another man coming to terms with trauma and disappointment - albeit of a very different characteristic - is Ashley Giles. Giles admits he lost his appetite for coaching for a while after missing out to Peter Moores in the race to be appointed England coach, but is now recovering his enthusiasm for the job.
He is expected to visit Taunton at some stage this week with a view to talking to the club about the role of director of cricket. It is worth noting, though, that it took Giles five years to transform Warwickshire from rabble to Championship winners. Whether Somerset, a club impatient for success after years of near-misses, will provide such time remains to be seen.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo