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John Ward at Taunton
April 18, 2009
Warwickshire 500 and 108 for 1 (Frost 46*) drew with Somerset 672 for 4 dec (Hildreth 303*, Kieswetter 150*)
James Hildreth wrote his name into the record books at Taunton by recording the earliest triple-century in an English season. In a neat twist the previous record-holder had been his captain in this match, Justin Langer, who scored 315 on April 20, 2007. Another who will remember this day was Hildreth's partner, the wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter, who scored an impressive maiden first-class century as the match ended in a predictable high-scoring draw.
The only realistic purpose for the final day's play was to let the Somerset batsmen fill their boots, as a result was out of the question unless the Warwickshire batsmen were to commit collective suicide against a weak bowling attack on a placid pitch. By the time the declaration came during the afternoon, the respective boots of Hildreth and Kieswetter were overflowing.
There was little competitive element left in the match and they could be excused if they set their sights on individual feats. Somerset resumed the day at 454 for 4, and Hildreth moved from 191 to his 200 in the fourth over of the day, reaching the landmark with a tickle to fine leg for four after facing 237 balls. He slowed down temporarily until he had passed his previous best of 227 not out, and then continued in fine style. He now looked in total control, seeming to toy with the bowling and employing the sweep to good effect.
His 250 came up off 292 deliveries with a nudge through the vacant slip area for four, and shortly afterwards Kieswetter reached three figures with the nearest to a chance that Warwickshire enjoyed all morning. He miscued a stroke just clear of backward point on 98 but managed to collect the two he needed. It took him 198 balls, and he celebrated with the fourth six of his innings. More were to come, as he laid into the hapless bowling in fine style, although he survived a chance to long leg when on 132.
Hildreth showed no sign of nerves as he approached his major landmark, which came as he pulled a short ball from Jonathan Trott to the midwicket boundary. Off the very next ball, in a new over from Darren Maddy, Kieswetter reached 150 and Langer immediately declared, probably unaware that the pair was only two runs short of Somerset's all-time fourth-wicket record with their unbroken 318. Their respective figures were enough to make the bowlers cry: Hildreth 303 not out, 338 balls, 35 fours, 4 sixes; Kieswetter 150 not out, 238 balls, 10 fours, six sixes. The slaughter was over.
Warwickshire went in again 172 runs behind and with potentially 54 overs left for play, but nobody seriously expected a result. The visitors began slowly, just to make sure no starry-eyed locals suffered from unnecessary excitement, and after tea Langer put on his part-time bowlers. But, whether front-line or occasional, none of the bowlers in this match ever really worried the opposition on a good pitch.
This fact took some of the lustre away from Hildreth's monumental innings, but it was not his fault. A player can only do his best with what is placed in front of him, and he certainly did that. He showed that he has more than just the talent to score big runs in county cricket, but the right mental attitude as well, and if this is indeed a new beginning to his career, he could not have made a better start. Everyone - including the selectors - will be following his progress with great interest this season, hoping that indeed a new star has been born.
Meanwhile, if Somerset are to have serious championship aspirations, they will need to improve their bowling and produce pitches to give them a little more assistance. As things stand, they will not bowl many, if any, teams out twice at Taunton. Warwickshire's bowlers, too, will not have gained much confidence from their return to top division cricket.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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