Petersen adds to Lancashire's west-country contentment
Lancashire 295 for 4 (Petersen 83) vs Somerset
Lancashire supporters have fond memories of Taunton, having clinched their first outright title in 77 years here in 2011. The club's Championship cricket has come nowhere near to matching that moment of ecstatic release since, having suffered two relegations in the interim, but they made a strong start on their latest return to the west country, just as they have to life back in Division One.
A comprehensive eight-wicket win over Nottinghamshire two weeks ago signalled the Red Rose might prove thorny opposition this season. That performance was based around the prowess of Lancashire's three seamers, Neil Wagner, James Anderson and Kyle Jarvis; here it was the batsman who staked their case. All that was missing was a century, Alviro Petersen falling to the second new ball just as his was beginning to look inevitable, but the captain Steven Croft was in pugnacious form as his side jousted for the ascendency on a slow pitch against a hard-working Somerset attack.
In the absence of the retired Ashwell Prince - who scored the small matter of 1478 Championship runs in 2015 - Lancashire need someone to loosen their belt and match his insatiable appetite. Petersen, once of Somerset and in his second year as a Kolpak signing for Lancashire, spent much of last season in Prince's shadow but he played an authoritative innings here, replete with pressure-releasing boundaries around the wicket.
He had not been long at the crease when he struck his first six, lofting Jack Leach back down the ground towards the River End. Leach was two-thirds of the way through a 19-over spell either side of lunch and he had taken the first two wickets to fall but the proactive approach of Petersen and Croft - who later took Leach for sixes over long-on and deep midwicket - ensured that the spinner would not be allowed to tie down an end completely while Chris Rogers rotated his seam attack.
Somerset included the Overton twins in their XI for the first time this season, with Lewis Gregory rested as part of an apparent rotation policy. Jamie produced some fine, fast deliveries - hitting Luke Procter on the shoulder and seeing a low outside edge from the same batsman missed by Marcus Trescothick at slip - but he tired as the day wore on and proved increasingly expensive.
A back-foot drive during the afternoon session demonstrated both Jamie Overton's pace and Petersen's timing, while after tea the former South Africa opener stepped out to crash Peter Trego insouciantly through the covers; the 77th over, Jamie Overton's 16th, went for 14 runs, with Petersen pulling four through midwicket and then slapping a wide, rising delivery all the way over backward point for six.
Apart from that spell before second new ball, Somerset had bowled diligently and Craig Overton quickly came to his brother's aid by trapping Petersen lbw as the batsman attempted to play across the line, ending a 125-run stand for the fourth wicket.
That partnership helped shore up Lancashire's position after they had stuttered to 125 for 3 on an increasingly cold and gloomy afternoon. Confronted earlier by a dry-looking surface over towards the west of the square, Lancashire requested and won the toss - meaning that for the third time out of three this season, Somerset will have to chase the game - but a relaid outfield meant the runs rarely flowed.
Matthew Maynard, Somerset's director of cricket, conceded the pitch was "not ideally what we would have wanted" but put it down to the difficulties of preparation amid recent unsettled weather.
The Quantocks were visible to the north of the ground until late in the day, despite low, grey cloud cover that loomed over proceedings. There were occasional spots of rain but nothing more severe than spray blowing in over a sea wall and Somerset's attack hurried through their overs, trying to keep warm: 97 were bowled in the day, despite a brief interruption for bad light.
The official gate was more than 1600, although Somerset were hopeful of more for their first home game of the season. The new pavilion is an eye-catching draw but their team have made a tepid start to the season, drawing games at Durham and Surrey, and neither the weather nor the pitch was particularly hospitable for the paying spectator.
A solid clutch of members were bunched together in the Marcus Trescothick Stand to applaud Leach back to fine leg after the over in which he picked up his second wicket early in the afternoon session. A bespectacled slow left-armer with shaven head and tightly cropped beard, Leach has the benevolent air of young pastor and he induced a confession from the umpire when appealing for an lbw against Karl Brown, after he had made a compact 47.
Leach made the opening breakthrough as well, having Haseeb Hameed well caught on the drive at extra cover following a stand worth 56, during which time Somerset's seamers had found little to their liking. The change to regulations around the toss look set to give bowlers such Leach many more overs of employment this summer, although the unflustered progress of Petersen and Croft during the afternoon and evening suggested this was an especially sepulchral surface.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick