Durham quick to strike after Jennings' gem
Somerset 30 for 3 trail Durham 256 (Jennings 116, Gregory 4-58) by 226 runs
At exactly eleven o'clock on the first day of this game umpire Rob Bailey dropped his arm to his side and, one may assume, called, "Play". Behind him at the Finchale End, the Somerset seamer Lewis Gregory composed himself and began his run-up. The ball he bowled was of a good length and on middle stump; Durham's Mark Stoneman played it easily to midwicket. No trouble and no run either, yet such moments matter a great deal. The very many cricket fans who measure their summers by the fluctuations of the County Championship could afford a quiet smile of collective contentment. Another season.
By the end of the gorgeous spring day, when an evening chill was settling on the Riverside, Gregory had four wickets in his bag and these will certainly have increased his delight. Yet his satisfaction was far exceeded by that of Keaton Jennings, who had made his first County Championship century since June 2014, and by Durham's players in general after Chris Rushworth and Graham Onions had removed Somerset's openers and the nightwatchman Josh Davey in the first ten overs of the visitors' reply.
Chris Rogers, of course, already knew about the potency of Durham's seamers; he will be in no doubt about the severity of the further examination ahead of himself and James Hildreth on the second morning of this match. The swinging yorker from Onions which bowled Marcus Trescothick off his pads mocked geometry.
The second morning may also be the time when the value of Jennings' hard work becomes even plainer. He lost both Mark Stoneman and Scott Borthwick, neither of them very culpable, inside twelve overs but that seemed only to stiffen his determination to play within his familiar limits. Pulling and cutting whenever the opportunity presented itself, Jennings was nevertheless content to score just seven runs in the hour before lunch as a Somerset attack lacking both Overtons but including the accurate Peter Trego suddenly forbade liberties.
Partnering Jennings in a third-wicket stand of 79 in 33 overs was 19-year-old Jack Burnham, whose talent was recognised by his being promoted above both Michael Richardson and Paul Collingwood in the batting order. Burnham scored three centuries in the Under-19 World Cup and his tight technique was one of the most pleasing sights on offer to home spectators as they watched in the mellow afternoon sunlight. "The trees are coming into leaf / Like something almost being said" wrote Philip Larkin, and so it is with a young batsman as he becomes accustomed and easy in the crease and becomes ever more certain that this is a professional game he is able to play.
But it was also a fine afternoon for Somerset's bowlers. Davey produced one of the balls of the day to take out Burnham's off and middle stumps when the he had made 33 in 123 minutes and Gregory then struck twice in two balls, both of which nipped back off the seam. The first had Michael Richardson leg before for nine; the second defeated Collingwood's slightly tardy defensive push and removed his middle stump. Three overs later Pringle drove Tim Groenewald to Davey and Durham were 172 for 6, at which point this brave new toss-less world must have seemed a pleasant place for Rogers and his bowlers.
However, Jennings redoubled his resolve and found an equally obdurate partner in Usman Arshad. The pair put on 72 in 24 overs, during which Jennings reached three figures off 201 balls with 13 fours. He has probably not had to work harder in any of his five other centuries, so perhaps it was simple joy that led him to become almost cavalier for the first time in the day. Whatever the truth of the matter, he perished on one of the few occasions when he took a liberty with the bowling, top edging Davey to Trescothick. It began a clatter of wickets, four of them in 19 balls in fact, as Somerset's bowlers, Gregory and Groenewald in particular, collected just rewards for their labours.
A first-innings total of 256 seemed modest enough, albeit that it allowed Durham to collect a couple of batting bonus points. Yet it soon appeared almost daunting as Rushworth and Onions set to work in the slightly thickening light. They did so in a manner that has won Championships and the home supporters cheered every late breakthrough. They, too, remember the glory days. Suddenly it seemed rather more than six hours since Gregory had stood at the end of his run at the Finchale End, a new cricket ball in his hand and all the summer before him.