Onions has a day to remember
Somerset 69 (Onions 6-31) and 83 for 1 (Trescothick 32*, Hildreth 22*) trail Durham 543 (Benkenstein 181) by 391 runs
Graham Onions had one of those days cricketers dream of, celebrating his England call-up with 6 for 31 as Somerset were skittled for 69 on the second day at Taunton. Onions was woken by a phone call from Geoff Miller to tell him of his selection and soon showed why he has been propelled into the Test side with an outstanding display on a good batting surface.
Durham had few problems reaching an imposing 543 before their strong pace attack showed up Somerset's woeful bowling performance. It took Onions, Steve Harmison and Callum Thorp just 28.2 overs to dismantle the home side with a mixture of swing, seam and bounce - although they also benefited from a couple of marginal umpiring decisions - with six batsmen making ducks. Put straight back in by Will Smith they fared better, reaching 83 for 1, but still trail by a massive 391 and there was no doubt about the man of the day.
"There was a bit of added pressure. Steve said that people will now be watching, but I just had to keep doing the same things," Onions told Sky Sports. "I had a lucky start to get Marcus Trescothick and that gave me confidence."
Onions persisted on an ideal line and length to take advantage of the help in the surface. Justin Langer hadn't been wrong to bowl first, but his attack completely failed to support him while seven dropped chances were gifted to Durham. However, although the visitors cashed in, the expectation was that Somerset would do the same. Two weeks ago they'd responded to Warwickshire's 500 with 672 for 4 so it was a position they were used to. This time, though, they were facing international class opening bowling.
It was fascinating viewing with one bowler riding on the crest of a wave having just been selection and another, Harmison, hurting (hopefully, at least) at another omission. Harmison certainly put the effort in, reaching 89mph in his early overs, but the direction was a little awry. Onions slightly fuller length and tighter line brought the rewards, beginning with Trescothick who was beaten by one that nipped back a little then Arul Suppiah was the next as got a leading edge.
Given the day he was having, it was no surprise that Onions was twice the beneficiary of umpiring calls that could have gone the other way. He gained a leg-before against James Hildreth when it didn't look as though the ball had done quite enough to take off stump as the batsman shouldered arms, and his fifth wicket came when Peter Trego was given out down the leg side when it appeared more arm that bat on the ball.
Sandwiched between those strikes Harmison made a brief mark mark when Zander de Bruyn was also given out down the leg side, but it was only a momentary halt to the Onions show. Craig Kieswetter, in fine form this season, edged a drive to third slip and three balls later Onions had five.
Smith is a fortunate captain to have such a pack of quicks at his disposal (Liam Plunkett is away with the England Lions and Mark Davies injured) and when Thorp entered the attack life was no easier for Somerset. He found Omari Banks' edge which was well held at second slip then crashed through Alfonso Thomas before finding a beauty to square up David Stiff and take the off stump.
All the while Langer was stood at the other end and when he eventually had the chance to face again he managed a rueful smile. He is a perfectionist and expects high standards, but his team-mates had fallen well below them. There was little he could do and Charl Willoughby soon carved to backward point to give Onions his sixth
The clatter of wickets after lunch overshadowed the fine effort of Dale Benkenstein as he piled up 181 to ensure Durham's solid first-day effort wasn't wasted. When Phil Mustard fell early Somerset would have hoped to restrict the total to around 420, but Thorp and Claydon provided excellent support to Benkenstein before he was last-man out. It's not often people forget such an innings, but by the end of the day only one performance was on everyone's lips.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor at Cricinfo